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Immigrants, Non-voters Helped Increase Florida Voter Turnout

Luc Bastien, left, stands with union brothers at 32BJ SEIU after canvassing. (32BJ SEIU)
Luc Bastien, left, stands with union brothers at 32BJ SEIU after canvassing. (32BJ SEIU)
November 7, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - In a final push to support candidates and issues they care about, a group of immigrant, Latino and Haitian union workers - many of whom are ineligible to vote - still went door-to-door on Election Day to encourage those who can to make it to the polls.

In the last few months, these members of the Win Justice Coalition claimed, they knocked on 1.5 million doors statewide, asking voters to not forget or squander their civic duty.

Luc Bastien, a Haitian immigrant with the Service Employees International Union, said he asked voters to support candidates who would protect people like him, with Temporary Protected Status.

"It's whatever any individual can do on a personal level to help ... the cause of the little ones, the cause of workers, the cause ... of immigrants," he said. "It's whatever you can do to help."

The United States offers Temporary Protected Status to people from countries deemed too dangerous to return to. The Trump administration has ordered the status revoked for immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan. However, a federal judge temporarily blocked that plan.

While mostly focused on electing Democrats, such as gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum and Sen. Bill Nelson, as well as issues such as Amendment 4 - to automatically restore the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after completing their sentences - Bastien said his goal was to get voters to rise above politics.

"Encourage people to vote for those who are representing ... the best interest ... of immigrants and workers and women," he said. "It's a vote for decency."

The Win Justice Coalition includes labor, immigrants' rights and racial-justice organizations. The group has said it engaged more than 5 million voters through a combined phone, text and digital message program.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - FL