Tucson Citizen
Friday, June 25, 2004

Voter drive targets new citizens in Az

Young volunteers from across the country will work in Florida and Arizona, including Tucson, to sign up participants.

Gannett News Service

WASHINGTON - Immigrant activists plan to begin a door-to-door voter registration drive this summer in Florida and Arizona, targeting tens of thousands of newly naturalized U.S. citizens before November's election.

More than 100 mostly young volunteers from across the country will join local groups to register voters and call attention to immigration reform proposals.

"Our current immigration system is broken," said Maria Echaveste, a former Clinton administration official and spokeswoman for the New American Opportunity Campaign, which is organizing the voter drive.

Dubbed the New American Freedom Summer, the campaign is borrowing from the name and strategy carried out in Mississippi in 1964, when civil rights activists moved to the state to boost voting rights of blacks.

Florida and Arizona were selected because they are "along the front lines of America's immigration reform debate" and "typify what's wrong with our immigration system," Echaveste said.

Nine Tucson-based groups will register thousands of voters, said Sarah Greenfield, a coordinator for Arizona New America Freedom Summer.

"This is part of a long-term commitment to promoting comprehensive immigration reform," Greenfield said. "We want to increase specific participation of eligible immigrant voters."

Hundreds of migrants have died while trying to cross Arizona's desert in recent years, and Haitians are routinely deported from South Florida.

In Tucson, First Christian Church will provide cots and showers for participants.

"This church has a hundred-year-long history of social activism," the Rev. Robin Hoover said. "It's part of who we are. Our motto is 'biblically based, spiritually growing and socially active."

Arizona and Florida are viewed as key battlegrounds in this year's presidential campaign, but organizers said the drive is nonpartisan.

The volunteers will work with groups in Phoenix, Tucson, Douglas and Nogales.

In Florida, they will concentrate the campaign in Miami-Dade County. Volunteers will be trained in Mississippi before spending six weeks in assigned states.

Ana Munoz, a 22-year-old who recently graduated from Yale University, said she will work in Tucson to register people. Her parents are from Colombia, and she was raised in Baltimore.

"I would just love to incorporate as many people as possible into our democratic process," Munoz said.

Citizen Staff writer Luke Turf contributed to this article.


New American Freedom Summer participants that are based in Tucson:

Arizona Leadership Institute

Border Action Network

Pima County Interfaith Council

Derechos Humanos

No More Deaths

Humane Borders

Border Links

Tucson Roofers Local 135


Source: Sarah Greenfield, coordinator of Arizona New American Freedom Summer