Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Some Grounds For Optimism

I can't think of too many tougher activist chores than going door to door in 110 degree heat in Arizona to register Latino voters. Yet that is just what some people are doing to offset the passage of the horrid anti-immigration law recently passed by the Arizona state legislature and signed into law by the state's governor.

Activists hope that SB 1070, which Republican Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law in April and is scheduled to take effect July 29, will generate enough angry new Latino voters like Robles to reshape this state's hard-line approach to immigration.

As they fan out across sun-bleached barrios this summer, the activists cite the example of California.

More than 1 million California Latinos became citizens after the passage of anti-illegal immigrant Proposition 187 in 1994, putting the state solidly in the hands of Democrats and pushing immigration crackdowns to the margins.

Many analysts and political scientists predict a similar outcome — eventually — in Arizona. Latinos, 30% of the population, are the fastest-growing and youngest demographic group in the state.

"It's the same energy I saw with 187," said Ben Monterroso, a Service Employees International Union official who spearheaded voter registration in California in 1994 and now oversees the Arizona operation. "People are saying enough is enough."

In terms of eligible voters, Arizona has a lower percentage from the Latino sector than California did at the time of Prop 187, but the outrage stirred by that misbegotten proposition got the ball rolling, just as the organizers of the voter registration drive in Arizona hope their work will provide the impetus to moving Latinos to the polls this November and every election thereafter.

It's a tough road the young activists are walking, one with more than few dangers, but it's the kind of work that must be done. Righteous anger isn't worth much if isn't channeled into some positive action. The founders of this country knew that, and the Tea Partiers are demonstrating that they have learned that as well. It's time for our side to make the kind of commitment, and some people in Arizona are taking up the challenge.

Good on them.

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