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Clinton, Sanders in Primary Showdown for Arizona’s Latino Vote

PHOENIX, Ariz. –– Guadalupe Arreola can’t vote in the Arizona primary Tuesday because she is undocumented, so she has spent the last few weeks encouraging Latinos who can to vote for Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders. On Sunday, she hosted a phone bank at her house. More than 50 people showed up.

“There are people who still don’t know Bernie Sanders, and I want to raise awareness of who he is,” said Arreola, whose daughter Erika Andiola is Sanders' Latino media spokeswoman.

Martin Hernandez said he likes Clinton’s stance on a number of issues important to Latinos, including healthcare and immigration. An organizing director for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 99, hesaid he especially likes that that she seems to understands the needs of Latino workers.

“I want somebody in the presidency who is going to help workers, especially those in our immigrant community,” he said. “They are the ones who face the most abuse. Many of them are underpaid and their rights are violated by their employers.”

Arreola and Hernandez represent the split that exists among Latino Democrats in Arizona on whether Sanders or Clinton should be the Democratic nominee for president. Both candidates have the backing of prominent Latino leaders, some of whom have appeared in television and radio ads being broadcasted across the state.

The Latino vote was once again in play for Democrats as Arizona headed into its Tuesday primary and in the days leading up to it Clinton and Sanders have competed over immigration issues as Clinton has sought to hold her lead here in the community and Sanders has worked to swipe it. On the Republican side, Donald Trump is seen as the likely victor in the state that has been an incubator for hardline, some say harsh, immigration enforcement tactics.

Sanders struggled with name recognition among Latinos early in his campaign, but was competitive with Hillary Clinton in Nevada for the community's vote and won Colorado's. However Clinton has been the favorite in the community in the large Latino states, winning it in Florida and Texas.

According to Pew Research Center, Latinos are 22 percent of the state's eligible voters.

Arreola said she believes if more Latinos knew about Sanders, more would support him over Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

Related: Sanders Visits Border, 'We Don't Need A Wall'

The two Democrats spent time appealing directly to Latinos. Clinton has a large lead in the race for delegates but Sanders' campaign has said the string of primaries in western states would help him close that gap.

Related: Jane Sanders Visits 'Tent' City Jail, Talks to Immigrant Families

On Monday, Clinton spoke at a Phoenix high school where the majority of students are Latinos. Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, campaigned on her behalf alongside labor leader and civil rights icon Dolores Huerta on Sunday.

Sanders held multiple rallies over the weekend in which he was introduced by Latinos, and his wife, Jan Sanders, met with immigrant families last week and visited Tent City where she challenged Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio on racial profiling.

Image: Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Clinton takes a selfie with supporters at a campaign rally at Carl Hayden Community High School in Phoenix
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton takes a selfie with supporters at a campaign rally at Carl Hayden Community High School in Phoenix, Arizona March 21, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni MARIO ANZUONI / Reuters

In 2013, a judge ruled that Arpaio and his deputies had been racially profiling Latinos during traffic stops and immigration enforcement patrols.

Related: The Lid: Why #NeverTrump May Never Win

Republican presidential candidates, on the other hand, focused their campaign efforts on a broader group of voters while visiting Arizona this weekend. Trump held several rallies, including one in Fountain Hills that was delayed when protesters blocked a street. Cruz traveled to the border and held a rally at Arizona Christian University. Ohio Gov. John Kasich didn’t make a campaign stop in the Grand Canyon State.

The winner of Arizona’s Republican primary Tuesday will walk away with all of the state’s 58 delegates. On the Democratic side, the state’s 85 delegates will be proportionally distributed based on voting results.

Related: Opinion: From Arizona's Immigration Legacy to Trump

A Merrill poll, conducted by Arizona State University professor Bruce Merrill, shows Trump leading Cruz 31 percent to 19 percent among likely Republican primary voters. Kasich comes in third place with 10 percent. The poll also shows Clinton leading Sanders 50 percent to 24 percent among likely Democratic primary voters, though roughly 26 percent were still undecided. The poll, however, has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.4 percent.

For many Latinos across the country, immigration is a litmus test that measures whether candidates are with them or against them. The same is true for Latinos in Arizona, which has some of the nation’s toughest immigration laws and crackdowns on undocumented immigrants.

Image: Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Sanders greets supporters after speaking at a campaign rally in Phoenix
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders greets supporters after speaking at a campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona March 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni MARIO ANZUONI / Reuters

Arizona is home to SB 1070, a controversial immigration law approved in 2010. Although the U.S. Supreme Court struck down many of the law’s provisions, police officers are still required to check the immigration status of anyone they believe is undocumented.

Arizona politicians — notably former Gov. Jan Brewer and Arpaio — have also gotten national attention over their hard-line approach on immigration. Both endorsed Trump and campaigned with him on Saturday. The Republican frontrunner reiterated his support for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Like Trump, Cruz and Kasich oppose a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. However, Kasich has said he supports allowing some undocumented immigrants to legalize their status and that he believes it would be impossible to round up and deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S.

Related: Hillary Campaign Runs Spanish-Language Ad Ahead of Arizona Primary

Sanders enjoys the support of Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who became the first member of Congress to endorse him for president. Grijalva joined Sanders at a campaign rally in Tucson this weekend and appears in several television and radio ads being broadcasted in Arizona.

“I support Bernie Sanders for one simple reason: he is authentic,” Grijalva says in a Spanish-language ad. “If he gives his word, it is done. The values that Bernie has are the values of this country.”

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) said he respects Sanders but is backing Clinton because of her longstanding relationship with Latinos. He’s one of the dozens of Arizona Latino leaders who’ve endorsed Clinton.

“Looking at the stretch of her career, I trust her and know that the Latino community has been at the forefront for her since the 1970s,” he said. “Bernie just discovered Latinos and Latino issues in this election cycle.”

At an event Monday morning with union leaders and local lawmakers, Labor Secretary Tom Perez echoed a similar message for why he's supporting Clinton. He said Clinton’s long history of fighting for the Latino community dates back to the 1970s, when she spent time registering Latinos to vote in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. Perez also contrasted Clinton with Trump and Arpaio.

“We have candidates who want to build walls, like Donald Trump,” Perez said. “We have sheriffs who’ve already erected walls of distrust between the community and the police department. And we have Hillary Clinton who’s all about breaking down barriers and expanding opportunity.”

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