Latinos Helped Flip Arizona From Red To Blue NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro speaks with organizer Tania Unzueta about the historic turnout of Latinos in Arizona and how they helped flip the state from red to blue.

Latinos Helped Flip Arizona From Red To Blue

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One of the biggest surprises of the 2020 election was Arizona. The historically red state flipped blue for Joe Biden, strengthening his lead in a contentious and close presidential race. Not only that, this is the first time since 1953 that the state will send two Democrats to the U.S. Senate. For Latino activists like Tania Unzueta, this was the result of over a decade of grassroots organizing. She is the political director of Mijente, and she joins us now.


TANIA UNZUETA: Hi. Thank you for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So I want to start off with your reaction to the election results.

UNZUETA: It's definitely been something that we've been holding our breath for a long time. I mean, I guess ever since Trump got elected, and - yeah, this is a time for celebration. And at the same time, we're looking at what's next, both in terms of holding Biden accountable. And I'm actually in Georgia looking at the next Senate race and the runoff.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, I want to talk about both those things, but let's stay with Arizona for a moment. Tens of thousands of Latinos voted in Arizona. Can you describe your ground game? What issues got the votes?

UNZUETA: I think Arizona was, one, because of the issues that people have been fighting for a long time on the ground and that has to do with - immigration and criminalization I would say are at the top of the ticket. You know, the - Arizona itself as a state has some of the highest incarceration rates and some of the toughest laws to keep people - basically keep people in jail. And, of course, we know some of the history of immigrant rights organizing against some of the toughest laws in the country. So, you know, I've been organizing in Arizona since we were trying to take out Sheriff Joe Arpaio. And I really think, you know, what we've seen in some of the people who were leading on both sides, on the electoral side, on the non-electoral side that have been leading on getting out the vote and turning Arizona blue.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. In 2010, the state enacted some very strict immigration measures, which you credit with helping galvanize young Latinos. And about 100,000 Latinos became old enough to vote in Arizona in just the past two years, right?

UNZUETA: That's right. I think we're seeing a generation of Latinos who grew up not just seeing anti-immigrant policies in the state but actively fighting them. I'm seeing an entire movement grow around them. And I think that's part of the energy that's being felt in Arizona.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So to your initial points, first of all, what would you like President-elect Joe Biden to know now? When you say you're going to hold him accountable - how?

UNZUETA: Sure. Look, you know, 44,000 Latinos have died of COVID; you know, 50% of Latinos have lost their jobs in the last year. There are still immigrant - immigrants are facing threats, particularly around deportation enforcement. There are people at the border who are waiting to seek asylum in the U.S. And, you know, we - my organization was part of the conversations that happened way back in the primary when - you know, right after Bernie Sanders dropped out of the race, there was a task force that came together to talk about some of the policies that needed to move forward on. And we've talked to the Biden campaign. We organized and - you know, we're looking forward to seeing some of those things happen. At the top of my list is a moratorium on deportations, which Joe Biden has already said he was committed to in the first hundred days.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And just very, very briefly, you're in Georgia now. What are you doing?

UNZUETA: That's right. As we saw, the Senate race is a tie right now. We have two runoffs in Georgia. And, you know, Latinos may be 5% of the Georgia vote but the presidential (ph) ticket is up right now about 0.5% and so Latinos are going to be an important part of winning the Senate race this year. That should tip the Senate for the Democrats.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Tania Unzueta of Mijente. Thank you very much.

UNZUETA: Thank you.

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