As a proud Latina, the daughter of two Cuban immigrants, who lives in a heavily Latino, blue-collar neighborhood, the question I’m asked all the time these days is: Wait, how is it you support Donald Trump?
It’s an occasionally amusing, sometimes tiresome, but never surprising line of inquiry. After all, among the many false narratives out there about Trump, the one pushed hardest is that he’s at odds with Latinos. But, like much of that rhetoric, it’s a deliberately simplistic assessment of the Latino electorate.
And, for the record, yes — I strongly support Trump.
Latinos aren’t monolithic in our beliefs and, of course, Trump isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But every Latino voter who’s thinking about his or her future should look no further than the GOP nominee. Here’s why:
Immigration is not Latinos’ top concern.
There’s a reason that a 2014 Pew study was headlined “Top issue for Hispanics? Hint: It’s not immigration.” Despite Democrats’ insistence that Trump’s stance on undocumented immigrants means he can’t win Latino votes, polls consistently show that Latinos’ top issues are the same as other Americans — we care most about the economy and jobs.
Not convinced Latinos’ main focus is the economy rather than immigration? Take a look at past presidential contenders’ share of the Latino vote. In 2000, George W. Bush won 35 percent of the Latino vote and, in 2004, he reached 40 percent. Why? He didn’t push through immigration reform. Unemployment, however, remained below 6 percent during most of his tenure. Compare that with George H.W. Bush during the 1988 election, winning a solid, but hardly earth-shattering 30 percent of Latino votes despite serving as vice president when President Ronald Reagan pushed through amnesty two years earlier. Bush 41 also protected millions more undocumented immigrants in 1990 via executive order. His reward in 1992? Latino support decreased to 25 percent.
What about amnesty-supporting Sen. John McCain? If immigration, and not the economy, were the key to Latinos’ vote, then he should have earned more than the 31 percent of Latino votes he won in 2008. The same goes for Mitt Romney, who, aside from his “self-deportation” comment, had an immigration-friendly record for most of his career. If Latino votes hinged primarily on the immigration debate, he should’ve garnered more than his 27 percent share.
Trump is the strongest candidate on jobs.
So if jobs and the economy are Latinos’ main concern, who’s the best candidate? Easy — Donald Trump.
He’s the only candidate serious about bringing back manufacturing jobs — 5 million manufacturing jobs were lost since the year 2000 — jobs that blue-collar workers of every demographic, including Latinos, counted on. Trump has also stood firm against trade deals that destroy those jobs. By contrast, on at least two occasions, in 2009 and 2012, Hillary Clinton spoke favorably about outsourcing in front of audiences abroad. As for the job-killing trade deals that Trump (and Sen. Bernie Sanders) rightly blasted, she was a longtime supporter of NAFTA and TPP until she curiously started distancing herself from them.
And it’s not just the job market. Last year, a study found that, of the millions of Latinos nationwide who hope to be homeowners, less than one in five has the ability to do so. Latinos can’t afford four more years of Democratic policies.
If you’re really pro-Latino, you’re wary of undocumented immigration.
Ask almost anyone to name the biggest Latino icon in this country’s history and they’ll likely name Cesar Chavez. The legendary Mexican American labor organizer paved the way for farmworker unionization, but here’s the bit you won’t hear often: Early in his career, he was a staunch opponent of illegal immigration and worked with authorities at the U.S.-Mexico border to keep illegal border crossers out. His rationale was that Latino laborers in the United States would be undercut by undocumented workers. If that reasoning sounds familiar, it’s because the same tension exists today.
What Chavez understood was essentially the same thing Harvard economist George Borjas explained to Congress this year: Immigration costs American workers $500 billion annually in lost wages. So how is immigration good for Latinos already here?
Trump didn’t insult Latinos when he announced his candidacy.
If you’ve heard one thing this election cycle about Trump and Latinos, it’s that he labeled Mexicans as “rapists.” And if he’d actually said that all Mexicans, or all undocumented immigrants, are rapists, then yes, that would have been an unforgivable insult. But the issue, which stems from the announcement of his candidacy last June, has been referred to over and over again out of context. One news account typical of the genre reads, “Trump called Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals.” But, as University of Texas professor Alberto Martinez, a self-described Sanders supporter of Puerto Rican descent, noted several months ago, “Trump said no such thing,” and described the media characterization as a dishonest “trick.” What Trump said was:
When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists, and some, I assume, are good people. But I speak to border guards and they tell us what we’re getting. And it only makes common sense. It only makes common sense. They’re sending us not the right people. It’s coming from more than Mexico. It’s coming from all over South and Latin America. And it’s coming probably — probably — from the Middle East. But we don’t know because we have no protection, and we have no competence. We don’t know what’s happening. And it’s got to stop. And it’s got to stop fast.
Tough words, certainly. But he’s largely accurate. Not all, or even most, but some who cross the border, from various continents, are criminals (including drug traffickers and smugglers widely reported to rape innocent women on the journey) or go on to commit crimes once here, and, undeniably, it’s the responsibility of the federal government to stem illegal border crossings in order to protect the populace from additional crime.
Latinos agree. Recently, Esquire spoke to people living on the border. As editor-in-chief Jay Fielden recounted to MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, those living on the border, regardless of ethnicity, want a border wall and, most revealing, Esquire found that Latino border residents were less sympathetic to undocumented immigrants than their Anglo counterparts. As Fielden explained, “they see it as unfair that they came over here the legal way … and now they’re having to compete for jobs” with undocumented immigrants. The article’s author, John H. Richardson, writes, “Anglos were more sympathetic to the border crossers and often spoke of compassion, but seven out of ten Hispanics wanted strict enforcement — even the ones who didn’t speak English.”
Opposing illegal immigration isn’t “racism,” “xenophobia” or “insulting” the Latino community. What is insulting is the assumption that the top issue of a law-abiding, patriotic Latino voter isn’t jobs or a good education for his child — but rather ensuring a person he or she has never met can cross into this country, or stay in this country, in violation of the law.
Helping veterans is helping Latinos.
No presidential candidate in recent memory, and especially not in this race, has worked harder than Trump to gain the support of, and emphasize the challenges faced by, America’s veterans. While both candidates have plans to help veterans, Clinton, a member of the Senate for eight years, missed her opportunity (and duty) to overhaul the terribly mismanaged Veterans Health Administration.
When you consider that over 12 percent of post-9/11 veterans are Latinos, it follows that Latinos, or anyone else who cares about veteran issues, should support Trump.
With her flip-flopping and pandering, it’s Clinton who’s insulting Latinos.
Even Latino voters who favor amnesty, or who aren’t bothered by illegal immigration, should stop and consider Clinton’s entire record, not just her recent, self-serving shift on the matter. In 2003, Clinton told radio host John Gambling she was “adamantly against illegal immigrants.” In 2006, she favored … building a wall. Yes, the candidate who now rips Trump’s proposed border wall actually floated the idea first. And a mere two years ago, a different-sounding Clinton scoffed: “We have to send a clear message, just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay.”
There are also her condescending attempts to work Spanish into her campaign pitch. The left feigned outrage over Trump’s silly-at-worst taco bowl tweet, but what of Clinton’s tin-eared utterances of “¡Basta!” in stump speeches, the Spanish-language tweets written by her staffers (Note to Hillary: Latino voters speak English!) or the pathetic “7 things Hillary Clinton has in common with your abuela?” Latinos roll their eyes, asking, ¿De verdad cree que va a ganar nuestro voto con esta ridiculez?
Clinton’s corruption is why many Latino families fled their home countries.
One factor that motivated many Latino immigrants to this country, regardless of national origin, was a desire to flee corruption. So it is with great trepidation, and familiarity, that we review Clinton’s dubious track record: conducting State Department business via a private email account; classified information housed on a private server; the deletion of thousands of emails, despite initially claiming she had turned over all relevant emails to investigators; the Clinton Foundation’s acceptance of millions of dollars from foreign governments, and its apparent pay-to-play business model; undisclosed transcripts of paid Wall Street speeches; and going the better part of a year, in the midst of a presidential run, without taking questions from the press. It all smacks of the kind of governance that our parents or grandparents fled — only to find it here.
The choice is clear.
Now, when I’m asked why I support Trump, you’ll know why I reply: “I don’t support Donald Trump despite being Latina — I support him because I’m Latina.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article referred to the Veterans Health Administration as the Veterans Administration.