DENVER—Christian Avila was getting ready to give a pep talk, but first, he had an announcement for his team of election canvassers: "I do have pepper spray—raise your hand if you need it," he said. "The only rule is, don't spray me."
The team of 10 canvassers—eight mostly young Latinos, plus a couple of hippieish white kids from a conservation group—laughed nervously. Then it was time to do the clap: "Si. Se. Pue. De," they began, clapping on each syllable, slowly at first, then faster and faster until the chant blurred together and the clapping dissolved into furious applause.
"We're sending a strong message—not just to Colorado, but to the nation," Avila, an organizer for Mi Familia Vota, told the group before they set out with iPods programmed with a canvassing app. "If people want to stay in office, they have to take Latinos into consideration."
But do they? Ever since President Obama decided, in September, to put off using his executive power to halt deportations of undocumented immigrants—a move widely viewed as a political maneuver, and seen by immigrant activists as a betrayal—Latino voters have faced a wrenching choice. Abandoned by Democrats and shunned by Republicans (many of whom have exploited anti-immigrant sentiment as an election-year wedge), should they stay home to punish the politicians who disregarded them? Or should they show up and vote for Democrats anyway, rewarding the undeserving in order to demonstrate their electoral clout?