Photo Courtesy of CHIRLA

Serenaded by a Mariachi group, Evelyn Franco and Griselda Sanchez walked to a polling station near their homes in Los Angeles.

“I want an immigration reform, health (care) for my family and my community,” Franco said of her motivation to vote.

“President Trump wants to belittle us. We have to show him the importance of the Latino voice,” she added.

Sanchez echoed those sentiments.

“(We have to) show them that we do have value, so they don’t crush us,” she said.

The electoral musical event was organized by the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), whose Immigrant Political Power Project mobilized hundreds of volunteers, youth, women, and community members throughout California to educate, register to vote, and motivate immigrant and Latino voters for the June 5 and Nov. 6 elections.

The Project reached more than 230,706 California voters through door-to-door canvassing and a call center staffed by 32 phone operators.

“Exit polling and the long lines we have seen (Tuesday), are a testament that voters are engaged and will continue to get involved. In California, we will continue to lead the way to ensure our state’s legacy of being an immigrant-friendly state continues,” stated Angelica Salas, CHIRLA executive director, looking forward to the 2020 election.

The Council of Mexican Federations in North America also did its part by setting and completing a goal of turning 1,000 permanent residents into citizens and first time-voters.

The Latino Electoral Muscle

Like Franco and Sanchez, Latino voters turned out in droves on election day, undoubtedly prompted by the anti-immigrant attacks of President Donald Trump who has vilified them since announcing his candidacy for the country’s highest office.

In recent weeks, Trump had stoked fears about a caravan of Central American immigrants, who are still in Mexico City, trying to reach the US-Mexico border in search of refuge from rampant violence and crushing poverty in their countries.

That “invasion,” as the President called it, dominated the last day of campaigning, certainly drove people to the polls, and helped put the House of Representatives in the hands of Democrats.

According to a Reuters/Ipsos Election Day poll, Latino voters favored Democratic House candidates by 33 percentage points — higher than the 18-point gap with Republicans that Democrats enjoyed in 2014.

A NBC News Exit Poll reported that Latino voters had the highest number of first-time midterm voters by 27 percent. “Donde votar,” the Spanish phrase for “where to vote,” was the highest trending search on Google in the US on Tuesday morning.

Before people went to the polls, several organizations were already touting the Latino electoral muscle, as Hollywood stars like Eva Longoria, America Ferrera and Zoe Saldana rallied voters at events and on social media.

Results from the 10th week of the NALEO Education Fund/Latino Decisions National Weekly Political Tracking Poll offered insights into the Latino electorate which, this year, was poised to make history by projecting that more than 7.8 million Latino voters would cast ballots in the 2018 mid-term election.

More than 2.1 million of those voters were expected to cast ballots in California alone. That accounted for a 25 percent increase in voter participation compared to the midterm election in 2014, and a 10.3 percent increase in the Latino share of the vote.

“We know that any advancement we make as candidates and voters this year will be despite the dismal outreach efforts we saw from our nation’s political parties, campaigns and candidates.  Latino voters did not sit idly by as we were ignored in yet another election year, choosing instead to take our future in our own hands by encouraging those around us to register and vote in Election 2018,” stated Arturo Vargas, NALEO Educational Fund chief executive officer.

Among the key findings of the survey was that 1 in 4 (25 percent) of Latinos had voted early before the Nov. 6 election day. In fact, 67 percent of those surveyed stated that voting in the election was more important than it was in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump, the Great Motivator

“Overwhelmingly, voters said the name calling and attacking immigrants is a distraction and accomplishes nothing. Instead, voters want to see immigration solved with bipartisan immigration policy,” said Matt Barreto of Latino Decisions.

“Voters of color in particular are taking things into their own hands, reporting high rates of ‘self-mobilization’ and encouraging their friends and family to vote. Rather than waiting on campaigns to knock on their doors, many immigrant and minority voters are seizing the moment and mobilizing themselves, their families, and their communities.”

Jess Morales Rocketto, chair of Families Belong Together, a coalition that has raised millions of dollars for immigrant children and families, also said Trump’s words carried a lot of meaning for voters.

“Anti-immigrant stances are not the magical wedge issue Republicans think it is. Americans aren’t buying what Republicans are selling. Race-baiting, fearmongering and hatred toward immigrants aren’t who we are and we sent the message at the ballot box,” Rocketto said.

“Babies in cages, jailing families, and attacking refugees are shameful moments in American history, not a winning strategy. Republicans and Democrats need to understand that a winning strategy for 2020 is to respect people’s rights and honor our shared values of family and compassion.”