Lati­nos raise their voice: ‘Ev­ery­thing that Trump rep­re­sents is wrong’

Toronto Star - - FRONT PAGE - Rosie DiManno

Mireya De la Pena looks long­ingly to­wards the polling sta­tion.

With all her heart, she’d like to step in­side and vote. For Hil­lary Clin­ton, that goes al­most with­out say­ing. But just to vote, as a le­gal Amer­i­can, most of all. “That would be my dream.” She’s been liv­ing here, in Span­ish Har­lem, for nearly three decades. Her chil­dren are U.S. born — a teenager in col­lege and a five-year-old in kinder­garten. “Be­lieve it or not, I’m wait­ing for my 18-year-old daugh­ter to turn 21 so she can spon­sor me.”

De la Pena is a mi­nor­ity within a mi­nor­ity in her shad­owy sta­tus: Among the 11 mil­lion il­le­gals who are in the U.S. un­doc­u­mented or un­der­doc­u­mented. This me­trop­o­lis alone, as per of­fi­cial es­ti­mates, is home to 375,000 il­le­gal im­mi­grants, com­pris­ing 10 per cent of the res­i­dent work­force.

But 27.3 mil­lion Lati­nos were en­tirely el­i­gi­ble to cast a bal­lot in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, ac­cord­ing to Pew Re­search Cen­ter fig­ures. Twelve per cent of all el­i­gi­ble vot­ers. A huge con­stituency that, if they ac­tu­ally flocked to the polls on Tues­day, had the might to po­ten­tially tip the White House to Hil­lary Clin­ton. What sweet come­up­pance that would be.

It was a strong theme of ad­vance polling and pro­jec­tions — His­pan­ics en­gaged in the po­lit­i­cal process and em­brac­ing a Demo­cratic Party that had long courted them.

His­pan­ics who, the Clin­ton fac­tion was hop­ing, could blunt the Repub­li­can Party’s his­tor­i­cal ham­mer with the white and male and dis­af­fected work­ing class. Hil­lary His­pan­ics, who might have shifted the dy­nam­ics in such key a state as Florida, where Cuban-Amer­i­cans have typ­i­cally marched to a GOP tune. As tracked by a re­search foun­da­tion at the Univer­sity of Florida, 36 per cent of His­pan­ics who marked their bal­lots in ad­vance polling had not voted in 2012.

Don­ald Trump gal­va­nized them, in Florida and Ne­vada and else­where — to his detri­ment, the sooth­say­ers pre­dicted. The same sooth­say­ers were stunned by how Clin­ton was un­der­per­form­ing in a slew of states that had been car­ried by Barack Obama in the last two elec­tions.

Trump scarcely both­ered with any Latino outreach; too busy cast­ing them as crooks and rapists and drug lords, vow­ing to de­port mil­lions if elected, although never quite ex­plain­ing how this could be done. In­stead, he ren­dered the le­gal Lati­nos for­mi­da­ble.

For De la Pena, who was car­ried across the Rio Grande on her mother’s back in 1988, it’s been al­most a life­time of try­ing and fail­ing to ac­quire cit­i­zen­ship. Yes, her fam­ily jumped the queue. But it’s such a damn long queue, slug­gish and dispir­it­ing.

“We were on a list, that’s all I re­mem­ber from when I was lit­tle. We tried again — there were five of us and we paid $1,000 per per­son just to ap­ply for im­mi­gra­tion pa­pers. That was the fee if you’d crossed il­le­gally.

“Af­ter 9/11, ev­ery­thing was set back be­cause of the se­cu­rity fears. But we were reg­is­tered. So I pay taxes, I can ap­ply for so­cial ser­vices, which we needed when I was young. We were poor, didn’t even have enough food to eat. I’m reg­is­tered, I pay my share, but there’s not much else I’m al­lowed to do. I can’t travel. I can’t visit my fam­ily back in Mex­ico.”

De la Pena, who works at a travel agency that caters pri­mar­ily to Mex­i­can-Amer­i­cans — or Mex­i­cans who aren’t Amer­i­cans — is pre­cisely the type of il­le­gal im­mi­grant Trump would keep be­hind a wall.

De­spite the boost to the econ­omy that il­le­gals pro­vide and the jobs they fill, blue-col­lar and ser­vice em­ploy­ment that many Amer­i­cans want no part of any­more.

It has al­ways been the im­mi­grant road map: Get your foot in the door so that your kids can do bet­ter.

As De la Pena was speak­ing up in Span­ish Har­lem — more com­monly known these days as El Bar­rio, his­tor­i­cally — Trump was punch­ing his own bal­lot at a mid-Man­hat­tan school. “Tough de­ci­sion,” he joked with re­porters.

More ex­ten­sive com­ments were pro­vided to Trump’s per­sonal shilling ca­ble TV plat­form, Fox News. Sound­ing not so boldly self-con­fi­dent. Sound­ing al­most wist­ful.

“Let me tell you, if I don’t win I will con­sider it a tremen­dous waste of time, en­ergy and money.”

And though it had been re­ported that Trump’s tweet­ing de­vice had all but been wres­tled out of his hands by close aides, the bil­lion­aire na­tive New Yorker was back on the so­cial me­dia podium Tues­day, ex­hort­ing cit­i­zens to get out there. A 6 p.m. yip: “Don’t let up, keep get­ting out to vote — this elec­tion is FAR FROM OVER. We are do­ing well but there is much time left.”

Trump, the most un­likely and cer­tainly most di­vi­sive pres­i­den­tial as­pi­rant ever, was watch­ing the re­turns un­fold­ing from his triplex pent­house at Trump Tower, wait­ing to see whether it would be an early night or a late night, whether he’d take the stage first as loser or sec­ond as win­ner.

The Trump and Clin­ton vic­tory par­ties were booked a mile apart in mid-Man­hat­tan ho­tels.

“I’m very of­fended by what Mr. Trump has said about Mex­i­cans,” con­tin­ued De la Pena. “My home is here. I don’t have a home in Mex­ico. I don’t have a job in Mex­ico. But not only about Mex­i­cans and im­mi­grants, just in gen­eral. For me, he’s a very dis­turbed per­son. Don­ald Trump can­not be pres­i­dent of the United States be­cause he is men­tally ill, ob­vi­ously. Clin­ton is also not an at­trac­tive can­di­date. But you have to work with what you have and this is what we have.”

Trump’s psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­file has ac­tu­ally been an is­sue of se­ri­ous dis­cus­sion dur­ing this cam­paign, since few ra­tio­nal ex­pla­na­tions for his con­duct come eas­ily to hand. He is pal­pa­bly needy, a Type-A per­son­al­ity with skin as thin as onion pa­per. He pushed and chipped and boot-kicked through the ac­cept­able out-mar­gins of civil de­bate. No­body had ever seen the likes of it. Which is, doubt­less, ex­actly what made Trump so at­trac­tive to a chunky core con­stituency of an­gry white work­ing-class males.

Most women hate him, the polls had shown. Most col­lege-ed­u­cated peo­ple hate him. Most mi­nori­ties hate him.

It re­ally has been a take-a-num­ber stack of the ag­grieved that Trump has not only of­fended but out­right re­pelled. Yet Trump ap­peared un­wary of the coun­try’s de­mo­graph­ics chang­ing around him, as if a pres­i­dency could be snatched on the backs of a bit­ter and snarling ille­d­u­cated white male hege­mony. And maybe he was right.

Janet Men­dez, a 30-year-old re­tail man­ager, is the New York-born daugh­ter of Ecuado­ran par­ents. She had just cast her vote early for Clin­ton.

“Ev­ery­thing that Trump rep­re­sents is wrong. Even though I was born here, my par­ents suf­fered to get to Amer­ica. He’s say­ing all the peo­ple that come here are rapists and drug par­ents. My par­ents are none of that. They came here so I could have a bet­ter fu­ture. That’s the story of Amer­ica.

“Even Trump, his an­ces­tors came from some­where else. We all mi­grated here. The only ones born here were na­tive Amer­i­cans. So he can’t judge peo­ple ac­cord­ing to where they came from.”

Men­dez added, ges­tur­ing around the neigh­bour­hood: “Most of the peo­ple that work here are im­mi­grants. Who’d go­ing to do all this work? Im­mi­grants do the jobs most peo­ple don’t want. They’re here be­cause they want to work, not be­cause they want to take away any­body’s job. What’s scary is that a lot of peo­ple still be­lieve what he be­lieves about mi­nori­ties. We just don’t see it as much here be­cause New York is such a di­verse city.”

RUTH FREMSON/THE NEW YORK TIMES

Clin­ton sup­port­ers watch the re­sults at the Jav­its Cen­ter in New York.

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