Maria Teresa Kumar: Immigrants Pay More Taxes Than the President
Shortly after the election of Trump, I spoke to Maria Teresa Kumar, who founded and runs VotoLatino. She immigrated with her mother to the U.S. when she was a child, fleeing drug violence in Colombia.
“The Latino vote is powerful,” told me, “because it is increasingly a vote that isn’t found only on the coasts. We’re finding participation where it matters in Pennsylvania, Florida, Colorado, Nevada. The more we can coalesce that vote, the more we have a vote toward the future. 60% of Latinos are under 33. 52% of us went out and voted. In less than 13 years from now, we’ll have 17 million more.”
Ms. Kumar continued:
I can share with you that we have a digital-first strategy. We had over five-hundred partners this year, including Lyft, to give over fifteen-thousand people rides to the polls. We partnered with LiveNation to register voters at concerts. We partnered with Twitter, who gave an ‘I Voted’ sticker on their platform. We go to where young people are and we talk to them in ways that are authentic. I’m the oldest person here, so we do nothing that doesn’t pass the muster of the team. We become our own focus group.It’s tethered on the idea that our family came here and worked hard to realize American aspirations. There’s no more patriotic group than ours because it’s better than what we left and we have more opportunities here.It’s a sad day to see that we take this work and energy and what makes American DNA for granted, trying to marginalize and ‘other’ a fellow American.
“Just last year,” Maria Teresa adds, “It was fact-checked and was on Meet the Press. The President hasn’t paid taxes in twenty years. Meanwhile, undocumented workers pay $12 Billion in taxes every year. Between our voting numbers and our contribution to the economy, we are a force to be reckoned with."
Our job is to make it easier for people to vote. There are imperfect political situations but we can have perfect participation.
-Maria Teresa Kumar of VotoLatino
Twenty-eight-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez' recent primary win in New York exemplifies the kind of seismic victory that can occur when organizers mobilize and rally the Latinx vote and the participation of other immigrant groups.
Like so many American families, mine is composed of immigrants. My husband and his sister immigrated with their parents to this country from Ghana, West Africa when they were four and two-and-a-half respectively. My maternal grandmother came over from Italy as a teenager. My paternal great-grandfather came over from Mexico after fighting in the Mexican Revolution. Those are just the more recent immigrants in our family.
To our shock and heartbreak, my mother-in-law passed away suddenly this past Friday, just two days after Independence Day. She loved America and she exemplified what makes America great, the courage to start over in the face of herculean obstacles, in order to create a better life for her children and their future children. She left behind everyone she loved to come to America and support her husband through his Master's in Public Health.
She had hoped to return home when my father-in-law's student visa ran out, but a military coup in Ghana made that impossible. Like my husband's family, the vast majority of immigrants dare to sacrifice everything they have ever known for a second chance in America only because life back home has become unlivable.
Out of an irrational terror of an imminent brown majority, the new administration is implementing policies to extinguish the beacon of hope America, however flawed, has long represented to people around the world, people like my mother-in-law. Trump's henchmen on Fox News and in the alt-right refer to the diversification of America as "white genocide," despite the fact that white men get 98% of tech funding. 97% of advertising jobs, hold 65% of elected offices, and fill more than 70% of of corporate leadership positions, even though they comprise only 33% of our population.
The only way to prevent the accelerating ethnic cleansing Republicans are attempting to perpetrate on the United States is to turn out as many voters of color and Democratic voters as possible in the upcoming elections.
Whether you belong to the Green Party or the Republican Party, if democracy matters to you, please vote Democratic in the midterms this November, register others to vote, and help get out the vote by spreading the word and offering to transport people to the polls. It's not a moment to split hairs. It's a moment to save our republic. You can easily register voters with the VoterPal app from VotoLatino, an organization that works to mobilize Latino voters, the second largest electoral block, after Caucasians.
We have to march to the polls this November like the revolutionaries in Les Misérables, to transform Trump's America -- an America with baby jails and family separation, denaturalization, toddlers representing themselves in immigration court, the rescinding of DACA, military discharges of immigrants, and Muslim bans -- into the free and equal America we aspire to be.
We can achieve it, but we have to do the work.
Action Steps Inspired by Maria Teresa Kumar
1. Give to or volunteer with VotoLatino
2. Download Voto Latino’s apps, like VoterPal, from your Android or Apple store. Reach out to infrequent and first-time voters for every election, no matter how small and local.
3. Participate in a national Day without an immigrant to show how America cannot survive without her immigrant work force and immigrant spending power.
4. If you belong to a Latino rights group, consider joining forces with immigrants’ rights groups, especially other major targets of the current regime, like Muslim immigrants. The Tampa Bay Islamic Society, for example, has offered to care for 2300 immigrant children separated from their parents by the Trump regime and in Orange County, Muslim and Latino immigrants have joined forces to create community and electoral coalitions.
5. If you belong to a Jewish group, consider joining forces with Latino and Muslim groups. Some of the strongest defenders against the current regime’s immigration policies have come from Jewish people whose families were affected by the Holocaust and who see too many similarities to its beginnings in the early policies of the Trump administration.
6. Protest Trump's family separation and deportation practices, travel bans, denaturalization and military discharge practices.
7. If you are recruiting volunteers for a GOTV (Get Out The Vote) effort, every precinct needs a leader who can lead volunteers to call and knock on doors starting Election Day weekend, to remind people to vote.
It is very important to organize phone banks and canvasses in English and Spanish, as well as other languages spoken by local immigrant communities to galvanize infrequent and first-time voter turnout.
o Captains can:
§ Flush their precincts starting the weekend before Election Day with:
§ Literature drops
§ Then phone calls
§ Then door knocking on Election Day
§ If your state has suppressive Voter ID laws, make sure you inform every voter at every point of contact of what they will need to bring with them in order to be allowed to vote
o Poll watchers can ensure voters show up and make sure everything that happens at the polls is legitimate and above board
o A transportation team can ensure there are no transportation barriers – carpooling, vans, offering rides
IN MEMORY OF STELLA OHENEWA ASHONG
Precinct info assembled with help from Chuck Tyler, a longtime grassroots organizer and military veteran in the Los Angeles Area.