- Title: Harsh U.S. election rhetoric spurs Latinos to take action
- Date: 27th September 2016
- Summary: MIAMI, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES (FEBRUARY 5, 2016) (REUTERS - Broadcasters: NONE Digital: NONE) VARIOUS OF "LATINOS VOTE" APP
- Embargoed: 12th October 2016 13:34
- Keywords: Latino Hispanic minority immigration Trump Clinton election president campaign politics Mexico border wall Republican Democrat rhetoric battleground North Carolina NCLR NALEO
- Location: SEE SCRIPT BODY FOR LOCATIONS
- City: SEE SCRIPT BODY FOR LOCATIONS
- Country: USA
- Topics: Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA00651CVTQF
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: On the streets of north Philadelphia, Latino activists are on a mission. Their goal is to visit 50,000 Latino households before the U.S. presidential election on November 8. Volunteers are going door to door targeting Latino voters who normally don't turn out on election day. The hope is that will change following an election campaign that has been marked by sharp rhetoric from Republican nominee Donald Trump.
Rafael Collazo, a lifelong resident of north Philadelphia, is leading the cause for the National Council of La Raza Action Fund, a Latino advocacy group.
"The perception by Latino voters in north Philadelphia that we're talking to is: Donald Trump is a racist and we can't have a racist in the White House," said Collazo, who has been working since August to persuade Latino voters against the Republican nominee.
Trump has labeled illegal Mexican immigrants as "rapists" and he has pledged to build a wall on the southern border with Mexico to keep them out of the U.S..
"If history is any indication, we know that during periods of anti-immigrant sentiment, that that has served to be a motivating factor for Latinos to participate," said Arturo Vargas, the executive director of NALEO, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.
At the annual NALEO conference in Washington, galvanizing the Latino electorate was a chief task among the Latino leaders who attended.
"Let's together marshall the collective power of 'we' to build an America that works for everyone," U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez said.
Latinos in the U.S. have traditionally been characterized by low turn out rates on Election Day. In 2012, just 48 percent of eligible Latino voters turned out to cast their ballot, compared to 66 percent among African-Americans.
In 2014, the turnout rate fell to 27 percent, the lowest rate ever recorded for Latinos in a midterm election, according to the Pew Research Center.
This year, a record 27 million Latinos are eligible to vote, with millennials making up almost half of their eligible electorate.
Genesis Medina is part of that key demographic. The 19-year-old is canvassing neighborhoods in Philadelphia, hoping she can spur Latino residents to exercise their vote.
"If you don't like something, you go out and you try to change it and your vote is possibly what's gonna change something," said Medina.
The National Council of La Raza (NCLR), a leading advocate of Latino interests, has developed an app called "Latinos Vote."
With just a few swipes, users can learn about their state's requirements to vote and complete an application that can be printed and mailed.
In crucial swing states that could provide the decisive vote in determining who will occupy the White House, engaged Latino voters are doing what they can to fuel turnout.
Zhenia Martinez is a community activist in Charlotte, North Carolina, which has one of the fastest growing Latino populations of any major U.S. city. But it's also one that's not as politically engaged.
Martinez keeps voter registration forms at her family-owned bakery and encourages customers, many of whom have never voted, to register for the election.
And it's making a difference. She recently swayed the minds of an elderly couple.
"It was this election that made them realize that I do need to register, I do need to vote," Martinez said.
For Julio Colmenares, a Latino entrepreneur who immigrated to the U.S. from Venezuela 20 years ago, having a say in this election has great meaning.
It'll be the first time he gets to vote in a presidential election after becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen. He wants to make sure other Latino voters in Charlotte don't sit it out come election day.
When his day at the office is done, he goes into the community to talk to voters about the potential they have to impact the outcome on the election.
"In this particular election this year, whoever gets in office, it's gonna be because of the Latino vote for sure," Colmenares said.
He's one of a handful of local business leaders working to create civic engagement among Latinos to make sure they exercise their power at the polls.
"Right now we have about 300,000 Latinos in North Carolina that could move the needle incredibly and they don't even know it," said Astrid Chirinos, the chief development executive of the Latin American Economic Development Corporation in Charlotte.
Chirinos works with Colmenares and others in the business community to drive home the importance of voting in this year's election.
That strong civic involvement is also playing out in California, which is home to the largest Latino population in the country.
The harsh campaign rhetoric has led to a surge in Latinos registering to vote in the state.
"I do think it is a major reason for why people are engaging and participating in democracy when they haven't consistently in the past," said Alex Padilla, California's first Latino secretary of state.
The dump Trump movement has led to dozens of similar protests throughout the state.
When the Republican nominee brought his message of mass deportations to the doorstep of America's busiest border crossing in May, more than a thousand demonstrators gathered in San Diego to march and chant against Trump.
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