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Latino voters, activists say Ginsburg replacement fight will rally Democrats, Republicans

"Here we are, we're going to have to start from scratch. We're going to have to fight for choice," said a community health worker who plans to vote for Biden.
Image: Vigil following the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Washington
Floral tributes surround a poster of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg outside the Supreme Court on Saturday.Yuri Gripas / Reuters

Activists working to get more Latinos out to vote often try to help people understand how choosing a president affects what happens in Congress and the courts. As the elections approach, they have a real-time example.

The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, President Donald Trump's plan to nominate her replacement and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell's pledge to confirm a new justice have become an organizing moment, said Grecia Lima, national political director for Community Change Action, a nonprofit advocacy group.

"Even though there are Latino and immigrant voters that don't always understand the role of the Supreme Court, they do understand there is impact in their life. I think the DACA movement educated a lot of people on the process of the Supreme Court," said Lima, referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows young immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children to legally remain in the country and work.

"There was marriage equality — that has had an impact on Latinos and Black voters and immigrants beyond reproductive rights," she said.

The coming confrontation over the Supreme Court vacancy has left Ginsburg's allies mourning the loss of a protector of reproductive rights, equity for women and other causes — and those who oppose her decisions eager for another conservative on the court who could join in overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

The issue of reproductive and abortion rights runs into some cultural and religious opposition among Hispanics, more so than with the population overall. The nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute found slightly more opposition to abortion among Hispanics, 48 percent, than support, 45 percent, in a poll last year.

But that changes when the population is polled based on place of birth and age. A majority of U.S.-born Hispanics, 57 percent, believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases, while 59 percent of Hispanics born outside the U.S. say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. Among U.S.-born Latinos 18-29, more than six-in-ten support abortion.

Edna Iruegas, 60, who is a promotora, or community health worker, teaches Latino and immigrant parents how to talk to their children about sexuality and sexual behavior.

Iruegas, who was brought up in a conservative Catholic home in Mexico, said that she is nonpartisan when she is doing her work but that she is very concerned about Trump's appointing a more conservative justice, "because I am 100 percent pro-choice."

She said Ginsburg's death has added to her determination to vote and generated conversation among friends on her Facebook page about choosing Supreme Court justices. "Here we are, going to have to start from scratch. We're going to have to fight for choice, for (sexual) education," she said.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., has been issuing a "call to arms" of sorts to voters since Ginsburg's death. She posted a 40-minute video answering the question "What now? What do we do?" about the Supreme Court vacancy and the potential for a conservative justice to take Ginsburg's place.

"This kind of vacancy and this kind of tipping point is the difference between people having reproductive rights and the government controlling people's bodies for them," Ocasio-Cortez said in the video. "This kind of vacancy makes the difference between LGBTQ people having marriage equality and full rights and not. ... This kind of vacancy is the difference between us having health care and not. It's the difference between us having a future in our climate and not."

She then urged people to go online and register to vote, to update and check their registrations and to rally others to vote against Trump because "now is the time to tune in."

'A spotlight on the Supreme Court'

Amanda Matos, director of Planned Parenthood Action Fund and Planned Parenthood Vote's constituency campaigns, pointed out that a week after the election, the court is to take up a case that could strike down the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Obamacare helped more than 4 million Latinos get health care coverage, according to UnidosUS, a national Latino advocacy group.

But Latinos have lost coverage under Trump. Last year, 18.7 percent of all Hispanics and 9.2 percent of Hispanic children lacked health insurance, according to the Census Bureau.

Getting more conservative justices on the Supreme Court is the purpose of Trump's election, said Hilario Yañez, a Republican commentator and technology consultant.

"It's always a gift and a privilege for a president to appoint one Supreme Court justice. Here is a president no one thought would be president who will appoint three under his first term," said Yañez, who is a DACA recipient. Because he isn't a citizen, he can't vote, but he said that, "if anything, it motivates the evangelical community."

"The evangelical community, their main concern is putting conservative judges on the Supreme Court or in courts across the country," he said.

Nathaniel Castilleja, 27, who volunteers with Latinos for Trump from McAllen, Texas, said he is looking forward to a justice who will be "pro-Second Amendment."

"That's something Ginsburg was very poor on," he said.

He said the vacancy will motivate more Republicans to vote in the same way Democrats were motivated to vote for Hillary Clinton, believing she'd nominate the next justice.

"This is a very important. ... It can extend the impact of presidencies for years to come," he said.

Ed Espinoza, executive director of Progress Texas, a nonprofit advocacy group, said that normally courts don't mobilize progressive voters the same way they do conservative voters. But this year, it's different, because "this vacancy happening before an election is putting a spotlight on the Supreme Court like we've never had before."

"People are realizing all the issues the Supreme Court deals with," said Espinoza. "People who care about health care and pre-existing conditions and abortion rights and immigrant families all care about the Supreme Court."

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