Voces de la Frontera is Wisconsin’s leading state-wide immigrant rights organization, and the advocacy arm of the group is Voces de la Frontera Action.
Because they are one of the primary groups we are looking to support this year, we asked them to participate in a Q & A with us on Balloon Juice.
Voces de la Frontera Action
Joining us today from Voces are Alejandra Gonzalez, Development Director, Fabi Maldonado, Political Director, and Alan Nichols, Data & Organizing Team Lead.
We asked them to tell us more about their organization
WHO WE ARE: Voces de la Frontera Action
Voces is a critical part of the Wisconsin voter engagement ecosystem in its unique ability to engage hard to reach new and infrequent Latinx and youth voters which are critical for state-wide and local elections.
We do this through a combination of different efforts:
- door-to-door canvassing
- phone banking
- our innovative relational voter program (RVP), Voceros por el Voto
Voceros por el Voto members, known as Voceros, create lists of Latinx family and friends who are eligible to vote. Voceros then communicates with Latinx voters, many of whom are low-propensity and new voters under-engaged by parties and campaigns.
In 2020, Voces de la Frontera Action (VDLFA) helped achieve historic Latinx turnout in Wisconsin. As a result of our efforts, 76% of eligible Latinx voters voted in 2020 compared to 46.7% of Latinx voters in 2016. The votes we turned out exceeded the margin of victory in Wisconsin.
By November 3, 2020, Voces had recruited 1,299 Voceros who in turn had a total voter network of 20,297 people. In addition to growing the RVP, we also focused on helping our community register to vote. In total, Voces supported 7,721 voter registrations and 7,390 absentee ballot requests.
The successful mobilization of the Latinx vote through our efforts demonstrates what can be accomplished by a trusted organization with leaders rooted in the community.
Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES)
Voces de la Frontera also has a legacy of powerful grassroots organizing through our multi-racial youth arm called Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES) with chapters in local high schools across Wisconsin.
The student membership includes working class Black, Latinx, Muslim refugee, and white youth. YES leads Voces’ education, racial and immigrant justice youth campaigns. YES won in-state tuition for immigrant youth in 2009 (later repealed by Governor Walker in 2011) and recent wins include passing a sanctuary policy in Milwaukee public schools, Wisconsin’s largest and most diverse district.
YES has a history of organizing large scale get out the vote efforts canvassing in working class neighborhoods of color in Wisconsin.
The New American Program
The New American program was created to help Lawful Permanent Residents to become naturalized US citizens in order to petition their family members and build immigrant voting power. The program has a nearly 100% success rate and by mostly word of mouth recruitment brings people from all over the state. The Camino’s Legal Clinic offers free to low-cost legal counseling for our members and community members.
Fighting for Immigrants in Wisconsin
Wisconsin is one of the most gerrymandered states in the country, so much so that courts have said it is “unconstitutional”, yet have offered little in addressing the problem.
This year, after the census information is formalized, there is no doubt that Latinxs will again represent the largest statewide ethnic voting bloc after the white community. Ours is a significant voting age population that includes 18 year old Latinx youth, the children of undocumented parents, those that have been able to adjust their status or naturalized, and new and infrequent Latinx voters we engaged in 2020.
We have an opportunity this year to influence a new 10-year map that is more representative of the communities that now exist in Wisconsin.
We have opportunities, in the next 3 to 5 years, to push Wisconsin to be more immigrant friendly, more supportive of low wage workers, and more progressive overall.
What can we, at Balloon Juice, do to help – with early donations right now, in 2021?
I asked the folks at Voces what they need, and what we could do to help make a real difference for their organization. What they need is a full-time field organizer.
Staffing Need: A Field Organizing Coordinator
In the 2020 cycle, the political director wore two hats – political organizer and political director.
There is much work to be done before the midterm election in 2022, That election is key, not only in determining the Democratic candidate for US Senate, but also as an opportunity to engage and educate voters, a dry run of sorts, leading up to the November 2022 elections.
Field Organizing Coordinator: full-time salary would be $45,000; if we can cover the position itself, Voces de la Frotera has committed to covering benefits.
Timeline for Proposed Field Organizing Coordinator
June 2021: Political director and organizing director will draft and finalize job description for field organizing coordinator.
July 2021: Post job description on VDLF/VDLFA websites.
Late July 2021/August 2021: Hire the organizing coordinator. Coordinator begins to establish relationships with current leaders and helps maintain/grow our current relational voter program.
End of November 2021: Field organizing coordinator will be fully trained on job responsibilities and duties and have a 2022 work plan drafted with goals and action steps.
December 2021: Field organizing coordinator begins working on the spring election in 2022 to reach goals with minimal support from political director.
If we decide to raise money to fund this new position, I think we would want to commit to funding this position for two years. Having a field organizer from August 2021 to August 2022 would be helpful, but that person would be lost at a critical time.
So I think if we want to try to do this, we would need to raise funds for the first year right away, and then raise funds again about 6 months later, so that person could be certain 6 months ahead of time that their position would be funded for two years.
It’s a lot of money, but I get goose bumps when I think about what a difference it could make if we could fund this field organizer position.
Voces committed to self-funding this new Voces position after two years, if we can provide funding for those two years.
Ask them anything!
Update: Okay, I have just one more thing to add.
We can only be effective in elections (which after all come around only once every 24 months) if people see us being out there and engaged every month and every day around the issues that affect them. Voces is an organization that does just that – they are a year-round full-service, advocacy, mobilizing, organizing operation.
With our help, they can be even more effective than they already are.