Saturday, December 17, 2016

Heath Brown's "Immigrants and Electoral Politics"

Heath Brown is Assistant Professor of Public Policy at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. He is the author of Pay-to-Play Politics: How Money Defines the American Democracy.

Brown applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Immigrants and Electoral Politics: Nonprofit Organizing in a Time of Demographic Change, and reported the following:
On Page 99 of Immigrants and Electoral Politics, I describe the work of the MinKwon Center for Community Action, an immigrant-serving 501c3 nonprofit in New York City. When the MinKwon Center in Queens NY developed a more rigorous approach to mobilizing its primarily Korean-American constituents, they developed a plan. Their 3-step process begins with registering voters. In 2012, MinKwon mobilized over 10,000 new voters, and in 2016 they continued registering new voters, always in a non-partisan fashion.

Next, they educated voters. They did this, in part, because many in the community are limited English proficient and thus struggle to read educational material from political parties and other sources. MinKwon develops bi-lingual voter guides and holds community forums on the election. In many cases, they invite candidates for office to speak about the issues that the community cares most about.

Third, they mobilize voters. For MinKwon, this ranges from traditional door-knocking and phone-calling to remind registered voters to vote, but also now relies on technology as well. The organizations relies on sophisticated voter databases to target mobilization at the exact voters with whom they want to communicate.

This comprehensive plan is unique. My book finds that most immigrant-serving nonprofits -- 60% -- never take even one of these steps. Limited resources, concerns about losing their protected 501c3 IRS status, and worries about the implications of taking too bold a political stand explain this low percentage.

Others, like MinKwon, adopt much more ambitious plans to energize immigrants about voting, in particular, and politics, more generally. The findings of the book, drawn from qualitative and quantitative research, explore in detail the past, present, and future of this issue and the position of immigrants in US politics.
Learn more about Immigrants and Electoral Politics at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue