Mr. Pres­i­dent: Lati­nos don’t scare eas­ily

Post Tribune (Sunday) - - Opinion - By Es­ther J. Cepeda Es­ther Cepeda is a colum­nist for the Wash­ing­ton Post.

Pres­i­dent Trump is play­ing the me­dia, his de­trac­tors and his sup­port­ers with his pre-elec­tion stunts. Over­rul­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion to end birthright cit­i­zen­ship? Send­ing troops to the bor­der to com­bat the sup­posed hordes of po­ten­tially ter­ror­ist-filled mi­grant car­a­vans?

Yeah, right.

These are the kind of shiny dis­trac­tions Trump uses to dog­whis­tle at his base, hop­ing to sat­isfy their crav­ing for fewer im­mi­grants in this coun­try, par­tic­u­larly dark-skinned ones.

The troops the pres­i­dent wants to de­ploy to our south­ern bor­der will be able to do noth­ing more than pro­vide lo­gis­ti­cal sup­port to the Bor­der Pa­trol, such as build­ing tents and shov­el­ing ma­nure. That’s be­cause us­ing the mil­i­tary to en­force im­mi­gra­tion or crim­i­nal laws at the bor­der — or to per­form any other law en­force­ment ac­tiv­i­ties — is it­self il­le­gal.

Plus, scads of le­gal experts, and in­flu­en­tial Repub­li­cans like

House Speaker Paul Ryan, know that a push to end birthright cit­i­zen­ship will never bear fruit. The rest of us can take cold com­fort in un­der­stand­ing that it’s all ba­si­cally cam­paign­ing to en­er­gize hard-right vot­ers ahead of the elec­tion.

It’s also just one more ex­am­ple of brazen hypocrisy to sug­gest a rad­i­cal use of ex­ec­u­tive au­thor­ity to keep im­mi­grants shut out of Amer­i­can life. Mean­while, Repub­li­cans screamed bloody mur­der every time Pres­i­dent Obama tried to use an ex­ec­u­tive or­der to mit­i­gate im­mi­grant suf­fer­ing.

But make no mis­take: Although Trump’s ac­tions are pri­mar­ily for the pur­poses of us­ing ha­tred to drive peo­ple to the polls, his sec­ondary ob­jec­tive of mak­ing life harder for im­mi­grants and any­one who might sound or look like one is also go­ing swim­mingly.

In Septem­ber, el­e­men­tary school stu­dents in La Quinta, Cal­i­for­nia, were cel­e­brat­ing their Mex­i­can her­itage by don­ning brightly col­ored folk­loric cos­tumes and per­form­ing tra­di­tional dances at the li­brary. They were told to scrub their pre­sen­ta­tions of any ref­er­ences to Mex­ico, and the co­or­di­nat­ing teacher was told that next time the stu­dents should per­form pa­tri­otic songs like “Yan­kee Doo­dle.”

And last week’s Hal­loween brought with it a raft of racist cos­tume news sto­ries, like the one about the Ken­tucky dad who thought it’d be cute to dress his 5-year-old as Adolf Hitler and him­self as a Nazi sol­dier. A news story about the guy’s ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties as a Civil War and World War II re-en­ac­tor noted that he had dressed up as a Con­fed­er­ate sol­dier last year, and his Face­book ac­count is lit­tered with “White Pride Doesn’t Mean Hate” posts.

None of this is any kind of co­in­ci­dence. Pres­i­dent Trump has val­orized white su­prem­a­cists while de­mo­niz­ing any­one who isn’t white or Chris­tian. As a re­sult we’re liv­ing in a coun­try where Jewish peo­ple are again be­ing slaugh­tered in their places of wor­ship just for be­ing Jewish — just like African-Amer­i­cans since be­fore the Charleston church shoot­ing and to this day. But back to the bor­der.

Yes, the bor­der, where cross­ings have been de­clin­ing for years since a peak in 2000.

And birthright cit­i­zen­ship, in the coun­try where births to unau­tho­rized im­mi­grants has been on the de­cline since 2009.

And to His­pan­ics, 54 per­cent of whom, ac­cord­ing to the Pew Re­search Cen­ter, say it has be­come more dif­fi­cult to live in this coun­try as a Latino since the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Trump and his acolytes ap­par­ently want to make sure it stays that way, but quite pos­si­bly are sim­ply re­act­ing to their own fears that Latino vot­ers will some­day come in to po­lit­i­cal power that they could com­mand if they were more re­li­able vot­ers.

Per­haps they should be scared. In­tim­i­da­tion tac­tics can be a dou­ble-edged sword, with the po­ten­tial to ei­ther cow a peo­ple or gal­va­nize them.

Noth­ing I’ve seen sug­gests that Lati­nos and other vot­ers of color are giv­ing up. But I have seen plenty of flab­ber­gasted and sor­row­ful so­cial-me­dia posts from friends who are, for the first time in their lives, con­cerned for their safety and well-be­ing in the coun­try they’ve called home for gen­er­a­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Latino Elected and Ap­pointed Of­fi­cials (NALEO) Ed­u­ca­tional Fund, more than 7.8 mil­lion Lati­nos are ex­pected to cast bal­lots this year. This would rep­re­sent a 15 per­cent in­crease in turnout and a 6.9 per­cent in­crease in the Latino share of the vote from 2014.

So, bring it on Trump. You can try your best, but take it from me and about 30 mil­lion other Lati­nos who are el­i­gi­ble to vote this week: We don’t scare so eas­ily.


Peo­ple pass U.S. Army sol­diers while cross­ing from Mex­ico into the United States at the in­ter­na­tional bridge Fri­day in Hi­dalgo, Texas. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ordered the troops to the bor­der to bol­ster se­cu­rity at points of en­try where an im­mi­grant car­a­van may cross.

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