BOSTON (STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE) – With just a handful of people on hand, immigrant rights activists re-launched a civic engagement campaign Tuesday and said they’re determined to bring more Latino voters into the political process in Massachusetts.
Mario Paredes, a 26-year-old Boston University School of Law student, said he detects apathy among some Latinos, including undocumented immigrants living in Massachusetts. Paredes, a member of the board of Centro Presente, an immigrant rights group, said that while undocumented immigrants can’t vote they can influence voters by knocking on doors and making phone calls for candidates they support.
Paredes, who lives in Brighton and whose parents are from Guatemala, said Centro Presente hopes to schedule forums for Latinos to hear from candidates and elected officials and educational forums where people can learn more about elections. The goal, he said, is to educate and motivate voters in areas where there are large Latino populations, including East Boston and Somerville.
Patricia Montes, executive director of Centro Presente, said candidates from both major parties – Democrats and Republicans – have surfaced immigrant issues in a “toxic and negative way” and many immigrants are turned off by politics.
“They don’t trust politicians. They don’t trust the process,” Montes said, noting some immigrants are unable to identify mayors or state senators or representatives who represent them. A goal of this year’s campaign is to make more immigrants familiar with their elected officials, she said.
There are 27 million Latinos eligible to vote in the U.S., according to Centro Presente. Montes did not have an estimate of the Latino voting population in Massachusetts and did not have any information about forums scheduled as part of the re-launched campaign.