Chicago Immigrants Rally Around Obama
By Kari Lydersen
Lines formed for the first time local residents could remember at polling places in neighborhoods on Chicago's southwest side with large immigrant populations. Even illegal immigrants unable to vote were wearing Obama buttons and voicing support for the candidate who they think could rescue the economy, provide healthcare for low wage workers and "give us papers," in one woman's words.
Many immigrants said that family back in Mexico are anxiously waiting for election results, hoping that an Obama victory might reverse the economic downturn that has severe effects on remittances to Mexico and the Mexican economy.
"It's very important to Mexicans that Obama wins," said Benjamin Anaya, a former music professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico who is assisting Mexican journalists in Chicago covering the election. "People think he will stabilize everything, the economy, the immigration system. People are excited but scared because they know the Republicans are capable of a lot of fraud."
Many see the Latino turnout and excitement as reminiscent of the 1983 mayoral race in Chicago, when Harold Washington became the city's first black mayor thanks in part to significant Latino support.
"You definitely see parallels and you also wouldn't see one without the other," said Rudy Lozano Jr., 32, a precinct organizer for the Independent Political Organization (IPO) which formed to bring together blacks and Latinos during Washington's campaign. He is also the son of Rudy Lozano, a key ally of Washington's who was murdered in 1983.
"Without the election of Harold Washington we wouldn't have Barack Obama as a candidate," he said, saying Washington's campaign laid the groundwork to "bring out people who wouldn't normally be engaged in the electoral arena. It's giving all these anti-war groups, reproductive rights groups, social justice movements a venue to work through."
But not everyone was engaged. One older man in a sombrero selling churros outside a polling place was glad for a little extra business, but didn't know anything about the race and was more concerned with his chronic neck and stomach pain than the results.
Jose Guerrero, 70, a retired park district worker and artist, said he only voted for Obama to please his friends and wife. "The only way they are different is Obama looks better on T.V.," he said. "Even if Obama wins the jobs will still be gone, the immigration system will still be broken, the police will still be coming down on us."
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