Going to a Broadway show last night, my way across Sixth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan was blocked by hundreds of angry college-age young people, including many Latinos, protesting the election of Donald Trump. They chanted variations of, “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Donald Trump go away!”
[The] modest bump in Latino turnout was inundated by a tsunami of working class white voters, many of whom are enthusiastically in favor of harsh immigration enforcement. Those white folks flooded the polls from Florida to North Dakota, Arkansas to Arizona to Altoona.
- Geraldo Rivera
This was just one of several demonstrations that snarled traffic around Trump properties in the borough and in other locations around the country. And some of those kids have legitimate beefs against Mr. Trump, especially one sub-set of Latinos living in the nation’s shadows: America’s approximately 700,000 undocumented immigrant “Dreamers” given a temporary reprieve from deportation by an Obama executive order that is now threatened by repeal by President-elect Trump.
As half the country celebrates and the other half suffers the daze and disappointment of Donald Trump’s almost entirely unexpected victory in the race for the White House, imagine how you would be feeling right now if you were one of those kids, say a 16-year-old New York high school junior who was smuggled across the border from Mexico by her parents at age two.
The parents of this teenager have done relatively well, despite their undocumented status. Her dad, like many thousands of others, works in a Manhattan restaurant. Her mom is a housekeeper. She has two younger siblings, both of which were born here in the United States and are therefore birth-right citizens, thanks to the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
She is doing well in school, but until four years ago she lived under the constant threat of deportation back to a country of which she has no memory. Then, in an act of extraordinary kindness, in 2012 President Obama used his unique powers to grant relief from deportation to her and the millions of other undocumented young people like her brought into this country as children.
Her first shock came three years later, in 2015, when a federal court stopped President Obama from expanding the executive order to her parents, even though they had no criminal record and paid their taxes. Formally known as DACA, for Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, the order is now in legal and political limbo.
Then something even more egregious happened. That August 2015, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump told NBC’s Chuck Todd that not only her parents, but she and her citizen born siblings would all be deported by a President Trump.
“We’re going to keep the families together, but they have to go,” Trump said on “Meet the Press.” We will work with them. They have to go. Chuck we either have a country, or we don’t have a country.”
Protecting kids like this from deportation by a candidate who referred pejoratively to undocumented Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and “murderers” was one of the rallying cries of the campaign just concluded. The Hispanic community was supposedly roused by his insults and his vow to build a great wall to separate the United States from our Latin American neighbors. He even talked of a deportation force that would presumably go door-to-door rounding up all 11 plus million undocumented immigrants.
As America’s largest minority community, Latinos were expected to flood the polls in unprecedented numbers, humbling the brash billionaire.
So how did that go?
According to the Pew Research Center, “the national exit poll suggests that Latinos did make up a larger share of voters in 2016 than previously: 11 percent this year. Up from 10 percent in 2012 and 9 percent in 2008.” But guess what? That modest bump in Latino turnout was inundated by a tsunami of working class white voters, many of whom are enthusiastically in favor of harsh immigration enforcement. Those white folks flooded the polls from Florida to North Dakota, Arkansas to Arizona to Altoona.
More to the point, despite his crude approach to immigration enforcement, Donald Trump outpolled courtly Governor Mitt Romney among Latinos. Trump got 29 percent to Romney’s 27 percent. Hillary Clinton did not do badly, earning 65 percent of the Latino vote. But that compares negatively to Barack Obama’s 71 percent.
So Hillary’s 65 percent is not too shabby, but who were the 29 percent of Latinos that voted for Trump
What self-respecting Latino voted for someone who threatens to disrupt a significant portion of their community? But are we really one community? Does that reflect our expansive reality? Isn’t branding our disparate ethnicity by a single name, whether ‘Latino’ or ‘Hispanic’ more a statement of aspiration than fact?
If we consider the result of the election just concluded, the fact that we trace our ancestry to a nation once ruled by Spain is just not enough to join us together. Other forces tear us apart. Cuban-Americans for example, are as pampered by current immigration laws as Mexicans are pursued. They get amnesty. Mexicans get the heave ho. And initial returns show Cuban Americans gave a majority of their votes to the Republican.
What are the consequences of Mr. Trump’s victory for undocumented immigrants?
Just Thursday, after his cordial meeting with a gracious President Obama, when visiting Capitol Hill President-elect Trump said he was getting to work “…strongly on immigration, health care and jobs,” so immigration enforcement is the first item on his ‘To Do’ list. Hopefully, a Trump Administration will focus most of its resources on evicting undocumented criminal immigrants, like the MS-13 gangbangers who have recently terrorized the community of Brentwood Long Island. But who knows?
Pity the poor dreamer example I gave you earlier. Will she and her family be hunted down by the “deportation force?” That, undeniably, is her fear right now. Will those of us sympathetic to her plight hide her in our attics from the enforcers?
How far will this scenario play out? How deep is Heartland America’s fear and loathing of otherwise law-abiding “illegal aliens?” Will awful things be done to them in our name?
Geraldo Rivera currently serves as a roaming correspondent-at-large for Fox News Channel. He joined the network in 2001 as a war correspondent.