Pérez is targeting voters in the 18 to 35 age group. He acknowledges that this is a difficult group to get to vote, especially as he is doing this single-handedly, without benefit of the backing of any organization or political party.
He points to an article in USA Today which quotes María Teresa Petersen, executive director of Voto Latino as saying that 50,000 Latinos turn 18 every month in the USA, and 87 percent of them are eligible to vote.
And in 2004, the US Census reported that about a third of the Latino population was younger than 18.
Pérez is taking to the road with a goal of registering 300 to 500 new Latino voters by the November election. And that’s why you’ll see him everywhere between now and the election.
“I want to re-establish the culture of voting among Latinos. I really want to make a difference,” says Pérez.
He recognizes the fact that power determines success in the lives of young Latinos, especially in terms of college, jobs and home ownership. “But we’re still at the bottom when compared to other groups like whites, Asian-Americans and African-Americans,” says Pérez.
According to a Pew Hispanic Center fact sheet on the 2006 election, only 39 percent of Latinos are eligible to vote, compared with 77 percent of whites, 65 percent of African-Americans and 51 percent of Asian-Americans.
“We have an opportunity to make some changes in Ohio and Toledo. But voting is like money, it is something we don’t have. It (voting) is political currency to determine our future and our destiny as individuals, a family and a community,” he adds.
Pérez believes that Latino immigrants from across the United States are going to create a unique opportunity for all Latinos in the 2008 presidential election. “They don’t realize, and we don’t realize it yet, but we have an opportunity to show the United States and the world that Latinos have arrived. We want to stand up and affect policies. We have an opportunity to really make an impact. But we have to get involved and we have to vote.
He envisions a scenario where the 12 million undocumented workers in the United States are granted amnesty and become voters. When their numbers are added to the 15 million registered Latino voters, it creates a significant voting bloc.
Pérez, who was born in Stryker, Ohio, attended Bowling Green State University. For the last nine years, he has been a familiar face as a community organizer for the Lagrange Development Corporation in the North End of Toledo, where he has led and won countless battles against landlords such as John Ulmer and the Westhaven Group.
Editor’s Note: If you care to contact Sr. Pérez, you can contact him at: [email protected]