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Contributions and Influence of Immigrant Voters in the 2020 Presidential Election

Olusegun Akinfenwa is a correspondent for Immigration News.

The 59th U.S. presidential election will remain a reference point for years to come, owing to some remarkable records witnessed before, during, and after the polls. It had the highest ever voter turnout in the history of American elections from both in-person and mail-in votes. Not only that, the election also witnessed the highest ever immigrant voter participation, as no less than 23 million foreign-born Americans were captured as eligible voters, which represents 10 percent of the overall US electorates.

This explains why the New American Economy called it the election with the most diversified electorates. The figure shows how the U.S. immigrant voters have grown both in number and influence over the years. Two decades ago, there were only 12 million immigrant voters in the 2000 presidential election. By 2016, the figure had risen to 20.6 million, and the exponential growth continued, leading to the 23.2 million recorded at the most recent election.

However, it is important to note that immigrants have different backgrounds, beliefs, and concerns. The realities faced in their daily lives differ from one community to another. For instance, while an African American may see police brutality as a pressing issue at a given time, a Latino American may be more concerned about healthcare. Despite their varying realities and demands, one of the attributes they commonly share is the feeling of marginalization. Leading to the polls, most immigrant communities expressed displeasures over various happenings in the country, especially those peculiar to their communities. Most of them wanted a change that would better represent their interests and said they would vote for the candidate that showed the most genuineness and care in their immediate community. And expectedly, they demonstrated this at the polls.

For example, the Latino American community has the highest immigrant voters among all minority groups in the U.S. The community is diverse, so it is hard to define what issues matter to the entire Latino community. Many argue that their votes are not predictable enough, making them a swing demographic. Despite that, however, the final results showed that they still had a considerable degree of unison in their voting behavior and knew what they wanted. Issues important to them included affordable health care for all Americans, immigration reform, equal rights for women and minorities, and a general focus on Latino issues to a better life by empowering Latino communities. In some pre-election surveys, they had expressed higher favorability for the Democratic party candidate, Joe Biden, and at the polls, they overwhelmingly voted for him, as over 66% of their votes went to him.

The Asian American population has been growing rapidly in the US. Currently, they make up about 5.6% of the entire US population. Immigration and citizenship by naturalization have played a significant role in their exponential population growth. According to some US immigration attorneys, this naturalization can be achieved via different routes, including employment and family ties. And from all indications, the Asian American community has greatly leveraged this route to citizenship. It is estimated that about one in 10 Asian Americans is foreign-born. Coronavirus, security, economy and healthcare were among the top issues raised in the community before the polls. Like other immigrant communities, Asian Americans threw their weight behind the candidate they felt would represent their interest better. Right from the campaigns period, there was a surge in political outreach in various Asian American communities. President Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate, was favored over then incumbent, President Donald Trump. Trump could only amass a 28% vote of Asian American vote, while Biden won by a huge margin of 68%.

According to Janelle Wong, senior researcher at the data and policy nonprofit AAPI Data, “Asian Americans have been distinct from the general U.S. public when it comes to progressive views on health care, the environment, gun control and a social safety net provided by the government. These issue positions have propelled Asian Americans toward the Democratic presidential candidate for the past seven election cycles.”

Each presidential election is a unique experience for every candidate. The same can be said of the voters who pick the winner. Each community has its own set of unique issues that they are facing in the voting process.

The majority of the black population in the US voted for the Democratic Party. Much like other minority groups, the Black American community also consists of diverse ethnic groups. It’s a socially and economically heterogeneous group of Americans that consist of African descendants from around the world – West Africans, the Caribbean, Afro-Latinos, and African Americans. Of course, owing to their different backgrounds and political view, some levels of varying voting behaviors are expected among Black Americans. At the same time, they share many issues and views in common, and this was reflected in their choices at the polls. Some of the common concerns are economy, trade, health care, immigration, and racial discrimination. The final results showed how significant their votes were in the overall electoral process. In Georgia, for instance, Black Americans account for 32.6% of the entire state population. They also have a good representation in other states. Compared to other communities, they spoke with a higher degree of unison at the polls, as 89% of their votes went to President Biden.

The fallout from the last election is a clear indication that immigrants will continue to play a significant role in the US future electoral process. Immigrants and their children are expected to make an estimated 36% of the whole US population by 2065, according to Pew Research. This showed a great surge compared to the 13% immigrant population in 1965 when the Immigration and Nationality Act became effective. The pool of potentially eligible voters with at least one parent born outside the 50 states is set to reach 56 million people by 2060 and then account for 67% of the potential electorate by 2065. This means that immigrants’ interests will have to be taken more seriously, as their growth will keep shaping the country’s entire political terrain.

Olusegun Akinfenwa is a correspondent for Immigration News, a news organization affiliated with Immigration Advice Service (IAS). IAS helps people with their immigration and citizenship process in the United Kingdom and the United States.

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