Virginia Latino voters excited for Biden presidency

A political sign urging voters to vote out sitting President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence outside a home in Richmond's Fan District. Photo by Ada Romano, Capital News Service

Ada Romano, Capital News Service

The Latino vote went to different candidates around the nation, but in Virginia a majority of Latinos favored former Vice President Joe Biden and are hopeful he’ll reverse President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. 

More than 60% of Latinos in Virginia voted for Biden during this year’s presidential election, while almost 40% supported Trump, according to exit polls conducted by The Washington Post and other media organizations. In comparison, 65% of Latinos in the state supported Hillary Clinton in 2016, according to The Washington Post. 

A majority of Latinos voted for Biden nationally, but Trump drew more Latinos in two swing states — Florida and Georgia — than the last presidential election, according to The Washington Post analysis. In the U.S., about 30% of Latinos identify as conservative, roughly the same percentage say they’re moderate and another 30% label themselves liberal, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. 

Elizabeth Guzmán, a Democratic state delegate who is running for lieutenant governor, said the days following Election Day were the four longest days of her life, but the wait was worth it because she was overjoyed to see Biden and California Sen. Kamala Harris defeat Trump.

Delegate Elizabeth Guzmán.

“As an immigrant myself, I think about the new Vice President Kamala Harris, and I think about my daughters and their future in this country,” Guzmán said in a video posted to Twitter. 

Guzmán said Biden put more Latinos in leadership roles and understands that there is diversity in the Latino community. Biden hired Jennifer Molina as his campaign’s Latino media director to engage with the Latino community and encourage them to vote. 

“He wanted to hear our voices, and his agenda showed that he saw our contributions, especially as frontline workers in this pandemic,” Guzmán said. 

Edgar Aranda-Yanoc, the executive director of the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations, said recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status program were worried about being deported due to Trump’s policies. 

“It has really been a nightmare for the immigrant community, especially those who are benefitting [from DACA and Temporary Protected Status programs] and their relatives,” Aranda-Yanoc said. “Of course there were legal challenges keeping alive the hope that this someday can be fixed permanently.” 

TPS allows immigrants from countries facing political conflict, natural disasters or other extraordinary conditions to legally live in the U.S. The Trump administration attempted to end the program but it was later extended until January 2021. DACA allowed children who immigrated to the U.S. before the age of 16 to remain in the country legally. 

Biden plans to end Trump’s immigration policies such as those that allowed children to be separated from their parents at the border, according to his website. Trump’s family separation policy resulted in 2,500 migrant children being separated from their parents, according to a recent press release from the House Judiciary Committee. Biden also plans to surge humanitarian resources to the border, reinstate DACA, ensure Dreamers are eligible for federal student aid, protect the TPS program and provide a path to citizenship for TPS holders who have been in the country for an extended period of time, according to his website. 

The Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations doesn’t endorse political candidates, Aranda-Yanoc said. The organization is focused on resolving issues that impact the Latino community such as immigration reform and education. The organization provided information to the immigrant community about voting rights before the election, including how to receive assistance with possible voter intimidation. 

Aranda-Yanoc said he was excited to see the turnout of Latino voters and said this is because Latinos care about topics like immigration and COVID-19, which were often discussed by Biden and Trump on the campaign trail. 

Latinos, Asians, African Americans and Native Americans are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 in the U.S., according to data from The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer organization launched by two journalists from The Atlantic that publishes daily COVID-19 data. Latinos make up 26% of the cases and 9% of deaths in Virginia, according to the report. Virginia has reported race and ethnicity data for 81% of cases and 97% of deaths. Just over 60% of the state’s population is white, 20% is Black and 10% is Hispanic or Latino, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Biden also plans to end for-profit immigration detention centers and ensure facilities used to temporarily house asylum-seeking migrants are held to high standards of safety, according to his website. Guzmán said Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents should be held accountable for the mistreatment of immigrants in detention centers. The American Civil Liberties Union reported that they filed over 50 lawsuits against ICE detention centers around the country since the beginning of the pandemic. Twenty people have died in ICE detention centers since October 2019, according to the ACLU. 

Aranda-Yanoc said the organization’s position will always be against immigration detention centers because immigrants are often mistreated in these facilities. 

“They are profiting from the suffering and pain of our immigrant community,” Aranda-Yanoc said. “They’re putting people in there just to deport them and unfortunately they’re not well treated there.” 

In addition to Biden’s focus on the immigrant community, Guzmán emphasized the importance of having diverse representation in leadership roles because it shows young girls and women of color that there are “no limits on their dreams.” Biden noted in his first speech as president-elect that Harris is the first Black woman in the history of the U.S. to be elected vice president. 

“And I will be honored to be serving with a fantastic vice president, Kamala Harris, who will make history as the first woman, first Black woman, first woman of South Asian descent and first daughter of immigrants ever elected to national office in this country,” Biden said.

Trump refuses to concede to Biden and stated in a tweet Monday, over a week after the race was called, that he won the election. Guzmán said people chose Biden and Harris, and they will be sworn in in January regardless of how Trump feels. 

“Trump’s feelings are as irrelevant as he is,” Guzmán said. “It is not part of his DNA to acknowledge he has lost.” 

Biden’s inauguration will take place Jan. 20 outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

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