Local News
9:51 am
Thu November 8, 2012

Impact Of Latino Vote Spurs Optimism For Immigration Legislation

Mary Espinosa is one of two speakers waiting to talk about the importance of voting at a Latin American Coalition briefing
Credit Michael Tomsic

In Charlotte, the Latin American Coalition is aiming to put its mark on the policies that follow the election. That's after Latino voters played a key role in reelecting President Obama, accounting for about one out of every 10 ballots cast nationwide and voting overwhelmingly for the president.

Mary Espinosa is a U.S. citizen, but some of her family members are not. That was the biggest thing on the 18-year-old’s mind as she walked into the polls this year to vote for the first time.

"It’s frustrating and it’s hard living with uncertainty because you never know what’s going to happen," Espinosa said.

Espinosa said she knows families who’ve been split apart by deportation. She was one of the speakers the Latin American Coalition brought to Packard Place Wednesday to talk about the impact of the Latino vote.

"Now I can go up to people and be like, I’m the reason you’re in office," Espinosa said. "I’m the one who voted for your job. And I think that we put you where you are, you need to represent the community."

That community is growing rapidly across the country. Armando Bellmas is the Latin American Coalition’s spokesman. 

"About 10 percent of the electorate nationwide is now self-identified as Latino," Bellmas said. "That’s the first time in U.S. history that the number has gone into double digits."

And their votes played a major role in reelecting President Obama, in part because of his administration’s immigration policies. For example, some children whose parents came to the country illegally have been allowed if stay if they work or go to school. It’s called deferred action.

"There was some concern about a new president coming in and taking deferred action away, so this probably opens the door to a few more kids out there who might want to apply now that they’re going to be OK at least for the next four years," Bellmas said.

It’s a temporary fix – Bellmas said he hopes the president goes beyond that with immigration reform.

That’ll likely require a bipartisan effort, and Bellmas is optimistic that the Latino turnout for this election will force some Republicans who previously took a hard line on immigration to come around. 

"From here on out, you can’t win elections without the support of the Latino vote," Bellmas said. "And that’s something that I think they’re going to realize."

Bellmas said the Latin American Coalition is planning to reach out even more to Republican legislators.