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14 Crucial Stories About The Latino Vote In 2016

The story of the Latino vote may turn out to be the story of campaign 2016. Adrian Carrasquillo and other BuzzFeed News reporters have been there all along, and here is the story of the campaign through that lens.

Posted on November 6, 2016, at 1:09 p.m. ET

1. The Clinton Campaign Will Try To Turn Donald Trump Into Latino Votes, September 2015

Andrew Renneisen / Getty Images

Many still doubt that Trump would be the nominee — but Hillary Clinton is already taking advantage of his deep, deep unpopularity with the Latino voters many view as critical voters in 2016. The campaign will soon launch an initiative called “Latinos con Hillary” during the first week of October (timed to coincide with Hispanic Heritage Month), according to sources familiar with the plans. Campaign officials tasked with Latino media and outreach have already increased their work, taking on new meetings, and mapping out the regional media strategy.

2. The Clinton Campaign Wants To Win The Latino Vote One Text At A Time, November 2015

Jim Cole / AP

The Clinton campaign went with an aggressive attack, comparing Bush to Donald Trump, saying this is how he speaks about Latinos “when he thinks no one is listening” and if recipients replied with “HEAR” they received an automated call with audio of Bush’s remarks in English and Spanish. The campaign says the response was incredible. The Latino list saw a spike in growth, with people getting their friends to text in, as well as high numbers of people actually listening to the phone call. The SMS texting program allowed the campaign to reach hundreds of thousands of Latino voters across the country and in key states, a boon among the increasingly younger bloc of voters.

3. The Anti-Immigration Activist Who Set The Stage For Donald Trump, November 2015

Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images

Nativist sentiments have long existed on both the right and the left, based on the perception that undocumented immigrants harm American workers. But the rise of Donald Trump turned a spotlight on ideas that were once confined to the hardline fringe, particularly the conviction that immigrants are violent criminals.

And Espinoza, whose group has worked directly with the Trump campaign, is a pioneer in a particularly effective form of advocacy based on that very premise: using the gut-wrenching stories of those whose family members have been killed by undocumented immigrants to push for more restrictions on immigration. Although there is no conclusive data on the number of crimes committed by immigrants in the U.S., decades of research in various fields have consistently found that immigrants are less prone to crime than the native-born. But data is often less compelling than the harrowing personal stories Espinoza brings to bear.

4. Trump’s Effect On The Latino Vote Has Begun: More Hispanic U.S. Citizens Are Coming, January 2016

Pool / Getty Images

If Trump has tapped into disaffected voters this year with his immigration rhetoric, there is also an unintended consequence — a mix of naturalization efforts, voter registration efforts, and ultimately efforts to mobilize voters off Trump’s rhetoric....

“We’ve seen more people this year that want to become citizens and specifically because they want to vote against Trump,” said Mi Familia Vota executive director Ben Monterroso....

How high the ultimate number of newly naturalized citizens will go is unclear, but there is a precedent for immigration rhetoric driving large numbers of people to naturalize — and likely affecting decisions at the ballot box in a presidential year.

5. How Clinton’s Obama Veterans In Nevada Postponed A Political Revolution, February 2016

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

LAS VEGAS — After Iowa but before Bernie Sanders’ big win in New Hampshire, Jorge Neri picked up the phone.

The Nevada organizing director for the Clinton campaign was incensed. Staffers for Sanders’ campaign were going around saying that their campaign had cracked the code on Hispanic voters, after Sanders won the majority of precincts where Iowa’s small Hispanic population lives.

So, on a conference call with the Clinton campaign’s organizers in his state, Neri literally read the words of Erika Andiola, a top Sanders staffer and well-known activist. He told them sarcastically that the Sanders plan was to win the state by parachuting into Nevada just two weeks before and “talking to people.”

And then he told them: I want you to go out one extra hour knocking on doors tonight.

6. Meet Trump’s Hispanics, April 2016

Courtesy Ileana Garcia

One thing many Trump supporters have in common is an aversion to a new generation of identity politics, and to the growing pan-Latino identity that has drawn people from diverse backgrounds into an increasingly coherent force in American politics.

In interviews, his supporters stressed their American roots. No one was just Puerto Rican or Mexican, and few used a hyphenated identity common in the Hispanic community. One said his family “has been in the country a couple hundred years” and another when asked his ethnicity said his family was “from Texas, which used to be Mexico.”

7. In Queens, Trump’s Plan To Deport Everyone Strikes Close To Home, April 2016

Mark Lennihan / AP

Some longtime legal residents are also choosing this year to become citizens and register to vote against him. Trump, who has famously called — and been derided for — a loosely explained plan to have Mexico pay for a wall along the border between the two countries, recently clarified that he would stop remittances from Mexicans (i.e. money that those in the United States send back to family in Mexico). To many Latinos, that plan, exposed the real Trump worldview. Not that he was just against those in the country illegally, but it revealed a meanspiritedness that meant even U.S. citizen Hispanics would not be able to send money to their relatives in Mexico.

8. The Inside Story Of How Clinton Changed The Election From A High School In Nevada, April 2016

John Locher / AP

One of the most important moments in this election happened at a high school library in Nevada.

Nearly a year ago, Hillary Clinton spoke to young undocumented immigrants and their families at Rancho High School in the working-class neighborhood of North Las Vegas, where 40% of the population is Latino. The setting was risky — just the kind of event that activists have turned into protests, with videos that travel far and wide.

Her words were directed at Jeb Bush.

She would offer a “path to full and equal citizenship” she said, while Bush, a favorite to win his party’s nomination, supported earned legal status — or as Clinton dismissed it, “second-class status.” That wasn’t unusual. Nor was her support for “comprehensive immigration reform.”

What she said next, however, was. “If Congress continues to refuse to act,” Clinton told the activists, she “would do everything possible under the law to go even further.” She wanted the parents of DREAMers, the parents of those seated around her, to be eligible for protection from deportation.

Clinton would prove to be very, very wrong about Bush. But she was correct about the driving issue of the election. The event would prove to be one of the most significant moments in the Democratic primary, and the policies Clinton outlined that day and as a result of that day will inform an election dominated by immigration policy, and the increasingly polarized approaches by both parties.

9. Clinton Latino Operation, Going Beyond Obama In ‘12, Readies Final Trump Battle Plan, August 2016

Andrew Renneisen / Getty Images

In 2012, the Obama campaign’s deputy Latino vote director Alida Garcia was frustrated that, while the campaign had Hispanic operatives training staff, it would not commit to the hiring of a full-time Latino vote director and a more robust program in Ohio.

The same can’t be said four years later. The state Obama won by 104,000 votes features 199,000 eligible Hispanic voters in 2016. The Clinton campaign has added Latino vote directors in nontraditional states like Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, along with the quadrennial constants of Florida, Nevada, and Colorado.

“If you’re not investing and thinking about engaging Latino communities, you’re basically leaving high percentage votes on the table,” Garcia explained, of the opportunity Ohio Hispanics present in the traditional swing state.

10. Could Sheriff Joe Arpaio Actually Lose This Time?, September 2016

Ross D. Franklin / AP

That idea — Trump and Arpaio as two-headed monster — is just the thing those activists hope could defeat Arpaio, deliver unprecedented Latino voting, and upend the landscape of Arizona politics. If 2016 has given new life to hardline immigration policies, activists think their community, who is also listening, can produce a sharp turn in the other direction.

New Hispanic voter registration and get out the vote efforts are underway — One Arizona, a coalition of more than a dozen groups funded by Four Freedoms Fund and created after the SB1070 immigration fight, recently launched an initiative to register 75,000 new Latino voters, but actually registered a substantial 150,000. Canvassers in Phoenix, Pima County, and Tucson are out every day from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., targeting low-propensity voters.

11. The Rise And Fall Of Trump’s Hispanic Advisory Council, September 2016

Photo illustration by BuzzFeed News; AP Images

While Donald Trump sent supporters home happy after his illegal immigration speech in Phoenix on the final day of August, the Republican National Committee was scrambling to put out fires with members of his Hispanic advisory council jumping ship or threatening to quit, appalled and feeling misled about where Trump would end up on immigration.

Massey Villarreal, a member of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, sent an angry email to other members of the advisory council and members of the RNC, calling the speech disgusting and saying he was quitting, according to sources who received the missive. Pastor Ramiro Peña told Politico he would have to reconsider being part of a “scam.”

And others, like leading Hispanic conservatives Alfonso Aguilar and Pastor Mark Gonzales — who counts thousands of Latino evangelical churches as part of his groups — made a clean break, informing the RNC that they would not be publicly endorsing Trump or helping the council.

12. Donald Trump Can’t Stop Talking About Alicia Machado For Some Reason, September 2016

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

This spring, Donald Trump attacked Gonzalo Curiel, the Mexican-American federal judge overseeing the Trump University lawsuit — and kept attacking.

This summer, Trump attacked the Khans, the gold star parents who lost a son in Iraq and slammed Trump during the Democratic convention — and kept attacking.

And now this fall, Trump can’t seem to stop talking about Alicia Machado, the Venezuelan 1996 Miss Universe, catapulted to national prominence after Hillary Clinton mentioned during the debate that Machado was shamed by Donald Trump for gaining weight — and the latest in a string of non-politicians whose interactions with Trump have either damaged his candidacy, or become massive distractions.

13. Donald Trump Is Causing Bitter Fights Inside Cuban-American Families, October 2016

The Alonso siblings, now 27 and 24 years old, are part of a younger generation of Floridian Cubans, whose firm ties to the Republican Party have begun to fray in recent years. Obama won the Cuban vote in Florida in 2012 (though some still dispute the 49% to 47% exit poll result). Now, Donald Trump threatens to remove all doubt. And in the all important state of Florida, where small differences in one demographic or region can affect the final result, that’s a troubling shift not just for Trump, but for the Republican Party.

That change will not be driven by older Cubans — the ones reporters interview outside the famous Versailles restaurant, with their strong political views and stronger cafecitos — but by their kids, the ones who don’t like Hillary Clinton much, but are disgusted by Trump.

14. As Florida Early Voting Begins, 99% More Latinos Have Already Voted Than In 2012, October 2016

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Hillary Clinton’s campaign is touting a substantial 129% increase in Latino voting in Florida compared with this point in 2012, with 133,000 Hispanics already casting their ballot in the state, as part of the campaign’s major focus on getting its base to vote early in key swing states.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.