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Is Hispanic voter upsurge coming?

Hispanic voters will begin making a difference in Arizona elections relatively soon, said an activist the day after more than 100,000 marchers came to the state Capitol to protest federal legislation that would criminalize illegal immigration into the United States.
Chanting “Today we march, tomorrow we vote,” the crowd flooded the area in opposition to HR 4437, passed by the U. S. House of Representatives.
Under the bill, “unlawful presence” would now be considered a felony, meaning undocumented immigrants might have to serve jail time and would be barred from future legal status and from re-entry into the country.
The Arizona Legislature on April 12 passed S1157, which would permit local and state law enforcement to arrest and prosecute illegal aliens under trespassing laws. Governor Napolitano was expected to veto the measure, which was opposed by most local police agencies.
Jon Garrido, president of the Arizona Law and Education Center (ALEC) says 60 percent of the marchers were American-born Hispanic teenagers, whose parents are illegal immigrants.
“They have come out of the woodwork here to say we need to do something about our parents,” he said. “They’re talking about making felons out of mom and dad. That energized these young people throughout the United States.
“Within three-to-five years they’ll be voting, and that’s when you’ll see real change,” Mr. Garrido said.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Arizona’s Hispanic population, including illegal immigrants, increased to 27.8 percent in 2004 from 25.3 percent in 2002. Bureau demographers project that more than 50 percent of the state’s population will be Hispanic by 2097.
Mr. Garrido, a Republican who says he is contemplating a run for the state Senate in District 15, says he thinks today’s Hispanic population in Arizona is 35 percent, two-thirds of which are Arizona citizens.
He founded ALEC last year, a nonprofit organization “to promote change in Arizona.” He also owns The Jon Garrido Network, nearly two-dozen Web sites, many of which promote Hispanic causes, including an online newspaper, Hispanic News.
“Voter registration is a mandate for all Hispanic organizations,” Mr. Garrido said. “It’s only through the voting booth that we’ll be able to make change, and all of us realize that. We needed something to spark an interest in voter registration, and I think this march has certainly done that.”
Registration woes
Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne said she was told march organizers obtained voter registration forms from the state Democratic Party, and possibly as many as 5,000 marchers registered before the march at the State Fairgrounds. She said those who were registering marchers to vote were instructed “what not to do.”
“Don’t even think about signing up someone who is not a citizen because you’ll disenfranchise them forever from being a citizen,” Ms. Osborne said of the instructions.
Approved by voters in 2004, Proposition 200 made it illegal to spend state funds on certain services for illegal immigrants and requires proof of citizenship for voter registration. “There are concerns about voters being challenged at the polling place based on the fact they are Latino,” John Garcia, a professor of political science at the University of Arizona, told the Rocky Mountain News on April 3. “There’s a general feeling it could be used to harass people.”
A drive is under way to register 60,000 new Hispanic voters in Arizona, but Mr. Garcia says it is too soon to predict if the state will see the upsurge in Hispanic voter turnout that took place in California.
Mr. Garrido said only 6 percent of Hispanics voted in the 2004 elections.
“There’s never really been a motivation to vote,” he said. “There is not one person who speaks for the entire Hispanic-Latino community, but I think that day is coming when someone is going to come out of the shadows and galvanize Hispanics across the board and, eventually, will make a change.
“Someone has to emerge [in Arizona] who is not part of the activist movement, if they want to win. Hispanics need to appeal to both sides of the fence. We don’t have that person yet.”
Mr. Garrido says two members of Arizona’s congressional delegation and the Bush administration are in political trouble over immigration issues.
Sen. Jon Kyl “is trying to reduce the number of immigrants more than anyone else in the Senate, and his time [in office] is now limited,” he said, adding, “The days of J.D. Hayworth are numbered. He’s going down in flames.”
Mr. Garrido singled out 5th District Congressman Hayworth for his proposal to strip the automatic citizenship of children born in the United States to illegal immigrants.
“There is absolutely no way in hell that the U.S. Constitution is going to be changed to pacify J.D. Hayworth,” he said. “People like that are just hate mongers…”
Mr. Garrido continued: “I think the Republican Party under the direction of Karl Rove at the White House has long done everything they could to bring the Hispanic voter into the tent, but I’ve got to tell you that it’s the feeling of Hispanics in the United States that it’s the Republicans presently who are doing everything to cut off their nose in spite of their face. If they don’t make change, then we’ll probably all end up as Democrats.”
He had a different assessment of Governor Napolitano.
“The governor has done an admirable job of walking a tight rope,” Mr. Garrido said. “She’s got to do what she’s got to do. I don’t see that she has done anything that would take away the Hispanic vote.”
CNN commentator Lou Dobbs is such an enemy of immigration reform, Mr. Garrido says, that he has called for a boycott of AOL, owned by Time Warner, which owns CNN.
The following is a summary of some of the major provisions of HR 4437, the Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005.

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