Immigrant Vote and Civic Participation

Photo by Claudia A. De La Garza

Given the emphasis that mainstream media and the 2016 Presidential candidates have placed on immigration, there may be major increases in civic engagement, especially among immigrant communities, in the 2016 elections. In fact, Pew Research Center reports that the upcoming elections are a significant incentive for immigrants to officially apply for citizenship. “The number of legal permanent residents applying for U.S. citizenship in the four months starting last October is at its highest level in four years”, which may lead to thousands of newly eligible voters (Pew Research Center, May 14 2016).

The immigrant vote will be more pivotal than ever in the 2016 elections. Here’s a close look at how immigrant voters could affect the 2016 U.S. election from Washington Post. Realizing the untapped potential of immigrant communities could have major effects on the 2016 elections. Given this reality, various organizations around the country are leading initiatives to increase voter registration and education among immigrant communities. Below is a list of major organizations who are working toward civic engagement initiatives.


APIAVote is a “national nonpartisan organization that works with partners to mobilize Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in electoral and civic participation”. In May 2016, APIAVote released a survey of Asian American registered voters, which addresses general trends in voting patterns among Asian American citizens. The full results of the report, entitled “Inclusion, Not Exclusion” may be viewed here. APIAVote also supports trainings that aim to increase the leadership and organizing capacity of the APIA community, as an effort to increase civic engagement.

Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles

CHIRLA “organizes and serves individuals, institutions and coalitions to build power, transform public opinion, and change policies to achieve full human, civil and labor rights”. Since 2004, CHIRLA has held a civic engagement program in order to increase voter turnout among immigrant communities. Through their 22 phone banking stations, CHIRLA calls voters statewide to encourage voter registration and educate voters on various ballot initiatives.

Feet In Two Worlds

FI2W is a project of the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School that seeks to tell the stories of today’s immigrants. On July 5th, 2016, FI2W launched a mobile app called “Unidos”, that seeks to encourage young Latinxs to register to vote. According to research conducted by Pew Research Center, “Hispanic millennials will account for nearly half (44%) of the record 27.3 million Hispanic eligible voters projected for 2016”. Given the potential political power of young Latinx voters, FI2W sought to develop a strategy to mobilize these voters. “The Unidos mobile app focuses on young Latinos, who, like millennials of all ethnic backgrounds, get most of their information online, much of it on their phones”. The app not only shares news articles and videos, but also shares information of voter registration, and how to become a US citizen.

Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada

PLAN is a progressive network that works towards a variety of social justice initiatives, one of which seeks to increase voter engagement among minorities. Through their Civic Engagement Program in Nevada, PLAN registered over 7000 voters, (mainly high school and college students and low income families), reached out to over 40,000 young voters by phone and increased early vote turnout by 10 percentage points among the 5000 people they talked to during that time period. According to their mission, PLAN “is committed to year-round voter registration and GOTV efforts that lift up marginalized communities, and will also pursue policies to improve and expand voter registration opportunities for all eligible voters”.

Voto Latino

Voto Latino is a civic media organization that seeks to empower Latinx leadership. Their work focuses on voter registration and education specifically on issues that affect the Latinx community. On June 30, 2016, Voto Latino announced that they are sending over 500 emerging leaders into the nation to launch their new technology ‘VoterPal’, “a mobile app that allows an individual to register friends and family in less than a minute through innovative ID-scanning technology”. To read more about this initiative visit Voto Latino’s Homepage.

Mobilize the Immigrant Vote

Mobilize the Immigrant Vote is a non-partisan, statewide alliance (based in California) that seeks to build power among New Americans of color. The alliance conducts civic participation campaigns and tracks progress in voter engagement. Since 2004, MIV has conducted a total of 13 civic campaigns. Click here to read about MIV’s work in Santa Clara County, CA.

The New York Immigration Coalition

The NYIC “promotes the full civic engagement of immigrants through a comprehensive civic participation program—educating and mobilizing voters, registering new citizens to vote, ensuring that candidates and officials address immigrant issues, and developing community leaders”. This program includes registering new citizen voters, know your rights trainings, get-out-to-vote activities as well as leadership development and advocacy work. To read more about the NYIC’s civic participation program, visit their webpage here.

The James Irvine Foundation

James Irvine is a private foundation that funds projects towards advancing education among low-income students, public policy that is reflective of California’s diverse populations and the promotion of arts engagement in California. Their work in civic participation strives to make the electorate more representative of the state’s population. Through their Voter Outreach and Technology Initiative (VOTE), the Irvine Foundation seeks to reach out specifically to low-income, ethnic, and immigrant communities. To read more about their VOTE initiative, click here.

Other news about immigrant communities and civic participation:

New languages for NYC voter registration could expand access for immigrants (PBS News Hour, Oct. 9, 2016)Why voting rights rulings will help the Democrats at the polls (Northeastern, August 8th, 2016).

The impact of US immigration on Democratic and Republican election outcomes (Vox Policy Portal, February 2nd, 2016).

Non-Citizen Latinos Politically Engaged, Study Finds (NBC News, June 28th, 2018).

Is This the Year of the Latino Voter? (American Prospect, July 5th, 2016).

Expanding Citizenship: Immigrants and the Vote (Democracy Journal, Spring 2013).