Joe Biden meeting with the Asian & Latino Coalition on August 8, 2019. Photo Tar Macias / Hola Iowa
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By Kassidy Arena, Iowa Public Radio News 

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is trying to reach Latino voters in Iowa.

Democrats see Iowa’s Latino voters as a group that could help their chances in the November election. One man is leading the effort in the state on behalf of Democrat Joe Biden’s campaign. He launched a phone bank this past Saturday.

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Illinois Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García initially supported Bernie Sanders during the primaries, but has since shifted his support to Biden. García launched a bilingual phone bank in Iowa to reach the tens of thousands of Latino voters in the state. Last presidential election, a Pew Research study showed 67,000 Hispanic people in Iowa were eligible to vote.

García said gaining their vote is integral to Biden winning the state’s electoral vote.

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“Latinos can be decisive in determining how Iowa goes and if we’re going to have progress in Washington and someone who is going to be more receptive to the Latino community, then that vote has to come out,” García said.

Many Latino voters in the state said they are hesitant to vote for Biden because of his role in the Obama administration, which ordered more deportations than any other administration. During its eight years in office, the administration deported more than three million people.

García said he shares that same disappointment with Iowa immigrants, but reminded voters Biden was vice president at the time, and tradition states a vice president must support the president.

“While very disappointed, I think the country is at a different inflection point,” García said.

Biden’s campaign website lists how he plans to “modernize” the immigration system by “reassert[ing] America’s commitment to asylum-seekers and refugees” and “implement[ing] effective border screening.”

García said reaching out to people in their homes to share these policies, and in English and Spanish, will hopefully sway how they vote in the election. Although he supported Sanders before, García said Biden is adopting some of Sanders’ policies and learning from his strategies.

Latino voters overwhelmingly supported Sanders in the primaries. Some say this was due to his enthusiasm to reach Latino Iowans in their own communities, in their homes. García said the bilingual phone bank is one way of doing this for the Biden-Harris campaign.

“We believe that communicating effectively with people in this campaign is one of the great assets of the Biden-Harris campaign. And we are seeing that that can be a very important edge in a contested race,” García said.

He also said the Biden-Harris campaign is working “to identify and hire Latinos, people like Oliver, are an example of the type of investments that the campaign is making.” Oliver Hidalgo-Wohlleben was previously the political director of the Sanders campaign in Iowa. He is now working with the Biden campaign and helping García.

Another topic the campaign is touching on is Biden’s stance on combatting climate change, which is an important topic for some Latino voters, especially younger ones.

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