FBI reports don't get a lot of attention, especially in the final days of a Presidential election season, but this week's release reporting on a 40% increase in anti-Latino hate crimes should at least give us pause. The report's findings are consistent with the swelling nativist movement that has become larger and more vitriolic in recent years and its impact undeniable as anti-Latino hate crime incidents reach unprecedented levels.
The nativists, ranging from skinhead extremists to your everyday politician or cable news anchor, and fueled by an administration myopic in its pursuit of deportation only proposals, are taking its toll on the immigrant and Latino community. A September survey by the Pew Hispanic Center shows half of all Latinos, immigrant and non-immigrant, say that their situation in this country is deteriorating and is worse now than it was a year ago. One in ten Hispanic adults -- native-born U.S. citizens and immigrants alike -- report that, in the past year, the police or other authorities have stopped them and asked them about their immigration status.
However, Latinos are fighting back with the power of their vote and many fall into the category of New Americans -- an increasingly powerful and recently identified voter bloc made up of naturalized immigrants and the U.S. born children of immigrants. The Immigration Policy Center recently reported that New Americans made up approximately 9% of all registered voters in 2006 and is expected to grow in 2008. In fact, the number of Latinos registered to vote already skyrocketed from 6.6 million in 1996 to 9.3 million in 2004 -- an increase of 41.6%. Meanwhile, 2008 is expected to be a banner year for New American voters -- particularly Latinos -- due to record-breaking naturalization rates of up to three million new citizens; turbo-charged registration efforts by groups like the We Are America Alliance and "Ya es Hora, Ve y Vota;" and aggressive GOTV efforts in ethnic communities which will likely result in Latino turnout hitting record highs in 2008 -- surpassing the 7.6 million Latino voters who turned out in 2004.
Anti-immigrant sentiment and comprehensive immigration reform is a top concern for New American voters. 75% of Latino voters view the immigration issue as important or very important and it's most certainly a force that's more compelling than any GOTV campaign when it comes to driving the Latino vote. As reported by the Politico,
...New Americans will march to the polls in unprecedented numbers for two more reasons: They feel the intense heat generated by conservatives in the immigration debate, and they are Americans who have the right to vote.
New Americans -- Latinos included -- are sick of being irrationally isolated as scapegoats for their country's problems. This Tuesday they'll vote in unprecedented numbers, sending a firm message that no hate-mongering nativist can deny: there's nothing more American than making America your own by participating in its great democracy.