Chicago immigrant rights organization considers boycotting Nov. elections

By Rachel White

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Members of the Alliance for Immigrant Rights called on Latino voters to boycott the November elections to send a message to President Obama. They held a press conference in Chicago Wednesday, led by Carlos Arango (l) and Guillermo Gomez (r).

A Chicago Hispanic group is calling for Latino voters to consider boycotting the November elections.

On the same day President Obama was scheduled to arrive in Chicago, the Alliance for Immigrant Rights held a press conference denouncing his decision to delay immigration reform until after the November elections.

“We want to send a message out to all Latinos that they should consider not participating in November’s election as a way to show our influence and our muscle, because the president is ignoring us,” said Antonio Zavala, a member of the Alliance for Immigrant Rights.

The Alliance for Immigrant Rights is a Chicago advocacy organization calling for comprehensive national immigration reform and a halt to deportations of undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

Many agree with the group’s sentiment but not their strategy.

Matt Barreto, co-founder of Latino Decisions, said he doesn’t think abstaining from voting will advance the Latino agenda. Instead, he said, Latinos should increase their presence in the election.

“Your vote is your most powerful opportunity to influence democracy and change things,” he said in an interview. “Latinos should vote and vote in large numbers.”

Latino Decisions is a Latino political opinion research firm.

Based on the polls his organization has been conducting, Barreto said he expects the number of Latino voters will decrease in this election anyway. “Our data is finding that people are very frustrated and disillusioned, so that is usually a great predictor of decreased turnout,” he said.

Many Hispanics around the country took the President’s decision to delay an announcement on immigration reform as a slap in the face.

Democrats need a large turnout of minority voters in November if they have any hope of retaining a majority in the U.S. Senate.

Zavala said his vote and the vote of every Latino citizen in the U.S. has been taken for granted. “Everyone thought that once the first African-American president was elected, that that was going to be a game changer for [minority] communities…and then politics came into play,” Zavala said.

Carlos Arango, a member of the Alliance for Immigrant Rights, said the call to abstain from participating in the November elections is the group’s response to a widely felt sentiment across the Latino community. “If you talk to the community randomly you’re going to find out that they are very disappointed and very disenfranchised.”

Guillermo Gomez, another member of the alliance, said people who support Obama’s decision to delay using executive action for reform are really supporting deportation.

“We were a major factor in getting the president elected… that should give us at least some leverage in how decisions are made,” Gomez said.

His frustration is not only in response to the lack of immigration reform. Gomez said Democrats have been unresponsive to the Latino community in regard to jobs, housing, health care and education, as well.