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Efforts to Include Latinos in the Political Process in NC Continue

August 20, 2012

RALEIGH. N.C. - Even as efforts to involve Latinos in North Carolina's political process are ramping up, hundreds of young undocumented workers who meet certain qualifications in the state are taking advantage of President Obama's deferred immigration program to avoid deportation. Applications are being accepted now, and organizations such as El Pueblo, Inc. in Raleigh are working in Latino communities to make sure young people understand how they can take advantage of the program.

Miguel Figueras, youth program coordinator for the organization, says the ability to stay in America legally means everything to the young people he works with.

"And they don't know their home country, they've never gone back. So, they feel like Americans, yet they get pushed away like they don't belong."

While young Latinos who take advantage of the DREAMers program won't have citizenship and therefore the right to vote, Figueras says he and others are encouraging Latinos who can vote to do so and get educated on the candidates. More than 60 percent of registered Latino voters are between the ages of 18 and 40, which is about double the percentage of white and black voters in that age bracket.

A study released earlier this month by Democracy North Carolina found that there are 115,000 registered Latino voters in North Carolina and another 100,000 unregistered but eligible voters. Organizations are actively recruiting Latinos to register to vote for the Presidential election.

The executive director of Democracy North Carolina, Bob Hall, says Latinos could make a difference in the election outcome.

"The Latino community is much more diverse and more able to be speaking up. All of us I think need to have more respect for the diversity of our state."

According to the latest U.S. Census, almost half of Latinos in the state are women, and 40 percent come from countries other than Mexico. Fifty-eight percent of Latinos in North Carolina are U.S. citizens.

The complete report on Latino voters is at democracy-nc.org.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC