On Monday, five Mexicans met in Washington to launch their campaign “Diles que Voten,” or “Tell them to Vote,” which will use online ads to urge Latin Americans with family members in the U.S. to help get-out-the-vote.
During a bilingual press conference at the National Press Club, located around the corner from the White House, the focus seemed to be Donald Trump. And yet not a single strategist uttered the Republican candidate’s name.
Through videos on its website and Facebook, the group, which calls itself non-partisan, seeks to encourage citizens in Latin American countries to communicate with their family members in the United States to ask them to vote. “Our families can define this election,” one of the videos says.
According to Roberto Trad, a Mexican political science expert and the director of the new organization, “This campaign is different because we’re going back to [Latin American] communities, to their families.”
Based in Mexico City, “Tell them to Vote” is comprised of 17 experts in political communication from seven media and advertising companies, in Mexico, Colombia, Honduras, Argentina, Ecuador, Chile and the Dominican Republic.
So far, the seven companies have invested a combined $10,000 out-of-pocket to fund the campaign.
Their goal is to collect enough funds to be able to purchase advertising in the United States and to reach 10 million voters. For now the campaign is relying on free media placements.
A delicate international dance
Brendan Fischer from the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington-based organization focused on campaign finance, says the “Tell them to Vote” campaign is completely unprecedented. While he clarifies that a foreigner can campaign in the United States voluntarily, Fischer warns that laws prohibit foreign financial contributions to elections in the United States. But, he says, “this is a very gray area for which there is no precedent.”
Meanwhile, Trad says his organization was established legally in Mexico and the United States to be able to "do things right, within the law.” He says the campaign is being advised on the appropriate ways to raise funds without violating the law.
In conversation with Univision News, Trad tried to erase the concept of borders and nationality: "We don’t see this as Latin American interference. Mexicans are not campaigning. These are mothers and brothers campaigning with their Latino families who are eligible to vote."
Trad, who studied in New York and is managing partner of a strategic communications firm in Mexico City, also denied that his campaign is a response to Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric.
“We’ve been preparing this campaign since long before the candidates were announced,” he said.
In fact, during the press conference Trad said the campaign would not support any single candidate.
During his July 22 press conference with Obama in the White House, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto also distanced himself from his previous criticism of Donald Trump and said he would work with whoever wins.
At least on the surface, caution and diplomacy reign in Mexico. But certainly, the notion of a President Trump worries many who wonder what that could mean for the flow of migrants, trade or the economies of the two interdependent countries.
Between March and May, media across the country reported that a record number of U.S. Latinos motivated to vote against Donald Trump were filing paperwork to become citizens in order to vote in November. But that’s not entirely true. In the past, requests for citizenship have been much higher.
Trad points out that the Hispanic electorate has historically been unable to make a real difference in presidential elections “except for when the Latino vote helped Bush win the presidency.” In 2004, 40% of Latinos mobilized to support the Republican’s reelection, the highest number ever for a GOP candidate.
Although there are 55 million Latinos in the United States and a record high 27.3 million of them can now legally vote, it’s likely that only 50% of Latinos will go out to the polls in November. According to Pew data, in June only about half of all Latinos (49%) said they were “absolutely certain” they were registered to vote. That compared with 69% of blacks and 80% of whites.
The Hispanic population that can vote has been growing in recent years, but 30% of Hispanic adults in the United States are not able to vote on November 8. Some have not yet received their citizenship, even if they are legally in the country, and many others are undocumented.
The launch of this campaign, then, seems to respond to an ever growing concern among Hispanic civic organizations in the United States that the immigrant community must raise its voice in order to influence the election.