National immigrant rights group endorses Sanders

By Laura Barrón-López

Make the Road Action, an immigrant rights group, is endorsing Bernie Sanders for president, lending the Vermont senator significant political muscle in the early caucus state of Nevada and a delegate-heavy group of northeastern states.

The 10-year-old organization, which mobilizes immigrants and minority communities for political action in Connecticut, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, has not previously endorsed candidates in presidential races. But the endorsement of Sanders, provided first to POLITICO, comes after a months-long process of evaluating Democratic campaign platforms and holding meetings with a number of candidates. By late summer 2019, the group had narrowed its potential endorsees down to Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Julian Castro, who dropped out of the race earlier this month.

Make the Road Action’s members and leadership ultimately picked Sanders, citing his immigration plan, which would place a moratorium on deportations and break up the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection agencies — two proposals that Warren has not backed outright. The group also credited Sanders for his proposals to protect tenants with "just cause" eviction requirements and a national rent control standard.

Javier H. Valdés, co-executive director of Make the Road Action, said the organization will help Sanders gain momentum in Nevada, hopeful that a win in the third state to vote this year will “propel” Sanders to win in the subsequent contests.

Sanders’ candidacy “reminds us every day that progressive values and issue priorities are both the right thing to do and the right way to beat Trump,” said Valdes. “We can and must fight for a country where members of our communities are free to stay, free to move, and free to thrive. And we are proud to fight alongside Bernie Sanders to realize that vision.”

Make the Road Action members number in the tens of thousands across the five states, but its endorsement could prove especially pivotal to Sanders in Nevada, the first racially diverse state to vote in the Democratic primary. It’s members are already planning a get out the vote push for Sanders in Nevada Latino communities, including a rally and march with hundreds of members and Sanders 2020 staff on Feb. 15, the first day of early voting in the state. The march will end outside of an early polling site in a majority Latino community.

Make the Road Action knocked on more than 255,000 doors in the 2018 election, and Valdés said the group's goal is to knock on 600,000 doors for Sanders in 2020.

Sanders routinely polls well with Latinos, coming in ahead of the pack or tied with former Vice President Joe Biden among the demographic, after a major push to win their votes throughout 2019. Sanders has regularly campaigned with Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in recent months, adding to his appeal with Latinos on the trail. And Sanders’ campaign has made clear that mobilizing Latinos in states like Nevada and California are critical to his path to the nomination.

“It’s an honor to have the endorsement of Make the Road Action. They know that real change in our country happens when immigrant and working class communities stand up for justice and make their voices heard," Sanders said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing to work with [Make the Road Action] to create a humane immigration system, to stand up for tenants’ and workers’ rights as we tackle corporate greed, and to stop the mass criminalization of Black and Brown people across this country.”

The Wednesday endorsement adds to Sanders' recent consolidation of grassroots progressive groups after an intense battle with Warren for their support.

Alma Gonzalez, a 49-year-old domestic worker in Las Vegas who is a member of Make the Road Action's Nevada chapter, has three children ranging from 18 to 30 years old who will be voting in 2020, though she is unable to vote herself. Gonzalez praised Warren, saying that she believes in “building women’s leadership,” but ultimately she favored Sanders, making note of his immigration plan and the importance of drawing a strong contrast with President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

“As a Latina it’s been very hard, all of the hate towards our community, all of the corruption, and all of the criminalization of our people,” said Gonzalez. “And what the White House has been doing has led to more criminalization of people in our community.”

Recent polling by Equis Labs, a Latino-run research firm, found Sanders riding high favorability ratings among Latinos in Nevada and Super Tuesday states. The poll, conducted December 8 to 19, surveyed more than 5,000 registered Latino voters across 10 states.

Sanders and Biden were neck and neck in terms of net favorability in the Super Tuesday states of Colorado, Texas and Virginia, according to Equis' surveys. But Sanders was the most popular Democrat among Latinos by wide margins in Nevada and North Carolina.