By Michael Chihak, Arizona Public Media
Passage of Arizona's tough law to combat illegal immigration has galvanized the state's Latinos to take action, the head of a coalition of civic engagement organizations says.
The passage two years ago of SB 1070 led to formation of the coalition, known as One Arizona, and is the motivating force behind its work going forward, director Leticia de la Vara said in an interview.
"SB 1070 was the impetus for One Arizona," de la Vara said. "It was a way for various organizations that work throughout the state of Arizona to kind of come together and say this is a real issue. This is an issue that is going to impact Latinos across the state."
The organization is nonpartisan, meaning it does not take a stand on candidates or parties, de la Vara said. But the coalition is opposed to SB 1070.
"It was born out of 1070, and ever since the start we are anti-1070," she said. "We do not see 1070 as a way to immigration reform. We see it as a barrier to Latinos -- not immigrants -- Latinos in general, to understand and be a part of the civic experience in Arizona."
One Arizona partners coordinate and complement one another in helping Latinos gain citizenship, register to vote, get on early-ballot mailing lists and go to the polls, de la Vara said.
For example, she said, in 2010, the organization got 90,000 new Latino voters registered and to the polls.
"These are folks who probably would not have voted had it not been for the coalesced efforts of One Arizona," she said.
In 2011, One Arizona's members focused on the Phoenix municipal elections and saw a 500 percent increase in Latino voter turnout in one district, she said. That led to the election of Daniel Valenzuela, a first-time Latino candidate for City Council.
"These aren't folks who were already going to vote," she said. "These are folks who had said, year after year, 'I don't have time to vote. Voting doesn't impact me. It doesn't matter in my community.' We were able to talk to them, door to door, phone call to phone call, and say to them this matters."
De la Vara said many of the new voters are citizens who said they felt disenfranchised by SB 1070, so in that sense she said it has awakened Latinos who are now seeking citizenship, registering to vote and going to the polls.
One Arizona's website lists its partner organizations as the Arizona Advocacy Network Foundation, the Arizona Center for Empowerment, Border Action Network, Democracia USA, Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, the National Association of Latino Elected Officials, Southwest Conference of the United Church of Christ, Protecting Arizona's Family Coalition Educational Fund, Promise Arizona, Central Arizonans for a Sustainable Economy and Tonatierra Community Development Institute.
The original article is available here.
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