OneAmerica Tries to Draw Immigrants to the Polls (Without Getting them Deported)

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With Democrats fretting over reports that left-leaning Latinos may sit this election out and cement big losses for the party in Congress and elsewhere, the advocacy group OneAmerica recently launched a spinoff aimed at mobilizing immigrant voters. Last night, OneAmerica Votes drew 150 people to a "ballot initiative party" at NewHolly, where the group explained why it was encouraging yes votes on income tax Initiative 1098, and no votes on everything else in the initiative heap.

OneAmerica Votes program manager Toby Guevin says the group is also endorsing U.S. Senator Patty Murray because of her position in favor of immigration reform (unlike her opponent Dino Rossi).

Guevin says canvassers from OneAmerica Votes have been hitting immigrant-heavy neighborhoods in Seattle and across the state. In addition to making the group's positions known, they have been registering new voters and encouraging voter turnout. The goal is to make contact with 40,000 immigrants before the election.

The group has to step carefully, however. Only U.S. citizens can vote, or even register to vote, something not widely understood among immigrants. Some may, for example, think that a green card gives them license to exercise their civic duty--and consequently find themselves in deportation proceedings for committing an illegal act. There have been a number of such cases in New York, according to a Sunday New York Times piece.

Guevin says he has not heard of someone in this state who has landed in this predicament. But he acknowledges that "the consequences are dire" to registering the wrong person. "We stress with all our volunteers who go out there that you need to be a citizen [to vote]," he says.

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