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‘That Mexican Thing’ Coming To A Voting Booth Near You

Gov. Mike Pence, warn your buddy Donald Trump. You know “That Mexican Thing” you mentioned in the vice presidential debate — it’s coming for you.

Like La Llorona and El Chupacabra, the folkloric spooks that Mexican parents tell stories about to scare the bejesus out of their naughty children, That Mexican Thing is not to be trifled with. It has its eye on you.

Trump’s calumnies against Mexicans and other Latinos in the U.S. are well known, and they don’t have to be rehashed here. It’s worth noting, however, that these comments aren’t gaffes or tics. In a recent civil deposition, Trump admitted that in his peroration on Mexican rapists — the speech with which he kicked off his campaign — the offense was premeditated.

Indeed, it is impossible to regard this provocation as anything other than part of a strategy to blow up the Republican Party and reconstitute it in the mold of populist white nationalism. After all, it was only four years ago that the GOP searched its soul after failing to unseat Barack Obama and concluded that it must reach out to Latinos. Alas, what innocent times those were!

Pence, who is cut from crustier Republican cloth, seems ill at ease with Trump’s “alt-right” style of racist agitprop, but then again he doesn’t seem to get what a big deal it is. That explains his exasperation when his opponent, Sen. Tim Kaine, repeatedly brought up Trump’s rapist remark in their debate.

“Senator, you whipped out that Mexican thing again,” Pence said peevishly before doubling down on Trump’s view of Mexican immigrants as, essentially, criminals.

In doing so, Pence showed that he, too, thinks of Latinos in nebulous terms, not quite as human beings, as U.S. citizens and voters, but rather as an undifferentiated mass in the category “problematic.” For those of us Americans of Mexican descent, it showed that bigotry against us is embedded in the Trump-Pence campaign. It’s not going away.

You know what else is not going away? Us.

Numbering 55 million, Latinos are 17 percent of the population, the largest ethnic minority. For years, demographic trends have foretold a watershed moment when Latino citizens will be able to exert a significant impact on national elections. 2016 might be the year.

In doing so, we will be partaking of a grand American tradition — that of immigrant groups taking their place in the American body politic.

Latinos are hardly the first minority to come up against organized political bigotry. Trumpism and the alt-right have a forerunner in the Know Nothing movement of the 1850s, a deplorable and sometimes-violent party organization that formed in backlash against the arrival of millions of Irish Catholic and German Catholic immigrants.

Political cartoons of the time depicted the Irish as ape-like murderers and ruffians. They were said to be drunks, criminals and agents of the pope, inimical to American republican values.

I guess certain American political tendencies don’t change, but the targets do.

Like the Irish before us, we Latinos won’t be taking it lying down. Immigrants have been rushing to upgrade from permanent legal resident to U.S. citizenship in time to vote, creating massive naturalization events during the past year. Many have cited Trump as the impetus.

Voto Latino reports it has registered more than 100,000 new voters since last November. And that’s just one Latino group working to encourage a strong turnout.

Trump’s words are the leverage. People know when they are being disparaged. Casual asides don’t fool anyone — as when Trump qualified his rape slander of Mexicans thus: “Some, I assume, are good people.”

That’s not mitigating the offense; it’s accentuating it.

It’s classic Trump. And now Pence joins in with his “Mexican thing,” showing how clueless he is about his running mate and his country.

No other nation has as long and as rich and as complicated a history with the United States as Mexico. Major portions of the U.S. used to be Mexico. Our blood and our cultures are mixed. No modern political candidate can undo that.

Mexicans and Mexican-Americans know the nuances of immigration policy, trade deals and border security in ways Trump can never fathom. The details are embedded in our family histories, in the traditions and beliefs passed from generation to generation well beyond our families’ migration.

A week before the election, millions of Americans will celebrate Día de los Muertos — Day of the Dead — a Mexican holiday now widely observed in the U.S.

Día de los Muertos is about respect — respect for the souls of our departed ancestors and friends. We tend to their graves to welcome their spirits back.

Respect is important to us. By mocking us, disparaging us, Donald Trump has awakened That Mexican Thing. Our displeasure will be known Nov. 8.

(Mary Sanchez is an opinion-page columnist for The Kansas City Star. Readers may write to her at: Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 64108-1413, or via e-mail atmsanchez@kcstar.com.)

(c) 2016, THE KANSAS CITY STAR. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC

IMAGE: A voter registration sign is seen on a taco truck, as part of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s “Guac the Vote” campaign, in Houston, Texas, U.S. September 29, 2016. REUTERS/Trish Badger

Trump Has Built A Wall Between The Republican Party And Latinos

By David Lightman, Natalie Fertig and Jessica Koscielniak McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)

LAS VEGAS — German Maldonado could back a Republican. But it’s not likely, not when Donald Trump is calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals.

“The whole GOP base, they tend to attack most of our people,” said the graphic designer, who came to this country from Mexico 25 years ago.

That, in a nutshell, is the challenge Republicans face in 2016, a problem that looms as a serious threat to their hopes of winning in swing states like Nevada.

Talk to Latinos in the Las Vegas area and you’ll find their views strikingly similar. Top concerns are better schools, more ability to expand their businesses, and leaders who share their strong religious and moral beliefs.

That gives Republicans tremendous potential. And in some states, including Nevada, the party has done well among Latinos. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval is Mexican-American. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, the nation’s first female Hispanic governor, was re-elected overwhelmingly last year. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott won 44 percent of the Latino vote in 2014. President George W. Bush won 39 percent of Nevada’s Hispanic vote in 2004.

Today, though, there’s Trump and a party that’s seen as too eager to kick immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally out of the country.

“We’re digging a very, very deep hole,” said Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.

It hardly matters at the moment that two candidates, Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, are Cuban-American, or that Jeb Bush, a former Florida governor, is married to a Mexican-American and has strong ties to the Latino community.

Republicans were starting to have trouble even before 2015. President Barack Obama, viewed as sympathetic to Hispanic interests, won 71 percent of the Nevada Latino vote in 2012, the same percentage he received nationwide.

Republican Latino voters say they’re well aware of the difficulty of persuading friends and family to join them.

Immigration is the gateway to the community’s heart. Most Latinos in Nevada are either immigrants or know someone who recently arrived in this country. Nevada’s population is about 27 percent Hispanic, and 4 in 5 are of Mexican origin.

When Latinos hear some Republicans eager to deport immigrants here illegally, or refer to them in offensive ways, they recoil.

Jesus Marquez, who runs an air conditioning business, grew up in a Democratic household but turned Republican after watching details of President Bill Clinton’s relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky unfold.

“They devalued the office when he lied,” Marquez said. He saw Republicans as the party of higher standards.

Peter Guzman, a real estate developer, has long been sympathetic to Republicans, but he can’t stomach Trump’s comments.

“It’s going to be a challenge for me to embrace a candidate who has completely talked to my culture in an undignified way,” he said.

Some Latinos are more forgiving.

Ariel Gomez, a handyman, urged listening closely to what Trump is saying. He was not condemning all Mexicans, Gomez said.

Trump said in June, when he announced his candidacy, that Mexico was sending to the United States “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.”

Krissian Marquez, an entrepreneur, sees herself as one of those good people. Born in Mexico, she grew up in California. She understands the lure of Democrats. “When people first come here,” she said, “they say, ‘I’m going to do this for you,’ so obviously that’s how people vote and a lot of them just stick to that.”

Marquez warmed to Republicans as her daughters began school. She appreciated how George W. Bush, as governor of Texas and as president, understood the Latino community’s desire for better schools.

One of her daughters went to the neighborhood school and it was “not the best,” Marquez said. Another daughter had the freedom to choose, went to a magnet school and did much better, she said.

“I fight for what I believe in, and Republicans are more about school choice,” Marquez said.

Republican officials see progress. From 2009 to 2013, “we didn’t show up,” said Jennifer Sevilla Korn, deputy political director of the Republican National Committee. “The big thing we changed is to be on the ground in these communities all the time.”

Democrats scoff. “For decades now, we’ve heard this argument that Hispanic voters will trend towards the GOP. In reality, they’re trending the opposite way because they’re so turned off by the Republican Party’s rhetoric and lack of action” on a variety of issues, said Eric Walker, Democratic National Committee spokesman.

One big 2015 Republican talking point was the diversity of its presidential candidates. While Democrats offer two white men and a woman married to a former president, Republicans have two Latinos, an African-American and a woman.

Republican prospects might improve depending on the nominee. Jeb Bush is a favorite. If Bush is not the nominee, “I don’t think we’ll do as well” among Latinos, said campaign manager Danny Diaz.

Cruz gets little sympathy. Among his most prominent supporters is Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. In 2013, King referred to many Mexican immigrants as people who “weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

Rubio stirs interest, but is not well-known. He gets praise for his 2013 support for bipartisan legislation that created a path to citizenship for immigrants who are in the country illegally. He later backed away from that proposal, saying he wanted assurances that border security would come first.

To many familiar with him, Rubio shines. “Him being the face of the presidency … there’s a level of pride, knowing it can contribute with a vote,” said Mike Soto, a graduate student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

None of that may matter unless Republicans overcome the immigration hurdle and convince people such as Carlos Antiles, a bartender, that they’re on his side.

Antiles voted for Obama twice. His wife is of Mexican ancestry; he’s Cuban. Though Obama did halt deportations of the children of immigrants here illegally who met certain criteria, he never really delivered on his promise to overhaul the immigration system.

Antiles wants to vote Republican, and he likes Rubio. But Trump? “I don’t like this guy,” he said.

(c)2015 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort and Spa in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, December 30, 2015. REUTERS/Randall Hill

Protest At School Rekindles Debate Over Free Speech, Cultural Pride

By Joe Rodriguez, San Jose Mercury News

MORGAN HILL, Calif. — Standing silently at attention Monday morning — Cinco de Mayo — almost 50 self-described “Patriots” held tall U.S flags in front of a high school still at the center of a public debate over free speech and cultural pride.

“We’re just here to support the First Amendment’s right to free speech,” said Georgine Scott-Codiga, president of the Gilroy Morgan Hill Patriots group. She spoke after the protest in front of Live Oak High School. “Cinco de Mayo is a circumstance of the issue. The issue is free speech.”

Feeling the opposite, a group of Latino school parents and community leaders planned their own gathering Monday night. Their argument has been that the show of U.S. flags implies Mexican-Americans and other
Latinos cannot be patriotic and proud of their heritage at the same time. In the emotional run-up to Monday, the Latino group decided against a counter demonstration in front of the school that might have led to trouble between the two groups.

Apparently not taking any chances, school officials put up a long tarped fence in front of the main entrance at Live Oak. Nearly all students arrived by car after passing checkpoints manned by school guards. Morgan Hill police officers were stationed outside and inside the school.

The demonstration stemmed from a 2010 Cinco de Mayo celebration on campus when four boys showed up wearing U.S. flag T-shirts, proclaiming it was a show of American pride. Some Latino students took it as a cultural slap and tempers flared. School officials ordered the boys to turn the shirts inside out or go home.

That order sparked a national debate over free speech and ethnic pride. A federal court ruled in February, almost four years later, that campus safety outweighed the student’s First Amendment’s claims.

Kendall and Joy Jones, the parents of one of the boys, have filed an appeal of the decision by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court. They argue that the school was wrong to read the flag T-shirts as an incitement to violence and that the wrong students were punished.

“You deal with the perpetrators of violence, not the objects of violence,” Kendall Jones said. “That’s why this is upside down” He and his wife held up a cross made of 4-by-4-inch construction lumber and attached U.S. and Mexico flags over it.

“We’re Christians. God loves all people,” Kendall Jones said. “We’re here today; we’re not against any race.”

Joy Jones said their son, Daniel Galli, is now 20 and enrolled at the University of Nevada at Reno, where he is studying for a career in military law.

Scott-Codiga and others in her group bristled at the question of race. She said she is half Mexican.

“What am I supposed to do, hate my own people?” She said. “I feel like we stood up for our rights. We did not allow the fear-mongers to dictate to us.”

Mihai Bulea, a Romanian immigrant and member of the group, said school officials and the 9th Circuit overreached in the flag T-shirt decision.

“That’s very different than yelling fire in a theater,” he said. “There should never be a day in America when a citizen is told he cannot wear a shirt with the American flag.”

Photo: Donkey Hotey via Flickr