Hispanic teen helping change face of Arizona's electorate, one new voter at a time

Angel Aragon (far right) next to Ricardo Zamudio, with other Neighborhood Ministries volunteers. (Photo: Arthur Debruyne)

Angel Aragon (far right) next to Ricardo Zamudio, with other Neighborhood Ministries volunteers. (Photo: Arthur Debruyne)

In some ways, Angel Aragón, is a typical 13-year-old Latino growing up in Phoenix, Arizona.

All but two of his junior high school classmates are Latino, he told Fox News Latino. And, like him, many of them have undocumented parents.

“The elections are super important because they might determine if our families get to stay or not,” said Aragón, standing in a Walmart parking lot, a clipboard in hand. He was one of a number of kids registering voters on behalf of Neighborhood Ministries, a Phoenix-based Christian youth association.

Neighborhood Ministries is one of a coalition of 14 Phoenix-based Latino advocacy and voter registration groups called One Arizona. Founded in the wake of SB 1070, Arizona's controversial immigration law passed in 2010, which allowed police to stop anyone they suspected of being in the country illegally and check their immigration papers.

“Fear struck at the heart of the community,” Ricardo Zamudio, 24, Neighborhood Ministries' coordinator, said about SB 1070. “A lot of people went away – to California or even back to Mexico. We were scared to go out.”

Since they joined forces as One Arizona, Latino advocacy groups have registered more than 130,000 new voters in Maricopa County, where Phoenix is located. One Arizona has knocked on more than 1 million doors and helped triple the number of Latinos on the state's list of early voters, who, because they receive their ballots in the mail, are more likely to vote.

"This isn't about the blue or red, it's about being involved and engaged in every step of the decision-making process, and Latinos are going to be deciding voters in every step of the way," Alex Gomez, executive director of the Arizona Center for Empowerment, a One Arizona partner organization, told FNL.

Aragón’s mother brought him and his older brother from Chihuaha, Mexico, to Arizona when they were small children.She never applied for citizenship. 

“She was probably scared,” he said.

When Aragón and the other Neighborhood Ministries volunteers speak to shoppers, many of them say they won’t be voting. Donald Trump's policy proposals are a bridge too far, they say, especially on immigration, but Hillary Clinton's establishment politics don't seem to get people excited either.

Aragón would have preferred Bernie Sanders for president.

“He vowed to do something about college debt,” he explained. “I come from a poor family, we don't have a lot of money. How am I going to pay for college? Without a scholarship it will be very hard.”

He would like to attend Arizona State University after high school. He's training with his middle school's basketball team with the hopes of earning an athletic scholarship, as does his 16-year old brother.

He feels as if he struggles with the language, mixing up English and Spanish – although it isn't really noticeable.

He feels at home in the United States, he said, “although I don't like how it works for some people, like for my mother.”

She earns a modest wage at a local dry cleaners.

“Because she's undocumented,” Aragón said, “she gets a bad deal.”

Her son is working his hardest to make sure that doesn’t continue.

Arthur Debruyne is an independent journalist. Follow him on Twitter: @arthurdebruyne

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