CT Latino Voters: Will Puerto Rico's Governors Make The Difference?


 Bill Sarno

Campaigning with the governor of Puerto Rico, Gov. Dannel Malloy looks to pump up already strong support and to generate a large turnout among the state’s large Puerto Rican community.
The Democratic incumbent also is hoping that the visit of Gov. Alejandro Garcia Pedilla will score points with the burgeoning population of non-Puerto Rican Hispanics, people from Ecuador, Mexico, Colombia, Cuba, Peru and elsewhere, who now comprise at least, if not more than, 50 percent of the state’s 510,000 Latinos. This strategy could help or make little difference.
For Veronica Diaz, a Newington native who has worked on Hispanic immigrant issues, Garcia Pedilla’s support for Malloy could mean a lot for the Latino community,
“Many people know who Garcia Padilla is, and for those who don’t know him by name, they do understand that he is … the elected leader in Puerto Rico,” said Diaz, whose mother is from Peru and her father is Puerto Rican.
Dominicans comprised about 10 percent of the state’s Hispanics as of 2010. One of these residents, Ingrid Alvarez, a Hispanic activist, said the Puerto Rican governor’s visit would not affect her vote either way.
Not to be undone, Republicans are bringing Garcia Pedilla’s predecessor, Luis G. Fortuña to the state on Saturday with much of the focus on the party’s Hispanic  legislative candidates in New Britain, Meriden, Stamford and Waterbury.
A factor that could affect the impact of the Puerto Rican governors campaigning is eligibility, especially in terms of people who may support candidates but may not be able to cast ballots for them.
Carlos Rosales, a Peruvian-born businessman living in Farmington, said the perspective of the election for many Latin Americans here is different than for Puerto Ricans.
Connecticut has the largest proportion of residents born in Puerto Rico of any state, according to a 2006 survey, but  all, regardless of nativity, are U.S. citizens thanks to the 1917 Jones Act, and therefore eligible to vote when they move to Connecticut and other states.
The newer immigrants from Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil and elsewhere in Latin America and the Caribbean face a much longer and onerous road to naturalization and the right to vote.
Moreover, for some Latino immigrants, particularly Mexicans, citizenship is “the path not taken,” according to the Pew Research Centers Hispanic Trends Project.
Only 38-40 percent of the eligible Mexicans in the U.S. have become citizens, which is a far lower proportion to other legal immigrants, Pew found in 2013.  Reasons varied from language proficiency, the cost, and the fact that many Mexicans do not know their homeland allows dual citizenship.
In Connecticut, the Mexican population is sizable, some 50,000 people in the 2010 Census, and comprises about 10 percent of the state’s Hispanics, with the largest concentration in Willimantic.
Willimantic is not on the itinerary Tuesday for Malloy and Garcia Pedilla. They plan to start in Hartford, move on to WPRX 1130 radio in New Britain for an interview and then have lunch in Waterbury before moving on to Bridgeport and New Haven.
Fortuña will be traveling with a family friend, Republican state House candidate Ruben Rodriguez, on Saturday with a stop at WPRX before visits to New Britain and Waterbury. Foley and other Republican candidates are expected to join this campaign tour.
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