It is three in the afternoon and the sun is pressing down with the force of the desert. The thermometer reads 38 degrees and there is no shadow in sight on West Encanto Boulevard. Karina Ruiz, Michael and Beatriz park their cars next to the soulless Parque Sueño and, on foot, start the mission that has brought them to this working class neighborhood west of Phoenix. For the next few hours dozens of doors will knock, which are pointed out by a program installed on their mobile phones with information about Latino registered voters you have received your ballots in the mail.
When they open the door they will ask if they have already voted. If the respondent has not done so, they will still provide information on how to do it, without expressly mentioning Donald Trump by a Joe Biden nor to any candidate in other races of the November 3.
They will also explain when and where the vote can be delivered in person. Yes, they will expressly request the support of the Proposition 208 that appears in the long and complex ballots, a referendum to raise taxes on those who earn more than 250,000 dollars (half a million in the case of couples) to allocate that money to the coffers of public education that have been emptied in Arizona. They will also be interested in whether there is anyone else in the house who needs to register. And if no one opens, they will leave at the door, never in the mailbox so as not to skip the laws that prevent it as a non-governmental organization, a couple of posters stapled with information.
An army of community activists
Ruiz is the executive director of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, Michael and Beatriz two of the dozens of volunteers of the organization, which this same day has dispatched six other people to other neighborhoods to do the door-to-door campaign. None of them, due to their status in United States, you can vote in these elections. But, like hundreds of other activists working under the umbrella of Arizona One or in dozens of other community organizations, play their role in democracy American.
They are part of an army that is doing essential work on the ground to mobilize, one by one, the transcendental Latino vote in a state where Hispanics, the segment of the population that grows the most, are one in three inhabitants and represent the 24% of the potential electorate. They are not a monolith and according to the polls they are divided 2 to 1 with respect to the support of Biden or Trump.
If, as the polls predict, the Democrat wins in Arizona, he will owe people like Karina, Beatriz and Michael part of his victory. Because the precautions imposed by the pandemic has shaken the volunteers and the official Democratic campaign alike, but the former have long been much more active while the Democratic Party, repeating a pattern, has arrived late and with less force to the necessary work in the field.
Biden, thus, depends for his success on the immense effort that activists from a community with experience have made for at least 15 years in combating some of the most draconian laws and the most xenophobic characters against immigrants that have been recently in the United States, before Trump, his wall, the separation of children from their families at the borders or the assaults on laws such as IF with which Barack Obama at least temporarily took the pressure off the deportation hundreds of thousands of immigrants who arrived without papers as children.
They are the groups that began to organize in Arizona in 2006, when a law was passed that by removing state scholarships from many immigrants made higher education inaccessible. They are the organizations that fought tooth and nail against the controversial SB1070, another law that in 2010 gave authorities permission to detain anyone they thought was in the country illegally. And they are the ones who, after almost two decades supporting the actions of the infamous sheriff Joe Arpaio, managed with their mobilization that he lost his position at the polls in 2016 while the state gave victory to Trump (who already as president pardoned the sheriff, precisely condemned for their violations of the Constitution). And they are also the ones who in recent years have managed to get some of their activists elected to local positions.
The people, the priority
“The parties cannot claim victory. Victory belongs to the community and Arizonans who have been in the struggle for a long time,” explains Luis Ávila, founder of the Instituto group, which promotes the formation of Hispanic leaders in Arizona, and that in August launched ¡Here you vote!
“The priority now is to defeat Trump, but the real priority must be the people, “says Ruiz, who recalls that” not because Biden wins the job will finish. “Less when a pandemic that has hit minorities harder has added concerns about health care or work to a community already beaten. Latinos are less likely to be homeowners than whites (52% vs. 70%), more likely to be incarcerated (they represent 30% of the general population but 41% of the prison population), or see only 17% of those over the age of 25 complete university studies (compared to 36% of adults in general).
Ruiz also ensures that whatever happens, he will celebrate the results. “We have learned that in a campaign, even if we don’t win, we win, because we believe leadership. There are more informed people. We have learned as a community to celebrate our resilience and that we have each other, “she says. Also, she cannot vote but feels” enormous satisfaction “knowing that she has helped others to do so.” They give my voice a voice, “she says.