Young Latinos set to become key Texas voting bloc: US study

As Americans prepare to head to the ballot box for midterm elections on November 6, a new study found that young Latinos are set to become one of the most important voting blocs in the traditionally conservative state of Texas.

Published by the Jolt Initiative, a Texas-based nonprofit, the report concludes that Latinos, who make up nearly 40 percent of the state’s population, are largely underrepresented in state politics owing to low voter turnout, a lack of trust in politicians and other barriers to electoral participation.

Titled “We Are Texas: An Analysis of Young Latino Voters in the Lone Star State”, the report predicts that Latinos will constitute the state’s largest ethnic group by 2022. Around half-a-million Latino non-citizens in Texas qualify for US citizenship.

“With some of the lowest voter registration and participation rates in the country, Texas faces real barriers to building a healthy and strong democracy,” it states, explaining that “the strength of our democracy will be determined in large part by engaging young Latinos”. 

The report’s findings come at a time when the administration of President Donald Trump has increased its crackdown on immigrants across the US.

During the 2016 presidential elections, Trump bested his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, by nine percentage points in Texas, the second largest US state by both size and population.

But now, with midterms weeks away, Texas is home to several heated races, including incumbent Republican Senator Ted Cruz’s race against Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke, who has campaigned on immigration reform that prioritises a “fair path to citizenship” for millions of immigrants in the country.

The Jolt Initiative’s report, based on surveys with 1,016 Latinos, show a strong preference among respondents for the Democratic Party. It notes that 32 percent of Latino interviewees prefer the Democrats, while only 13 percent support the Republicans.

Among the most important electoral issues for young Latinos, according to the study, are healthcare for all, a legal pathway to citizenship for immigrants and racial equality.

With nearly 11 million Latinos in Texas, the state is facing “a democratic crisis”, the report adds.

Immigration crackdown

Two years ago, Trump campaigned on promises to crack down on immigration to the US, vowing to build a wall on the US-Mexico border and increase deportations.

Since coming to power, the president has faced backlash for his immigration programme, much of it stemming from his administration’s “zero tolerance” policy.

After public outcry over the separation of immigrant children and their parents, the Trump administration rolled back the practice. But before it was upended, the practice led to the separation of some 2,600 children from their parents. Hundreds of children remain separated from their families. 

In a West Texas tent city, the number of detained immigrants has swelled by 10 times since June, when the facility opened in the border city of Tornillo.

Of the 3,800 beds in the facility, at least 1,465 are occupied by children between the ages of 13 and 17, according to statistics from the US Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Republicans and Democrats have both seized immigration as an issue to mobilise voters to head to the polls next month.

In House, Senate and governorship races, more than $124m has been spent on more than 280,000 immigration-related ads, according to a CNN analysis of data provided by Kantar Media/CMAG.

The midterm elections will decide all 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 35 seats in the Senate and 39 state and territorial governorships.

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