Kamala Harris will help Biden with Latino voters

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On Saturday, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden rolled out his campaign’s first bilingual ad featuring his running mate Kamala Harris. The spot, which can be viewed on YouTube, is targeted at Latino voters in Arizona and Florida. “Tell me who you walk with, and I’ll tell you who you are,” the ad begins, in Spanish. It closes with, “Together Biden and Harris… will ensure a future para todos (for all).

Harris is indeed well-positioned to help Biden win over Latinos. She has a track record of Latino support at the national and state level. She has been a progressive voice on issues that matter to Latinos. She has been a champion of immigrants. She is what Biden needs to energize Latino voters.

According to the Pew Research Center, this year Latinos are for the first time expected to be the largest racial or ethnic minority in a U.S. presidential election, with a record 32 million Latinos eligible to vote. They will account for 13 percent of all eligible voters.

Biden is popular with Latinos, who tend to vote Democratic. But some polling has shown him underperforming among Latinos, with such support being described in news reports as “soft.”

Biden’s selection of Harris was a smart move, because she will likely boost his Latino appeal. A June poll by Latino Decisions found that 59 percent of Latino voters in battleground states said that they would be excited by Harris on the ticket, and 52 percent said that it would make them more likely to vote for Biden. Harris was twice elected Attorney General in California, with support from Latinos, in 2010 and 2014. Latinos helped Harris win her race for an open senate seat in 2016. More recently, Harris was a favorite of Latino voters during the Democratic primaries.

Latinos traditionally cite health care and the economy as top concerns, and these are issues that resonate with Harris. She has been a strong advocate for the Affordable Care Act, which has enabled millions of Latinos to obtain health insurance. She was one of the first lawmakers to warn that COVID-19 was disproportionately impacting communities of color, and she has introduced legislation that would provide economic relief to Americans during the pandemic.

While immigration is important to Latinos, Biden has at times struggled to defend the Obama administration’s deportations. Here Harris will be an asset to him, as she has long been a fighter for immigrants. As a candidate for the Democratic nomination, she supported a pathway to citizenship for the Dreamers. She has denounced the Trump administration’s family separations policy and visited detention centers to draw attention the plight of detained migrants. As Senator, the first bill she introduced in Congress sought to ensure that anyone detained by immigration officials while attempting to enter the U.S. received legal counsel.

It’s no wonder that Harris’s selection by Biden has been greeted enthusiastically by immigrant and Latino advocacy groups like America’s VoiceVoto Latino, and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). These organizations recognize the historic nature of Harris being on the ticket. On Twitter, Latina civil rights icon Dolores Huerta praised Biden for his “wonderful decision.” La Opinión — the country’s largest Spanish-language newspaper — took the unprecedented step of endorsing Harris for vice president in July, calling her “an ally of the Latino community.”

Sure, there are Latinos on the right and the left who have not embraced Harris. On Facebook, the “Latinos For Trump” group derides her as “phony” and “a puppet of the radical left.” Those are the kind of empty insults you hurl at a candidate when you can’t come up with anything substantive. And while some progressives are uneasy about Harris’s record as a prosecutor in California, her stance on criminal justice has clearly evolved. This year, she has expressed solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, and co-authored a bill on police reform.

Latino voters who may not be familiar with Harris now will soon see that she is a capable, empathetic woman from one of the most diverse states in the country. Her background as a child of immigrants represents the fullest realization of the American Dream. Contrast her with Vice President Mike Pence, who once dismissed Trump’s bigotry towards Latinos as “that Mexican thing.”

Harris cares about the Latino community and will help mobilize Latino voters. In choosing her for his running mate, Biden made the right choice for Latinos — and for America’s future.

Raul A. Reyes is an immigration attorney and member of the USA Today Board of Contributors. A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School, he is also a contributor to NBCNews.com and CNN Opinion. You can follow him on Twitter at @RaulAReyes, Instagram: raulareyes1.

Tags access to health care American immigration Donald Trump Dreamers Health insurance Joe Biden Joe Biden campaign Latino vote latinx Mike Pence pathway to citizenship

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