Bernie Sanders’ call for change struck a chord with Christopher Enriquez, the North Texas district director for the League of United Latin American Citizens.
“It’s been quite a movement he’s been able to create,” said Enriquez, 23, a student at the University of Texas at Arlington. “He’s doing what [Barack] Obama did. Inspiring change, and a new way.”
The Hispanic community, especially millennials, need to get more involved, and quickly, he said. “We’re the future of this country, if we’re not already the people being directly affected.”
According to the Pew Research Center, about 44 percent of the record 27.3 million Hispanics eligible for voting across the U.S. this year will be millennials — anyone born in 1981 or after.
Enriquez, of Dallas, said he thinks Hispanics still mistrust the process, and need more election savvy.
“The African-American community is on it every single election, because they’ve been a little more involved through the years,” he said. “I think we’re still not trusting in the election process, and that’s what’s been holding us behind.”
Tarrant County saw 1.1 percent growth in its Hispanic population between 2010 and 2014, according to U.S. census data, while Texas saw an increase of about 1 percent, or about 1 million people, over the same period.
University of North Texas student Bernadette Orona of Dallas said she favors the Democratic candidates because they are open to what is important to her — family and continuing generations. Specifically, she said they seem to value the Dream Act, which would first grant conditional residency, and upon meeting further conditions, permanent residency to undocumented immigrants.
“I’m leaning more toward Bernie Sanders because he encompasses more of the liberal side of what I’m looking at now,” Orona said. “Really, either Democratic candidate. Either him or [Hillary] Clinton right now would be nice.”
Universal education is important to UNT student Elizabeth Guevara, 24, from Ecuador, who also said she is leaning toward Sanders. The first-generation student said Sanders’ ideology and platform resonate with Latinos who grew up lower-middle class or below the poverty level.
“We’re looking for opportunities in education, we’re looking for advancements. We’re looking for security and acceptance,” Guevara said. “Right now, he seems like the most viable candidate for millennials.”
Fellow UNT student Betsy Tovar, from Mexico, echoed the importance of access to education, but hasn’t committed her vote.
“I don’t know who I would choose. It’s important to allow all students to continue to go to school, with or without documents,” she said. “Allowing immigrants, which I once was, to continue working and be able to have a better education.”
She said if she had to choose now, she would choose Clinton.
Jonathan Roman-Diaz, 25, president of La Social Hispanica at UT Arlington, said he’s leaning toward Sanders.
“Most everyone I know is voting for Bernie, or Hillary,” he said. “I’ve been looking at different candidates. I want to know everyone else’s position.”
He said it’s especially important for Hispanics to vote, because it’s a platform for people to be heard.
“Especially after [Donald] Trump. It’s actually lit a fire in the Hispanic community. I think now you can totally tell it’s more important than ever to vote,” he said.
The second-largest group contributing to the eligible Hispanic voter segment is immigrants who are becoming citizens, according to the Pew Research Center.
Jessica Amador, 22, is a UT Arlington student and marketing intern. Her parents brought her to the U.S. as a child, and she isn’t yet a citizen.
“I’ve been living in the U.S. since I was 7 years old. I feel like it’s still my civic duty to do something for the elections,” she said.
Amador got a work permit in 2012, but before that she was completely undocumented. She said she has to wait until she saves enough money to get an attorney to help get her citizenship. She said she thinks voting is a privilege some people take for granted, or treat like a chore.
“It affects everything in my life and I can’t do anything about it,” she said.
So she does what she can, which is making sure her friends vote. She said she doesn’t care who they vote for, as long as they inform themselves and cast the ballot.
If she could vote, she said she leans toward Jeb Bush for his positive immigration stance. Bush suspended his campaign Saturday.
Dylan Bradley: 817-390-7984, @dbradley1220
Azia Branson: 817-390-7547, @aziabranson