Several caravans of Latino voters and activists are crossing the country to join the festivities and promote legalization for the country’s 11 million illegal immigrants, most of whom are from Latin America. Obama has already granted deportation relief to some young undocumented immigrants, and he has promised to seek sweeping immigration reform in his second term.
“People have woken up and realized the power they have through their participation in the election. They are saying, ‘We did it. We helped him win,’ ” said Jaime Contreras, 38, a labor union official who lives in Maryland and helped organize Latino service workers in pre-election volunteer activities. “I think the president knows he has to deliver for our community.”
In terms of numbers, the November election was a defining moment for Hispanics. A record 12.5 million of them voted, and an overwhelming 71 percent supported Obama. That turnout was crucial in battleground states such as Florida, Colorado and Virginia, and so was the support from an army of volunteers — some of them undocumented immigrants — who stuffed envelopes, knocked on doors and helped citizens register to vote.
Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, called the inauguration “a celebration of Latino participation in our democracy” — a chance not only to congratulate Obama but to “salute where Latinos have come in terms of our role in American politics.” By 2030, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, the Latino electorate is expected to double.
Among Asian Americans, Obama was also heavily preferred, with 73 percent voting Democratic. But with a far smaller turnout at the polls — about 3.2 million, mainly in California — their impact on the election was more about other kinds of clout that reflect the high levels of education and affluence among legal immigrants from India, China, Korea and the Philippines.
Through targeted fundraising and sophisticated voter organizing, Asian American groups helped swing key districts for Obama in several states and elected Asian Americans to Congress in Hawaii, California, Illinois and New York. For the first time, activists from diverse Asian groups said they joined forces across geographic and ethnic lines, signaling a generational change in cultural and political attitudes.