Queens Hispanics helped Obama – QNS.com

Queens Hispanics helped Obama

More than 10 million Hispanics voted in this year’s presidential election and twice as many voted for Barack Obama as voted for John McCain. The change compared with the 2004 elections, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, was “dramatic.”
While Queens would almost certainly have voted Democratic with or without the Hispanic vote, the borough’s Latino voters - through their pre-election and Election Day voter outreach efforts, not to mention their pulling the lever in Obama’s favor - appear to have helped give the President-elect a decisive edge.
One of Obama’s influential local supporters was 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), with over 80,000 members in New York City, 50 percent of whom are Hispanic.
While SEIU’s members phone-banked and knocked on doors throughout Queens in support of Obama, SEIU 32BJ Political Organizer Jorge Cabrera underscored the fact that his union’s support is not limited to Democrats.
“We support every candidate that is pro-working family, pro-universal healthcare, pro-benefits and better wages,” Cabrera said, noting that SEIU endorsed Republican-turned-Independent Mayor Michael Bloomberg during his mayoral run and threw its support in favor of Democrats Joe Addabbo and James Gennaro in their State Senate races.
Immigration reform is naturally a significant issue for SEIU’s members, Cabrera said.
A Jackson Heights organization called New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE), while non-partisan, took a proactive approach to the election, recognizing the mobilizing potential of its largely undocumented members and program participants.
“I think there is excitement that there is a new president, that he [Obama] had a lot of rhetoric about change, and the community wants to embrace the opportunity and push that our needs are heard,” said NICE Executive Director Valeria Treves.
Treves, whose group contacted 2,000 registered Latino voters in Elmhurst and Jackson Heights via door-knocking, phone calls and postcards leading up to the election, had a message for Obama and other politicians who have adopted the President-elect’s mantra of “change” and “hope.”
“Nothing signifies hope more than embracing the 12 million undocumented people who are the backbone of the economy, who keep the economy running,” she said. “We want the local politicians to understand that while we, ourselves, don’t count for the ballot, we can still sway an election.”
Treves believes McCain led a divisive campaign and one that did not reflect Latino values, a sentiment perhaps reflected in the outcome in places like Florida, where Hispanics helped propel Obama to victory.
Corona native and Jackson Heights resident Luis Rosero was in Florida the week leading up to the election, targeting the Hispanic vote for the Democratic candidate.
A first generation American whose parents emigrated from Ecuador, Rosero arrived with the Obama campaign in the Sunshine State by way of stints with President Bill Clinton’s administration, the U.S. Department of Labor and the Democratic National Committee.
Obama is “someone who I think has transformed the world and will make a tremendous difference in the world - if I could have done it I would have volunteered more time,” said Rosero, who worked for the campaign using his vacation time at Citi, where he is the Vice President of Public Affairs.
Rosero marveled at victory celebrations across the country and even around the world in which “the streets filled with complete strangers hugging. Race, ethnicity, religion did not matter and it seemed to all dissolve and it was one positively charged atmosphere.”
“It’s perfectly clear that the Hispanic community is and will continue to be with President Barack Obama,” Rosero said, noting that the reaction to Obama’s victory within the Queens Hispanic community has been “ecstatic.”
“The unsung heroes are the people who worked so hard for absolutely no money and really just committed themselves to make a difference,” he said.
- With Ursula Gonzales and Jorge Divona

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