By 2040, more than one-third of Coloradans will be Latino, up from one-fifth today. The Latino population—documented or not—already makes vast contributions to the state’s economy and electorate, but Colorado’s shifting demographics will give this key voting bloc even more influence in the coming decades.
Here are 10 facts you need to know about Latinos and immigration in Colorado.
- Colorado’s Latino population is substantial. In fact, 21 percent of Colorado’s 5.3 million residents are Latino. This is nearly 4 percent higher than the national average. Colorado is one of just nine states with a Latino population of more than 1 million people.
- Nearly 1 out of every 10 people in Colorado is foreign born. Even so, Colorado—at 9.7 percent foreign born—lags behind the national average of 12.9 percent.
- A generational shift is evident in Colorado. By 2040, 34 percent of Coloradans will be Latino. Latinos in Colorado are, on average, much younger—26 years old—than the white population—40 years old—and three-quarters of Latinos in Colorado are native born.
- Latinos in Colorado have personal ties to undocumented immigrants. Immigration is a deeply personal issue for Colorado’s Latino voters: A full 63 percent know someone who is an undocumented immigrant, while another 35 percent know people who have been deported or detained.
- As Latinos become an increasing share of the Colorado electorate, they will continue to reshape its politics. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) represents a good example of how shifting demographics have affected the politics of the state. When he first went to Congress in 2008, he was a hardliner on immigration, voting against the DREAM Act and other pro-immigrant policies. After redistricting in 2010, the demographics of Rep. Coffman’s district changed, adding a substantial number of Latino voters. Not surprisingly, Coffman evolved on immigration in 2012 and took a more positive position on the issue. In 2013, he even came out in favor of a pathway to citizenship for some unauthorized immigrants.
- Immigration politics played a decisive role in the 2010 election. In the last midterm election cycle, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) won 81 percent of the Latino vote against Republican opponent Ken Buck, who campaigned on a harsh anti-immigrant platform. Sen. Bennet’s win was part of the “Latino firewall” that kept the Senate in Democratic hands.
- Immigration could once again play a decisive role in the 2014 Senate election. The race between incumbent Sen. Mark Udall (D) and Rep. Cory Gardner (R) is one of the most competitive this year. This race may come down to the Latino vote, and the latest polls have Rep. Gardner slightly ahead in the polls. However, with Latino voters comprising 14 percent of eligible voters, and with immigration a key and personal issue for Latino voters in Colorado, the politics of immigration reform could swing the race—and the balance of the Senate.
- Immigration reform may also be critical to one of the most competitive House races. Rep. Coffman’s race for re-election in Colorado’s 6th Congressional District against Democratic challenger and former Colorado House speaker Andrew Romanoff, one of the most competitive races in the nation, could come down to the Latino vote and the issue of immigration. The two men are vying for a seat in a district that is about 20 percent Latino. Rep. Coffman and Romanoff have engaged in English and Spanish debates in order to sway the Latino vote. Rep. Coffman, while supporting a pathway to citizenship for immigrants, has opposed pro-immigrant measures in the past, such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.
- Immigrants are integral to Colorado’s economy. If Colorado’s unauthorized population were able to gain legal status, the 10-year cumulative increase in gross state product would be $15.8 billion. When undocumented immigrants gain citizenship, they will pay an estimated $681 million in new tax revenue over 10 years, creating 2,300 jobs annually and further improving the economy and prosperity of all Colorado residents.
- Latinos add tens of billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs to Colorado’s economy. The 2012 purchasing power of Colorado’s Latinos totaled $21.8 billion, an increase of 454.5 percent since 1990.
Colorado has already shown how pro-immigrant positions can be key to winning over Latino voters. With growing Latino influence in the state, how both parties talk about immigration reform will matter greatly to the state’s future political and social climate.
Jonathan Valdez is an intern with the Immigration Policy team at the Center for American Progress.