As Wisconsin’s Hispanic community becomes a major portion of the voting population, the Mexican Consulate is looking to make their Chicago-based office mobile.
In an effort to increase access to adequate voting documentation, the Consulate’s mobile office coming to Wisconsin, will provide passport renewal services for potential voters, mainly the Latino population. The increasing need has led to Walker’s proposed permanent consulate to replace the monthly mobile consulate visit.
Salvador Carranza, senior academic planner at the University of Wisconsin System, said the Latino population has grown a substantial amount since 2008, and a majority of the population was born here and will have more voting power.
Carranza said one of the biggest barriers is connected with the new voter ID laws. If an immigrant has come to Wisconsin and they do not have all the right documentation, they have no way of getting a driver’s license.
According to Carranza, Wisconsin Latinos are now the largest minority in the state, surpassing African Americans and “the population keeps growing.”
Officially, there are 40,000 Latinos in Madison and 336,000 Latinos in Wisconsin, Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, District 5, said. That number has grown substantially, from 193,000 in 2000, she said. Bidar-Sielaff is an executive committee member of the Latino Support network.
Bidar-Sielaff said while there is a large population of Latinos that live in urban areas, such as Milwaukee and Madison, there is also a large amount that live in rural areas who need to be able to access information about their voting rights. Getting the information out to these Latinos is one of the most important tasks, she said, in order that they will be able to utilize their rights and vote in the upcoming election.
“Having accessible information, being able to get voter IDs that meet the requirement is going to be very critical,” Bidar-Sielaff said.
The goal of this program is to help not only Latinos, but other communities get involved in the political process, Carranza said. Helping them obtain proper identification to register and vote is what’s most important, he said.
College-aged Latino immigrants who have been raised here almost their whole lives also face challenges with accessing higher education. The university sees them as out-of-state students, charging them three times as much as an in-state student, which for most Latinos whose parents are immigrants means that they cannot afford to go to school here, Carranza said.
“Obviously, people keep saying, ‘But, Latinos are interested in the same thing everybody is, about jobs and work.’ Yes of course. But [documentation and education] go directly to the issue of jobs and work,” Carranza said.