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Latino Youth Seek to Play Key Role in Elections
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Latino Youth Seek to Play Key Role in Elections

Despite not being able to vote, many undocumented Latino youths are mobilizing and knocking on doors in Latino neighborhoods. Orange County Register reporter Cindy Carcamo found that they are urging residents to vote Democrat in swing states where the Latino vote is critical to winning everything from local races to the presidential contest.

It’s not just those who are in the country illegally who have become part of the political process. Latino youth who are U.S. citizens will play a pivotal role in this and future elections. Nearly 50,000 Latinos who are U.S. citizens reach the voting age of 18 every month.

Photo by Joshua Sudock/Orange County Register

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Cindy’s Story Behind the Story

I’ve written many stories that center on the emotionally charged issues that result from legal and illegal immigration. This time, I opted to focus on the inevitable growth and influence of Latino youth in future politics, which will force Americans to decide how they will absorb immigrants who are in the country legally and illegally and—perhaps most importantly—those immigrants’ offspring.

This is why I wanted to tell a story about Latino youth—many familiar with the immigrant experience—and the role they would likely play in this year’s election and beyond.

Thanks to the Immigration In The Heartland fellowship, I was able to connect with the sources and demographic data that I learned during the workshop. The fellowship armed me with fresh sources, data and perspectives necessary to help me tell this important story.

The next thing I needed to do was to put a face to the phenomenon. As a staff writer for the Orange County Register, this meant that I would have to find a local Dreamer who was part of a nationwide mobilization. While I found that person, I wanted this to be more of a national story and found other Latino youth in Florida, and New York. I did this by tapping into the network for Dreamers, asking them if they knew others like them and in other states who were in the midst of heading get-out-the-vote efforts. I found that the Dreamers were eager and very willing to talk about their efforts.

Responses to the project were constructive. If you look at the comments on the bottom of the story, there was definitely heated dialogue and reaction to the story. It seems there was pretty mixed feedback. One reader wrote a letter to the editor, stating that my story had the tendency to “exacerbate racial tension.”

Other readers questioned whether it was legal for people who were in the country illegally to urge others to vote, which was quickly answered by another reader who pointed out that it was legal, indeed. “All this young lady is doing is encouraging potential voters to vote,” one reader told another.

At about the same time I began reporting on my IJJ project, I had received an offer from the Los Angeles Times to become one of their national correspondents. I accepted the offer. Still, I’d made a commitment to complete this story while at the Orange County Register so I put my reporting into high-gear, working and making calls around the clock to complete the reporting and write the story before making my move to the Times.

While it was a bit frantic to be writing such a nuanced and bigger story as I prepared to make the move to another news organization, I’m glad that I had made this commitment as a fellow to IJJ. To be frank, I would have been tempted to shelve away the story for the next election if it weren’t for the IJJ fellowship.

I’m glad I didn’t; this year’s election proved the power of the Latino vote. The dialogue surrounding post-election coverage was about what the Republican Party would have to do to garner the Latino constituent that was bound to grow into a significant voting bloc.

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