Latino population surges in Arizona. But where's the political clout?

The U.S. Census Bureau released data on two major states this week. Due to the large amount of compelling info, we'll get to the big enchilada, California, on Monday. Today, it's Arizona.

Based on data from the 2010 Census, the image of Arizona as an old white retiree state is totally out-of-date, if it even ever was accurate. Between 2000 and 2010 Latinos surged in the Grand Canyon State. From the New York Times:

Over all, Arizona’s population has boomed to 6.4 million from 5.1 million over the last decade, at a rate second only to Nevada’s, and much of the growth is a result of a 46 percent increase in the Hispanic population, said Bill Schooling, the state demographer.

Significant increases in Hispanics were reported across the state: in the Phoenix metropolitan area, where the bulk of the state’s residents live, as well as in the border counties of Yuma, Pima and Santa Cruz and in remote northwestern Mohave County, bordering California and Nevada, where the Hispanic population grew 72 percent.

The most popular names in the state reflect the diversity: Isabella, Sophia, Emma and Olivia are the most popular girls’ names in Arizona while Jacob, Anthony, Daniel, Alexander and Angel top the boy’s list.

“Without a doubt, wherever you turn, there are Latin people,” said Luis Lim, a political columnist for Prensa Hispana, the state’s largest Spanish-language publication.

However the surge in Latinos was less than expected. Why? Perhaps it was the draconian anti-immigrant laws that passed last year and reported on extensively here. Or the recession. Or both.

What's interesting is that the growing number of Latinos has not (yet) translated into political power. Arizona still votes like an old, white, (very, very) conservative white person state. That may change, but it might not happen until the current bulge of Latino children reach 18. Again from the Times:

Despite the size of the Hispanic population, nearly 40 percent of it is under age 18 and an untold number of others are not legally able to vote, meaning the numbers do not translate into political clout.

On top of that, Latino community activists here suspect that there was probably a significant undercount of the state’s Hispanic population, with many not participating to make a political point.

“They did not want to participate because they did not want the additional money that the state could get to be utilized by law enforcement and the persecution of people that are brown,” said Salvador Reza, a community activist.




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