Latinx Voters Living Abroad Mobilize Around Presidential Elections
Also available in Spanish
By Katarina Machmer, Ethnic Media Services
Editor’s Note: Latinx voters comprise an estimated 10% of U.S. citizens living abroad. Overseas, many actively support the Democratic Party, reports Katarina Machmer, who covers immigration issues in Europe for EMS.
BERLIN — The same issues that could drive more Latino voters to the polls this November are mobilizing their counterparts living abroad, say expat voters interviewed in Europe.
“We haven’t had such voter registration activity in a long time,” says David Coronado, Latinx expat from Texas now living in Madrid, Spain, where he is social media coordinator of Democrats Abroad (DA), the official Democratic Party arm for Americans living outside the United States. DA strives to provide expats a Democratic voice in the U.S. government and elect Democratic candidates by mobilizing Americans abroad to vote.
Coronado says DA expects at least half a million votes from abroad in this election, most of them from Democrats.
“Political leaders send signals and shape culture. Both the Latinx community in the United States and in Europe get the signal that they are not being valued,” he explains.
Expats normally vote via mail or, depending on the state they’re registered in, may be able to vote by email or fax.
It’s estimated that Latinx voters comprise more than 10% of U.S. citizens overseas, says Amerika Garcia Grewal, chair of the DA Hispanic Caucus, which advocates on issues that concern the global Hispanic community. The number of Latinx expats voting Democratic is unknown, but in Europe, many of them lean towards the Democratic Party and support it through their activism even if they cannot vote.
Partly this is because Democrats Abroad is more established than its counterpart, Republicans Overseas. While Democrats Abroad sends delegates to the Democratic National Convention, Republicans Overseas does not belong to the U.S. Republican Party, so it cannot participate in its national convention. Besides, Republicans Overseas, unlike Democrats Abroad, has no Hispanic Caucus to help mobilize Latinx expats to vote or become activists. In Spain, where many Latinx expats reside, Republicans Overseas also only registers one chapter while Democrats Abroad has four. Germany and other European countries don’t count as many Latinx expats. Yet, they still are home to Democratic Hispanic voters and activists.
Onélica Andrade, who left California for Belgium in 2016, was one of seven Latinx delegates elected by Democrats Abroad to participate in this year’s Democratic National Convention, which took place remotely. She says that Latinx members she has met through Democrats Abroad, where she sits on the Hispanic Caucus, are actively trying to recruit American voters.
“Even if we are few Latinx people here,” Andrade explains, “we’re committed and we’re loud. Maybe we won’t animate other Latinxs to vote because there are not that many around us, but we encourage other Americans.”
Immigrant rights activist Monsy Hernandez also believes in the ripple effect of political activism: “I’ve noticed a difference in the people I’ve talked to, also in my U.S. friends who have seen the work that I do.”
Hernandez has been fighting for the Latinx community since she was 18. Born in Mexico City, she lived undocumented in South Carolina for 15 years. Then, in 2017, because of the state’s restrictive measures affecting DREAMers and immigrants, she self-deported to Germany with her husband, who had studied there previously.
“[My] abilities to both survive and succeed were unachievable for me in South Carolina and the U.S. as a whole once Trump took office,” Hernandez explains. Because she was unable to obtain U.S. citizenship and, therefore, could not become an official member of Democrats Abroad, she has been volunteering for the DA Hispanic Caucus for two years as an unofficial member.
“Whether you are living in Europe, in the United States or somewhere in Latin America — we all belong to the Latinx community,” Hernandez says. “And we cannot allow our community to continue struggling in a country that owes a lot of its wealth to [the work of] our shoulders.”
Onélica Andrade agrees and adds that the United States plays a critical role in international politics. “We are holding children in detention centers, and the world watches. We are normalizing criminal deeds — this is absolutely wrong.”
Daniel Garcia, Latinx expat from California, also sees immigration as one of the most important issues for the Latinx community worldwide.
“What unites the Latinx community globally is the experience of migration,” says Garcia, editorial and social media manager of Democrats Abroad in Alicante, Spain, and founder of the campaign Our Voices, Our Future, which targets younger expat voters. “In the United States, we need immigration reform, and I am keen on fighting for that from Europe.”
Working with David Coronado, Garcia creates “Why I Vote” ads for social media. They tell the stories of expats voting Democratic from abroad to encourage others to cast a ballot.
Besides immigration reform, affordable education and universal health care are at stake in the 2020 presidential election — not only for the Latinx community worldwide but, as Coronado says, for “everybody else who is losing something.” Universal health care in Spain is an entirely new experience for him: “Not having to worry about how to pay for a visit to the doctor gives me such a peace of mind and makes me passionate about fighting for this back home.”
Monsy Hernandez had a similar experience when she got to Germany. A doctor she visited could not believe she was unable to get either health insurance or health care for the 15 years she lived in the United States. In her redlined South Carolina neighborhood, a visit to the doctor had been both literally and financially out of her reach. College, too, was inaccessible.
“Here in Germany, I can take German classes because they are affordable,” Hernandez says. “This is crazy to me, but I shouldn’t be bewildered by these ideas.” Instead, she encourages the international Latinx community to continue fighting for fair wages and access to health care as well as higher education.
Onélica Andrade hopes that these issues will bring Latinx voters together globally and elect Biden — the “right” candidate, she says, whose presidency will help ensure needed reforms. However, still more has to be done: After Biden’s election, community members must continue their efforts to make political leaders accountable for their agendas and, just as important, listen to the concerns of minority communities.