MIAMI — In November, I will be voting for Joe Biden to ensure that our national nightmare of the Trump administration finally ends.
I was born in Argentina but I’ve spent most of my life in Miami. In 2016, I became a citizen after living for over a decade undocumented and was able to cast my vote for the first time. While I did not get the result I wanted, I vowed to stay involved and do everything I could to make sure someone as vile as Trump is not re-elected.
My parents and I came to the United States to pursue dreams unattainable in our home country. That’s the story of many immigrants in Florida, who after being naturalized, are also able to cast their vote this election. Over two million of these voters are from Latin American countries and identify as Latinos or Latinx.
This Thursday night, voters will have to pick between listening to two town halls, after Trump petulantly refused to do another presidential debate that was changed to a virtual format because of his COVID-19 diagnoses.
We know that Trump will spend his hour on TV lying to the American public about his failed COVID-19 response, his plan to dismantle the affordable care act and leave millions of people without healthcare, and that he’ll also squeeze in time for attacks on immigrant communities.
Instead of watching Trump’s lies, I’ll be tuning into Biden’s town hall.
Florida is very much a winnable state for Biden, if he continues to reach out to more voters like myself and my parents, who are concerned not just about their lives, but about creating better ones for the next generation.
Joe Biden should be energizing and locking in a larger number of Latino voters than are currently on his side. In the latest Economist/YouGov poll, 34% of Latino voters favor Trump, with roughly 9% still undecided. At this point, Trump is ahead of his own vote share in 2016 (28%).
To increase his support among Florida’s diverse Latino communities, Biden should campaign as a proud champion of immigrants. Recently, United We Dream Action, where I work as part of the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the country, commissioned new polling that shows how Biden can close his enthusiasm gap among Latino voters.
Every pro-immigrant message tested cleared 50% support among Democratic voters. More specifically, the poll found that messages on protecting DACA, empowering immigrant communities, ending for-profit immigrant detention centers, and providing free health care for all people, regardless of immigration status, during a public health crisis like COVID-19, resonated strongly with Latinos.
These poll findings are not surprising at all: Latino voters like my parents want to hear Joe Biden talk about building a better, fairer country where all immigrants can live healthy and fulfilling lives—a country where no one has to fear deportation, detention, family separation, or dying in a cage.
Biden can persuade a big number of disengaged and first-time Democratic voters by presenting a vision for the future that gives immigrants, Latinos, and people of color reasons to be optimistic, despite the horrors of the present under Trump.
The electoral math is clear: Latinos are the largest ethnic group in the Democratic electorate. To beat Trump, Biden needs Latinos to vote in massive numbers.
The next 20 days are crucial. If Biden’s campaign goes all out for Latino communities across Florida, he is more likely to win a record number of Latino voters and first-time voters. By the same token, if he takes Latinos for granted, especially those who have not previously participated in the electoral process, some may stay home or choose not to vote.
My parents can’t vote, but I plan to honor their experiences by voting for Biden. Biden was not my first choice, I actually worked in the Bernie Sanders campaign as their National Events Organizer. While working on that campaign, we connected with Latino voters because we spoke to issues that matter to them. Latinos are concerned about not having access to health care. They want their children and loved ones to have the opportunity to have a quality education and pursue their dreams. If they are not directly impacted by our immigration system, they often have a family member or loved one who is. Like most people, they care about having good paying jobs.
If Biden can articulate this message on Thursday night, then we have a real chance of beating Trump in Florida.
Thomas Kennedy is Florida Coordinator with United We Dream Action PAC in Florida and tweets from @tomaskenn.