Luis Rendon | OUCovers16 Reporter
Phoenix, Arizona – Stephanie Rodriguez’s life was turned upside down 10 years ago.
Despite being born in California the then eight-years-old Rodriguez was forced to leave the United States with her mother who was being deported to Mexico. Now, Rodriguez, 18, studies journalism at Arizona State University.
“My parents are from Mexico and they are undocumented,” she said. “That motivates me to work specifically in my Latino community and do work with people like my parents.”
Rodriguez, a millennial voter, discovered a way to help the Hispanic community during the 2016 election season.
She volunteers with the organization Mi Familia Vota, a national Hispanic civic engagement organization that deals with economic and immigration issues that impact the Latino community.
“I’ve been doing a lot of work with my Latino Community, helping register them to vote, helping them to become citizens of the U.S., so we do a lot civic engagement here in Arizona.” Rodriguez said.
Work being done by Rodriquez and others to get Hispanics registered to vote may be a significant factor in this long-time red state that might vote blue on Tuesday in support of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
“(Hispanic voters) could play a very determining factor in our presidential elections or any upcoming elections… There is a lot of room for that group to grow as far as to impact the vote,” said Garrett Archer, Arizona’s assistant director of elections.
Hispanics represent about 20 percent of the newly registered voters according to Arizona voter registration records, he said.
Archer says that Hispanics are slightly more than two-thirds Democratic, so they lean toward Arizona’s Democratic party.
But former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer told the Boston Globe last week that state’s Hispanic voters won’t be a factor.
“They don’t get out and vote. They don’t vote,” she said.
However, Celeste Gonzalez, a journalism professor aat the University of Arizona, said Friday: “I think the comments from (the) former governor are a little wrong.
“Every time that people like Jan Brewer, Joe Arpaio, or Donald Trump say something against the Hispanic community, it’s like a huge motivation for Latinos to make a move in response,” she said.
For organizations like Mi Familia Vota getting those newly registered Latinos to the polls on Tuesday will be key.
We had a “lot of young students that came out and volunteered with us and through them we are making a difference,” said Nancy Herrera, a Mi Familia Vota coordinator who helped run a voter registrations drive that did not end until the registration deadline on last month.
Herrera said the possibility of having Republican nominee Donald Trump as president frightens many Hispanics.
“All the negative rhetoric that’s coming out of his mouth and out of his candidacy puts fears in our community,” she says.
Rodriguez was not sure who to vote for at the beginning, but like other Hispanic voters, Trumps’ racial comments made her decide to vote for Clinton.
“My vote is going to go to Hillary Clinton because regardless of all the controversial issues…She is the one who best represents my values,” She says.
With the help from the Senate and House, and improvement to immigration laws, there can be positive changes for the Latino community, said Herrera, Vota’s coordinator.
“If that help is not there, then whatever is tried to push forward will not get through, so we also need the help from Congress to understand what is needed for our community,” Herrera said.
Latinos are looking forward to demonstrate the power they have as a group of voters in this election, and to show that they are prepared.
“Latinos definitely have the power, we just need to know how to use our power correctly…so if we are able to cast our vote, and make our voices heard that brings a big statement out…we are ready.” Herrera says.