Before a group of Latino activists, students, elected officials, and reporters Ugly Betty and Real Women have Curves star America Ferrera tells the group of a conversation her made had with her, a conversation most parents wouldn’t have with their children. “My mother said, ‘Listen, someone may ask you what you are and where you are from. Don’t let anyone scare you. You are an American’,” Ferrera told the attendees at an event to unveil America4America.com, a website which is to stimulate voter mobilization and energize a Latino presence within the electorate.
Ferrera details how at 9-years-old, back in 1994, there was a growing anti-immigration sentiment due to a belief that–at the time–the state of California was draining resources with the growing undocumented immigration population. The anti-sentiment eventually led to a ballot initiative and law called, Proposition 187. The law was passed by a wide margin of Californian voters which sought to create a state runned screening program to weed out undocumented citizens. The law was later deemed unconstitutional by a Federal Court.
While the story about how her mother trained her to handle questions about the status of her citizenship (Ferrera is an American citizen, if you are wondering) stirred a short moment of laughter from the audience, the issue of immigration and its stigma in this country hits home for Ferrera. Back in the 70s Ferrera’s parents immigrated from Honduras and nearly a decade later Ferrera was born, the youngest of six siblings. Although she was an American citizen during the days of Proposition 187, it did not exclude her from facing possible questioning about her citizenship.
Maria Teresa Kumar, co-founder and president of a nonpartisan political engagement organization called Voto Latino, discussed how Ferrera’s is very similar to many young Latino youth today and how policies such as Prop 187 inspire conversations in Latino homes to encourage caution. Such policies should be prevented and be chief reasons as to why Latino voters need to harness the power of voting and get to the voting booth come November.
Currently, according to the census data, the Latino population is rising in the United States and it is believed that an estimated 50,000 Latinos will turn 18 each month of this year up until November making them eligible to vote. However, while there is a great number of Latinos who will and can vote the community holds the lowest voter registration rate out of any demographic group in the country.
To bring sustenance to this idea and further get across as an issue among the Latino community Congressman Charles Gonzalez, a Democrat from Texas & Chair holder of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus, states how “Among those who are legally eligible to vote, 78% of non-White Americans and nearly 60% of Black Americans are registered but only 48% of eligible Latino voters are listed on voting rolls somewhere in the United States,” which is why the event held on Thursday launching the website America4America.com was of such importance.
On America4America.com the site will include tools, data, and information on how to mobilize Latinos to get more active in government in order to better the community. The site is also a part of a joint venture with Voto Latino, the union-affiliated Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, and other organizations to encourage citizens to vote and those who aren’t registered to do so and join the voting process.
The Latino vote is important, and like Kumar said in-regards to recent political actions taken by politicians to “use anti-immigration rhetoric to stroke anxiety and gain votes,” the movement to encourage action among Latinos is important to counter them. “When they propose policies that frankly consist of nothing more than racial profiling, they’ve made it personal…they are talking about our families.”
For more information on how to get involved, head over to America4America.com to see how you can inspire other Latinos to head to the voting booths this November.