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The Top 10 Things You Should Know About Colorado’s Latinos and Immigrants

They Have Significant Economic, Cultural, and Electoral Power in the State

See also: The Top 10 Things You Should Know About Florida’s Latinos and Immigrants by Ann Garcia and Philip E. Wolgin; The Top 10 Things You Should Know About Nevada’s Latinos and Immigrants by Philip E. Wolgin and Jonathan Goldenberg

In advance of Colorado’s Republican caucus on February 7, we have compiled a list of important facts about Latinos and immigrants in the state. These facts provide important context for the significant economic, cultural, and electoral power of Latinos in Colorado, the state with the seventh-highest Latino population in the nation.

1. Colorado’s Latino population is substantial. In fact 20.7 percent of Colorado’s 5 million residents are Latino. The vast majority—75 percent—are of Mexican descent.

2. There are 434,000 eligible Hispanic voters in Colorado. That’s 13 percent of all eligible voters in the state.

3. Voting preferences have strongly favored Democrats. Latino support for Democratic presidential candidates stayed strong between 2004 and 2008. In 2004 Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) won the Latino vote 68 percent to 30 percent, and in 2008 then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) won the Latino vote 61 percent to 38 percent.

4. The Latino vote was decisive in 2004’s Senate race. Democrat Ken Salazar was elected to the Senate in 2004 with 51 percent of the popular vote. The Latino vote favored him 72 percent to 25 percent.

5. The Latino “firewall” in the 2010 elections included Colorado. Latinos helped Democrat Michael Bennet beat Tea Party candidate Ken Buck in the 2010 Senate race. Bennet won the popular vote by a slim 48 percent to 46 percent margin thanks to the Latino vote, which heavily favored him 81 percent to 19 percent.

6. Latinos also rejected extreme-nativist gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo (R). The harsh anti-immigration rhetoric of then-Rep. Tancredo—founder of the restrictionist House Immigration Reform Caucus—galvanized the Latino community to turn out in record numbers. Even in an election trending heavily toward the Tea Party, high Latino turnout in the face of harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric gave vulnerable Democrats in Colorado the edge needed to win, and John Hickenlooper (D) won the election 51 percent to Tancredo’s 36 percent.

7. Colorado’s legislature is shedding its anti-immigrant past. The state that sent Tancredo to Congress has lately stopped short of demonizing immigrants in the state. In the 2011 legislative session, the Senate rejected two Arizona-style immigration bills, and both Republican and Democratic legislators are supporting a proposal to provide in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.

8. GOP presidential candidates face an uphill climb among Latino voters. In Colorado President Barack Obama holds a big lead with Latino voters over both Republican candidates—63 percent to 29 percent in a head-to-head matchup against Mitt Romney and 66 percent to 29 percent in a contest against Newt Gingrich.

9. Latino voters in Colorado have a strongly unfavorable view of Romney, disliking the candidate in a recent Public Policy Polling poll 70 percent to 21 percent. Gingrich also had an unfavorable view among Hispanic voters, 63 percent to 27 percent.

10. Colorado’s Latinos contribute significantly to the state’s economic well-being. The 2009 purchasing power of Colorado’s Latinos totaled $21.9 billion—an increase of 456.8 percent since 1990. In 2010 unauthorized immigrants paid $167.5 million in taxes.

Philip E. Wolgin is an Immigration Policy Analyst and Jonathan Goldenberg is an intern with American Progress.

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