By Felicia Persaud
News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Nov. 2, 2012: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, in his usual frank tone, said this week on the Enrique Santos radio show, that if the Latino voting bloc “comes out and changes the election” then suddenly the GOP will pay real attention, including to calls for immigration reform.
Biden, in a last bid effort to get out Latino voters, insisted that he and President Obama have been breaking their necks trying to get immigration reform. He posited: “If the Latino vote comes out … all of a sudden they’re going to say, ‘Oh my Lord I guess we better get in line with the President.”
But what Mr. Biden missed is not just the importance of the Latino vote, but the entire immigrant voting bloc, including Caribbean and Asian immigrants. Caribbean voters, including from Haiti and Jamaica, have begun early voting in Florida and other states.
U.S. Census reports conservatively tell us that some 53 percent of all foreign-born population claimed their region of birth in Latin America and the Caribbean. The next most common region of birth was Asia with 28 percent. Forty-four percent of all foreign-born people are naturalized citizens and 54.2 percent of naturalized voters are foreign-born women. Currently, the number of foreign-born people in the United States is at 40 million.
“Few realize how large the foreign-born vote has become in selected states,” stated Harry P. Pachon, president of the Toma’s Rivera Policy Institute and professor of public policy at the University of Southern California. “In six states alone they number over four million voters.”
Meanwhile, a record 23.7 million Latinos are eligible to vote in the 2012 presidential election, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center. This is up by more than 4 million, or 22 percent, since 2008, when 19.5 million Latinos were eligible to vote.
However, the turnout rate of eligible Latino voters has historically lagged behind whites and blacks by substantial margins. In 2008, for example, 50 percent of eligible Latino voters cast ballots, compared with 65 percent of blacks and 66 percent of whites.
With the election neck and neck for November 6th, the Latino and immigrant voting bloc are really the main swing voters who will determine an outcome one way or the other. And with Hurricane Sandy lowering the enthusiasm of many voters, this bloc is more critical now than ever.
Given Republicans historic stance against immigration reform in recent years, the administration has a good chance of getting this bloc into their camp.
Biden has insisted that the White House has a lot of Democrats” trying to get a real immigration law that takes millions of people out of the shadows, making sure that ‘Dreamers’ don’t have to go back in many cases to countries they’ve never been.”
Now it’s up to this bloc of Latino and other immigrant voters to send a clear message on November 6th and make sure the issue of immigration reform is addressed once and for all in the next year of the new administration.