More than a week after the election, with the votes tallied and either celebrated or mourned, the Seattle-based immigrant organization OneAmerica Votes views the results as a sign that its hard work has paid off — but that its job is far from finished.
“With this election, what we’ve finally been able to demonstrate is that immigrant voters are engaged,” said Pramila Jayapal, head of OneAmerica Votes (OAV), an offshoot of the influential immigrant-rights advocacy group, OneAmerica.
OAV, which was formed earlier this year, launched one of the largest get-out-the-vote campaigns in Washington. Through home visits, phone banks and mailings the organization and its volunteers reached more than 162,000 registered voters across the state.
“In Patty Murray’s close race we saw that voters reached by OneAmerica Votes turned up at higher rates,” Jayapal said.
According to OAV statistics, Latino voters within the OAV target universe were turning out up to 7 percent higher than Latinos who were not contacted by the organization. Additionally, those Latino voters reached by OAV supported Patty Murray at a rate of 74.4 percent.
“Murray consistently supported issues important to immigrants across the state,” Jayapal explained. “Rossi, on the other hand, didn’t.”
Looking to the future, Jayapal said, “We have a vision to build an organization that can educate immigrant voters and educate candidates on critical issues. Now that the elections are done, we’re going to take this incredible effort to hold candidates accountable, bring in more volunteers and reach out more and more.”
The group plans to work on issues that affect immigrants everyday, such as healthcare and education.
OAV volunteer Faith Sims, who turned 18 just days before the election, helped the campaign through phone-banking and canvassing. “I did what I could to support the Democrats and to support what I believe in,” she said. “We got the candidate I wanted, but I’m not happy with some of the initiatives. But there’s always next year.”
Sims said she will continue to work on these issues even if she might leave the state for college next year.
A Native American, Sims said she enjoyed working with people of all backgrounds. “The diversity at OneAmerica is amazing. I loved the environment there.”
Last month, OAV landed in the middle of a controversy when The Seattle Times ran an Associated Press article headlined “In Washington, illegal immigrants canvassing for Democrats.”
The article spotlighted OAV volunteer Maria Gianni, an undocumented immigrant canvassing for Sen. Patty Murray.
The conservative media jumped on the story, sparking a debate on the involvement of undocumented immigrants in U.S. politics.
“There are lots of people that can’t vote. We know that line and we would never cross that line,” Jayapal said. “It’s crazy to me that people who can’t vote — either because they’re too young or because they can’t legally — shouldn’t be involved in campaigning.”
Sims agreed: “Illegal or not, I don’t see why they shouldn’t be able to serve the community.”
The real story is that immigrant voters are engaged and immigrant issues do matter, Jayapal said.
“The press wasn’t a terrible thing for our organization, as it at least informed people of our efforts,” she said. “It got people scratching their heads saying, ‘Wait, they (the conservative media) don’t want people to be engaged and knock on our neighbors’ doors?’ In the end, the work that we do was validated.”