In the weeks leading up to the election, immigration experts were predicting that a “sleeping giant” was about to awake in the U.S. Yesterday, that giant opened its eyes, casted its vote, and changed the face of the American electorate forever.

Immigrant voters–particularly Latinos–are said to have played a decisive role in last night’s election outcomes. According to the Associated Press:

Democrat Barack Obama gained lopsided support from Hispanics in Tuesday’s election, winning solidly among voters with whom President Bush had made inroads in 2004…

And Obama’s “lop-sided” victory among Latinos may have just tipped the scale in his favor. According to America’s Voice, an immigrant-advocacy organization:

Barack Obama Swept the “Latino Battleground” States: Both the Obama and McCain campaigns focused their Spanish-speaking advertising and outreach on four key battleground states – CO, FL, NM, and NV. Within these states, the Latino vote’s rapid growth and break towards Democratic candidates played an important role in Democratic victories.

  • CO: The Latino vote in CO grew from 8% of the state’s electorate in 2004 to 17% in 2008. Obama gained support of 73% of CO Latinos – key to his 53-46% victory in the state, as well as the Udall Senate victory.
  • FL: The Latino vote’s shift towards the Democrats was essential in Obama’s win. FL Latinos broke 56-44% for Bush in 2004 and 57-42% for Obama in 2008.
  • NM: Latinos comprised 41% of the NM 2008 electorate – a jump from their 32% in 2004. Latinos in NM supported Obama 69-30% — a big jump from 56-44% support for Kerry. NM Latinos’ trend towards Democrats played a huge role in the Presidential race and in handing the open Senate seat and two Congressional races (NM-1 and NM-2) to the Democrats.
  • NV: Latinos in NV supported Kerry 60-39% in 2004 and Obama 78-20% in 2008. Latinos in NV also increased from 10% of electorate in ’04 to 16% in 2008, and played a key role in handing the NV-3 Congressional seat to the Democrats.

Just a few days before the election, President-elect Barack Obama promised Latinos that he would address immigration reform within his first year as President. Yesterday’s results—largely buoyed by the Latino and immigrant electorate—compels Obama to stick to his word and restore dignity and justice to our country’s immigration system.

Photo by Barack Obama on flickr.