Philadelphia – The first night’s theme of the Democratic National Convention was “United Together” and on Monday evening a contingent of Latino politicians and undocumented immigrants took to the podium at the Wells Fargo Center to present a united front against GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.
The night featured about a dozen Hispanic speakers but no one seemed to capture the attention of the crowd quite like Karla Ortiz and her mother, Francisca. The 11-year-old from Las Vegas spoke in front of thousands about the fear she has every day that both of her undocumented parents would be deported.
“On most days, I’m scared,” Karla said as she stood by her mother. “'Valiente. Brave.' That’s what Hillary Clinton called me when I told her I was worried my parents would be deported. Even when I was little my parents were always crying but I didn’t understand why."
Thousands who gathered at the convention cheered when she said: “Soy Americano. I am American."
Karla said presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has vowed to help her.
“Because, she told me, she wants me to have the worries of an 11-year-old," Karla said, "not the weight of the world on my shoulders.”
The arena gave Karla a standing ovation. Her mother took the podium afterward to say that the immigration system was broken and needed to be fixed to keep families together. The two then raised their arms above their head and declared, “Juntos se Puede!” (Together We Can!)
The speech was the highlight of a night designed to show the dichotomy between Clinton and Trump. A week to the day, Trump’s campaign also opened the Republican National Convention discussing immigration but in Cleveland the tone was entirely different. The Trump campaign showcased three distraught parents who had lost their children at the hands of '"criminal illegal aliens” as an example of why the nation needs to enforce its immigration laws and tighten border security.
At the DNC, undocumented immigrants like Astrid Silva, known as so-called DREAMers who came to the country as children, were meant to shine a more positive light on undocumented immigrants.
The night included speeches from prominent Latino politicians including Congressional Hispanic Chairwoman Linda Sanchez.
“Donald Trump believes that Mexican immigrants are murderers and rapists. But what about my parents, Donald?” said Sanchez (D-CA), as she stood next to her sister, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA). "They are the only parents in our nation’s 265-year history to send not one but two daughters to the United States Congress.”
The stage included bilingual speeches by Hispanic leaders like New York State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who could become the first Dominican American to serve in the U.S. Congress if he wins his race, as expected, in November.
“Perhaps even just as important I will be the first member of Congress who was once undocumented as an immigrant,” he declared. “You take that, Donald Trump!”
A recent poll from Telemundo shows Clinton beating Trump 76 percent to 14 percent among Latino registered voters. Another poll from Univision shows Clinton up 69 percent to 14 percent.
The Democratic party is hoping Latino voters will show up to the polls more than they have in the past. In 2012, just 48 percent of Hispanic voters cast their ballot. The campaign is hoping fear of a President Trump, based on what they characterize as divisive Trump rhetoric on immigration, would improve voter turnout among Hispanics.
Hispanic voters care about education and the economy more than immigration, polls show, but the tone candidates take on immigration is often seen as a deciding factor as to whether Latino voters will be open to supporting them.
Congressman Luis Gutierrez D-IL, the champion and face for immigration reform in Congress over the last eight years, called Trump a bigot and bully as he referenced Trump’s comments that a district judge could not do his job because he is of Mexican heritage.
“Immigrants contribute to our communities and make America a great nation,” Gutierrez said.
Actress and an outspoken Democrat Eva Longoria told her personal story as a ninth-generation American from a small town in South Texas.
“If you know your history, Texas used to be part of Mexico. My family never crossed a border. The border crossed us,” she said. “When Donald Trump calls us criminals and rapists, he is insulting American families. My father isn’t a criminal or a rapist. In fact, he’s a United States veteran…”
Before ending her speech, Longoria told the crowd she was a Latina actress introducing New Jersey’s first Black Senator (Cory Booker) in a week the party will nominate the first woman candidate for President.
“So guess what, Donald?” Longoria said. “It turns out America is pretty great already.”