Election throwback: Corridos, madrinas and how to woo the Latino vote

A day away from the presidential election, early voting returns show an increase in Latino voter turnout in key states across the country, including Texas.

In Texas alone, Latino turnout in 20 of the state’s largest counties had already exceeded Latino early voting turnout in 2012 by 26 percent, and voters with Spanish surnames made up 18.8 percent of the 3.8 million ballots cast through Wednesday in those 20 counties – a 20.1-percent increase over their share of the electorate in 2012.

Latino turnout is also poised to make a significant impact in key states like ArizonaFlorida and Nevada, where the early voting period was extended until 10 p.m. Friday at a grocery store in a heavily Latino area of Las Vegas to allow all people in line to cast their vote.

And although the scope and impact of the increase in Latino turnout for this presidential election will not be fully known until after Tuesday, the noted rise cannot be denied.

“We’re seeing more Hispanics register to vote and, like the numbers say, we’re seeing more Hispanics show up,” Derek Ryan, a political consultant and former research director of the Republican Party of Texas, told the American-Statesman last week.

This presidential election, perhaps because of Donald Trump’s statements about Mexican immigrants and building a border wall, has seen an increase in outreach to Latino voters. Notably, the history of Latino voter outreach in national elections goes as far back as 1960 with the campaign of John F. Kennedy airing Spanish language ads featuring Jackie Kennedy urging Latinos to vote for her husband.

Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, also benefited from Latino support. Historical photos often show voters at campaign stops with “Viva Johnson” posters.

But as the recent PBS documentary “Willie Velasquez: Your Vote is Your Voice” shows, it was a Republican, John Tower, who first used the power of the mass media to woo Latino voters on a large scale during his 1978 re-election bid for the U.S. Senate.

With the help of advertising executive Lionel Sosa (a longtime Republican, who has said he will vote for Hillary Clinton this year), Tower put together a media campaign based around “El Corrido de John Tower,” a song written as a traditional Mexican ballad that espoused Tower’s record of helping the Latino community. Notably, the song only notes one Latino issue, bilingual education, that Tower had worked on.

That did not matter. Tower won 32 percent of the Latino vote, a traditionally Democratic stronghold, which helped him edge out Democrat Bob Krueger by less than a percentage point.

In another show that Republicans can turn out Latino voters, George W. Bush won 40 percent and 44 percent of the Latino vote nationally in his respective presidential races in 2000 and 2004.

More recently, Gov. Greg Abbott aired a television ad during his 2014 election campaign that featured his mother-in-law, who is Latina, espousing his Catholic faith and values. In the ad, she says she is not only Abbott’s mother-in-law but also his madrina, a Spanish word that means godmother but is also loaded with affectionate connotation for Latinos.

During this presidential elections, both campaigns had pretty dismal attempts at wooing Latinos.

Trump, who started his campaign by calling Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists, further alienated himself through botched attempts to reach out to Latinos. On Cinco de Mayo, (which, for the record, is not Mexican Independence Day) Trump posted a picture on Twitter of himself eating a Taco Bowl at Trump Tower with a message that read “I love Hispanics” and later pivoted to a “What Have You Got to Lose?” appeal to Latinos and other voters of color.

For her part, Hillary Clinton, was criticized when her campaign posted an article titled “7 things Hillary Clinton has in common with your abuela” that was seen as a failed effort to connect with Latinos that perpetuated stereotypes. The article listed similarities such as “she cares about children” and unnecessarily interspersed Spanish words into its text, in what was largely criticized as a move to “Hispander,” or pander, to Hispanics. She was also criticized for her campaign’s attempt to brand her as “La Hillary.”

Those criticisms may not be enough to affect her popularity with Latino voters, who have traditionally viewed Clinton and her husband, Bill, favorably.

On Tuesday, we’ll have a clear answer to who wooed the Latino vote better. But we can always be proud that the first politician to really channel his efforts into a concerted Latino outreach campaign was a Texan.

 

Poll: Latinos oppose Trump, back Clinton, lean Democrat

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop at the Flynn Center of the Performing Arts in Burlington, Vt., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
A poll released Wednesday indicates that nearly 80 percent of Latinos in battleground states have an unfavorable view of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Latinos in battleground states oppose Donald Trump’s proposals and lean toward ideas espoused by the Democratic party, according to a poll released Wednesday.

The poll conducted by Latino Decisions on behalf of the Latino Victory Project surveyed 800 registered Latino voters in battleground states during last week’s convention has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points. The poll was conducted in English and Spanish based on the respondent’s choice and used a mix of online surveys and landline and cell phone interviews. Respondents to the poll came from Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin

The Latino Victory Project is a non-partisan group co-founded by Eva Longoria that works to ensure that the voices of Latinos are heard at all levels of government. It has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president.

Seventy-one percent of Latinos in battleground states said they would likely vote for Clinton if the election was today, compared to 24 percent who said the same about Trump. Sixty-four percent said the Democratic Party was more aligned with their views, compared to 26 percent who said the Republican Party was more reflective of them on issues.

The poll found that 75 percent of Latinos have an overall favorable view of President Barack Obama. Sixty-two percent have an overall favorable view of Hillary Clinton, while only 20 percent have an overall favorable view of Trump. The Republican vice presidential candidate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, did only slightly better with 24 percent of respondents saying they had an overall favorable view of him.

And the poll indicated that Trump would have an overall negative effect on other Republicans. Overall, 62 percent of respondents said they are less likely to vote for a Republican who says they disagree with Trump on many things but will still support him in the presidential election. Even if Republican candidates said they would not support Trump, only 33 percent of respondents said that would make them overall more likely to vote for that candidate.

Seventy-five percent of Latinos in battleground states said Trump had encouraged audiences to be angry and hostile toward Latinos, Muslims and immigrants. Similarly, 73 percent said Trump’s campaign events had been violent and dangerous, and 71 percent said Trump had contributed to making the country angrier and more divided on racial issues.

On policy proposals, respondents also rejected Trump and tended toward ideas pushed by the Democratic party.

Ninety-five percent of those surveyed said people should be required to pass a background check to buy a gun and 67 percent supported a ban on assault weapon sales. Eighty percent of Latinos said they supported addressing climate change by making clean energy technology and jobs.

Eighty-two percent said they supported a comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship. Thirteen percent of respondents said all undocumented immigrants living in the country should be deported.

Sixty-eight percent supported raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and 86 percent supported giving parents paid leave. Ninety-four percent said that overall they supported strengthening laws to ensure women get paid the same as men for equal work.

In contrast to a perception of Latinos as more conservative leaning on social issues, the poll showed that 68 percent believe that laws should not interfere with women’s reproductive health care, including access to contraception and abortion.

Twenty-six percent of respondents supported Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the country, but 57 percent said that a religious test that singles out a single group is against American values.

Thirty-five percent of Latinos said the Affordable Health Care Act should be repealed, as Trump has promised to move to do on his first day in office. But 59 percent said it is working well and should remain in place.

In this year’s election, 36 percent of Latinos in battleground states are more motivated to vote than they were in 2012 and 35 percent of those respondents attribute that to wanting to stop Trump and fight back against racism.

Click here for the full results of the survey

 

140 Central Texas students receive MexAustin scholarships

The Consulate General of Mexico in Austin and Foundation Communities awarded the first annual MexAustin scholarships to 140 Central Texas students Wednesday night.

During a ceremony at the Austin school district’s Performing Arts Center, the students were awarded the $1,000 scholarships, which are open to students who are Mexican, of Mexican descent or of another Latino group. The funds for the scholarships will be awarded to the recipients upon proof of admission to an institution of higher education.

Mayte Lara, an Austin high school valedictorian who was harassed online after tweeting that she was undocumented, spoke during the award ceremony. About 30 percent of the scholarship’s recipients were undocumented.

“My best advice is keep going. If you constantly listen to the things people say about you, you’re going to be held back,” Lara said to the crowd of scholars and their families. “What they say shouldn’t matter. You should always continue to fight for our rights and advocate for everything you believe in and encourage others to do the same.”

RELATED: AN OPEN LETTER TO TEXAS VALEDICTORIAN ATTACKED ON SOCIAL MEDIA FOR BEING UNDOCUMENTED 

“I just hope all of you take this scholarship and continue your education and make the world a better place,” Lara said.

Carlos González Gutiérrez, consul general of Mexico in Austin, said the award was an affirmation of the hard work the students put in throughout their high school years and a show of support that their community believes in them.

“They will succeed, I know, because as a community we have their backs,” he said.

Column: Supreme Court decision turns immigrant’s heartbreak, desire into fire for next election

Montserrat Garibay speaks at a vigil at the Governor's Mansion Thursday June 23, 2016, in response to the Supreme Court decision about President Obama’s immigration executive order. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Montserrat Garibay speaks at a vigil at the Governor’s Mansion Thursday June 23, 2016, in response to the Supreme Court decision about President Obama’s immigration executive order. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

I’ve covered President Barack Obama’s executive orders on immigration for nearly two years.

Since the first day he announced his plan to shield up to 5 million people from deportation through the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans program and the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program in November 2014, the issue has been a hot topic that always makes tensions and emotions run high.

I’ve gone to news conference after news conference in which one side denounces the other and touts the righteousness of their own opinion. A day after Obama’s announcement of his orders in 2014, I covered a rally in front of the Texas Capitol, where, far from being happy about the orders, immigrants and their allies urged the Obama administration to do more to protect unauthorized immigrants in the country. One young lady, who was a beneficiary of the original DACA program in 2012, told me she was happy for her mother who qualified for the program aimed at parents of American citizens but disappointed that it did nothing for the parents of her colleagues who did not have siblings born in the United States.

Soon after Judge Andrew Hanen of the federal district court in Brownsville placed an injunction on the programs the day before they were set to go live last February, I covered a news conference in which immigrants rights advocates were stubbornly optimistic saying the injunction would not stand and urged their community to have their documents prepared for the moment when the block on the programs was lifted.

When the Supreme Court agreed to take up the case in January, I remember the hope in the voices of immigrants rights advocates. Finally, they believed, they would get a fair shot at a hearing, away from what they considered conservative-leaning courts that had openly criticized the Obama administration in the past and held anti-immigrant views.

Even after Justice Antonin Scalia died in February, immigrant rights advocates somehow found a way to stay optimistic about the outcome of the case in the face of what seemed very likely to be a 4-4 split that would block the implementation of the program for the remainder of Obama’s term and likely leave the fate of the programs in the hands of the next president.

We’ve got nothing to lose, they said. We have to remain optimistic.

But that optimism was hard to spot during a vigil in front of the Governor’s Mansion in downtown Austin Thursday night.

Sure, there were the usual rallying cries of “We must continue to fight,” and the call for the crowd to stick together. But mostly a deep-set anger and heartbreak took the place of that optimism.

As the meaning of the decision set in on the group, the old lines about how the programs would help them out of the shadows and allow them lead a normal life in the country that they loved were replaced by resigned comments about how the Supreme Court had “failed them” and scathing criticisms of Gov. Greg Abbott, who filed the suits challenging the programs as Texas’ attorney general.

“It is a shame and a disgrace that the Supreme Court couldn’t come up with a ruling,” said Montserrat Garibay, vice president of Education Austin, as she fought back tears addressing the crowd of about 100. “This Supreme Court decision has ignited a fire in our hearts to keep organizing.”

She wasn’t the only speaker to break down in tears on the night.

But the vigil wasn’t just a moment to air grievances and mope. It seemed to be a cathartic moment for a community that had placed all its hope on one policy from a man in a white house more than a thousand miles away. A policy that was challenged by another man who resides in the mansion in front of which they stood and was ultimately in the hands of short-handed group of eight people in black robes in a court that they had no connection to whatsoever.

In other words, they had placed all their hope on something that was never within their control. And the saddest part is that it could not have been any other way, precisely because of the immigration status that they are fighting to remedy through the very program they had pinned their hopes on. It was a twisted kind of Catch-22 and the full reality of it seemed to fall on them Thursday night in the suffocating heat of Central Texas.

And yet, they would not give up. In the midst of the heartbreak and anger, they resolved more than ever to double their efforts to get out the vote, to canvas their communities to get their allies to vote for people who supported, not only the deferred action programs at stake in the court decision but an overall comprehensive immigration reform. Standing in front of the Governor’s Mansion, Garibay vowed to do everything she could to vote out Abbott in the next election and to stand against any politician that would obstruct benefits toward the immigrant community.

“We remember in November,” she said.

Of course, we’ve heard these things before. Political scientists have long prognosticated that the wave of growth in the Hispanic population in the state would some day turn Texas blue, if not at least purple. That has not come to pass. And in election years, it’s easy for people to get fired up and promise things way beyond their control.

But, I’ve been following these protests for almost two years. They’re always pretty similar, give or take an update on the case or what the issue of the month is when the news conference takes place. This protest Thursday was the first time the desperation, heartbreak and anger in the air was palpable and visible to the naked eye. Speakers had fire in their voices and broke out in tears in the middle of their speeches. Parents hugged their small children, and adults in the crowd hugged each other. Even the usually uplifting music the activists like to play to lighten the mood sounded unusually melancholy.

Will the Supreme Court decision on this case change anything in the long run? Time will tell. But I’ll tell you this: Thursday’s vigil certainly felt different.

Texas reactions to Supreme Court ruling on immigration case

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announces that Texas is leading a 25-state coalition filing suit against President Obama’s immigration executive action, charging that the president is abdicating his responsibility to faithfully enforce laws enacted by Congress during a news conference in Austin, Tx., on Wednesday, December 03, 2014.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announces that Texas is leading a 25-state coalition filing suit against President Obama’s immigration executive action, charging that the president is abdicating his responsibility to faithfully enforce laws enacted by Congress during a news conference in Austin, Tx., on Wednesday, December 03, 2014.

The U.S. Supreme Court split evenly on a case that had challenged President Barack Obama’s immigration plan that would have shielded up to 5 million immigrants in the country illegally from deportation. The deadlock means the lower court’s ruling, blocking the program’s implementation, stands until the case can be resolved in a district court in Brownsville.

Texas legislators and activists have weighed in on the decision. Here is a collection of reactions that we’ve compiled.

Gov. Greg Abbott

“The action taken by the President was an unauthorized abuse of presidential power that trampled the Constitution, and the Supreme Court rightly denied the President the ability to grant amnesty contrary to immigration laws. As the President himself said, he is not a king who can unilaterally change and write immigration laws. Today’s ruling is also a victory for all law-abiding Americans—including the millions of immigrants who came to America following the rule of law.”

Jose P. Garza, executive director of Workers Defense Project

“The Supreme Court has failed to provide a solution for people living in the shadows. The Court’s decision means that as many as five million immigrants in the U.S. remain in constant fear of being separated from their families at any time, and possibly deported. Workers Defense and our families will continue to fight for comprehensive immigration reform despite this decision.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick

“Today’s action by the U.S. Supreme Court effectively blocking President Obama’s illegal amnesty program is a major victory for Texas and the bipartisan 26-state coalition. The Court’s 4-4 vote leaves in place the Fifth Circuit’s ruling that protects the separation of powers. The president has no authority to circumvent Congress and disregard the U.S. Constitution by allowing millions of illegal immigrants to continue to stay in the U.S.”

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D- Austin)

“This deadlocked decision is bitter fruit from the same tree that has resulted in gridlock on gun safety legislation. It represents a serious step back to many of our neighbors who have so much more to offer. To achieve comprehensive immigration reform, we must have a new Congress, a better Congress.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

“Today’s decision keeps in place what we have maintained from the very start: one person, even a president, cannot unilaterally change the law. This is a major setback to President Obama’s attempts to expand executive power, and a victory for those who believe in the separation of powers and the rule of law.”

Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of Texas Democratic Party

“For our kids, this is about whether mom or dad will be here tomorrow. This is a human tragedy, and 4 million people’s lives hang in the balance. Congress refuses to act on immigration, the Supreme Court is tied, and Senate Republicans refuse to do their job and give Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland a vote or even a hearing.

“Tragically, this decision endangers the lives of so many. It’s time for Republicans to stop trying to score political points by tearing families apart. It’s time for Republicans to join a broad coalition of Democrats, the business community, faith leaders, and families working towards comprehensive immigration solutions.

“We all need to get to work, because America’s families depend on it. We cannot allow Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to set the tone on immigration and score cheap political points on the lives of our families. Today, Texas Democrats renew their commitment to keep fighting for a just and fair comprehensive immigration system.”

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)

“By going around Congress to grant legal status to millions of people here illegally, the President abused the power of his office and ignored the will of the American people. The President can’t circumvent the legislative process simply because he doesn’t get what he wants, and I’m glad the Rule of Law was affirmed.”

Sheridan Aguirre, communications coordinator for United We Dream and leader at University Leadership Initiative in Austin, TX

“For those with DACA, we can’t fall prey to fear. DACA works! We need to come out of the shadows as undocumented. We need to apply and renew, to prove DACA works and protect future relief measures! Power lies in our community. No matter the political games conservatives have played with our lives, we’re in control and we determine our future.”

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Austin)

“Today’s ruling from the Supreme Court is a victory for the constitution and our sovereignty as a nation. The 4-4 vote affirms the 5th Circuit of Appeals decision that President Obama’s executive amnesty is unconstitutional and cannot go forward. President Obama has continually attempted to go around Congress and bypass the checks and balances our government is based on in order to impose his will. This decision is a major step in reeling in the power of the executive branch. It also gives Congress an opportunity to achieve one of my top priorities as Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security – securing our border first.”

Bill Beardall, executive director of the Equal Justice Center

“We are disappointed that the Court reached a tie vote and thus failed to rule on the expanded immigration program, DAPA. However, the President’s original DACA program is still in full effect. The Equal Justice Center has already helped thousands of undocumented young students and graduates across Texas gain immigration protection under that original DACA program and we will now double down on our free legal help implementing that original program.”

U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX)

“The Supreme Court’s decision today in their ruling on the United States v. Texas rightfully upheld the Constitution. The president’s executive amnesty for illegal immigrants is unconstitutional. Congress has the sole authority under the Constitution to write immigration laws, not Barack Obama. His unlawful amnesty agenda to prevent the deportation of illegal immigrants and to grant them work authorization is contrary to the law and hurts unemployed Americans.”

Edgar Saldivar, senior staff attorney American Civil Liberties Union of Texas 

“With today’s 4-4 deadlock, the Supreme Court issues no judgment, leaving tens of thousands of undocumented Americans in a precarious — but temporary — legal limbo to be now determined in the District Court. While the 2012 DACA policy remains unaffected by today’s inaction, immigrants will keep battling for just immigration policies and we will continue to defend their civil rights and civil liberties.”

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)

“Today’s Supreme Court decision is a victory for the rule of law. As the Washington Post rightly noted, ‘the action deals Obama perhaps the biggest legal loss of his presidency.’ By trying to unilaterally grant amnesty to nearly five million people, President Obama invited even more illegal immigration, which in turn undermines our security and drives down the wages of Americans across our nation. No President has the authority to rewrite the law or ignore our immigration laws, and the Court’s rejection of Obama’s executive amnesty is a powerful rebuke of this administration’s lawlessness. I salute Texas for leading 26 states in securing this important victory for our Constitution and for our sovereignty.”

Priscilla Martinez, Battleground Texas field director

“The United States is a nation of immigrants — families who have come to this country in search of a better life for themselves and their children. While we are saddened and disappointed by today’s decision by the Supreme Court, we won’t be discouraged. We will keep fighting to elect leaders who represent the true values and diversity of Texas and who will support hardworking families instead of target them.”

Dear Mayte: An open letter to Texas valedictorian attacked on social media for being undocumented

Dear Mayte,

 

The world can be a cold and brutal place sometimes.

You, at your young 17 years of age, learned that this week after one of your tweets, no doubt intended for your high school friends and those in your close circles, caught the attention of our nation.

“Valedictorian, 4.5GPA, full tuition paid for at UT, 13 cords/medals, nice legs, oh and I’m undocumented,” you wrote.

Crockett High School valedictorian Mayte Lara revealed her 'undocumented' immigration status on the day of her graduation, and saw a huge backlash on Twitter.
Crockett High School valedictorian Mayte Lara revealed her ‘undocumented’ immigration status on the day of her graduation, and saw a huge backlash on Twitter.

<<< Read More: Who is Mayte Lara? Q&A with the American-Statesman >>>

Good on you. I’m so proud of you, as undoubtedly many people are, especially your parents and loved ones.

But instead of positive reinforcement and praise for all you have accomplished and the obstacles you’ve overcome, you got hate and vitriol.

On Twitter, the mob found your self-congratulatory tweet and took issue.

Go back to your country, they said, and called you a criminal and a thief (do those words sound familiar to anyone?).

They didn’t stop there. They said you were immoral, unethical, untrustworthy and were #RapingTheUSA.

No matter what side of the immigration issue you are on, the truth is that the insults hurled your way are unacceptable, un-American and, sometimes, hateful.

I wish I could tell you it was going to get better, Mayte, but I can’t.

These attacks are only the first in what will surely be a life full of success. With that success will come challenges and these constant attacks on your character from people who don’t know you but will judge you for your immigration status, the color of your skin, your nationality and, indeed, for being a woman.

You see, Mayte, adults aren’t all they are cracked up to be. They tell you as a kid that when you grow up you’re supposed to become thoughtful, considerate and caring toward others. But the reality is that some of us forget that. We get so caught up in our own lives, in our own world views, that we too often forget to see things from a fundamentally human perspective.

Social media, with its reliance on the cold screens of our laptops and smartphones and its humanity-stripping characteristics, makes us forget that there is a person on the other side of our messages and only fuels the inhumane treatment of others.

And so, we end up here. Where a young 17-year-old girl – a kid, for all intents and purposes – who should be commended for the obstacles she’s overcome, is being persecuted for living out the American dream.

“I didn’t want all this to happen,” you told my colleague Melissa B. Taboada this week. “My tweet wasn’t made to mock anyone. I just wanted to show that no matter what barriers you have in front of you, you can still succeed.”

That’s a great message, Mayte, and one worthy of praise. So, how could you have foreseen the firestorm it would set off?

The truth is that you couldn’t have and that you shouldn’t have to.

Your crime in that tweet, Mayte, was success. You were bragging, critics have said, and rubbing it in the faces of hard-working, law-abiding Americans who have suffered as a result of a wave of immigration. You broke the law by entering the country illegally, they’ll add.

Though I do not know you, I’ll guess that you did not have a say when your parents decided to bring you to the U.S. in search of a better future.

At any rate, Mayte, no one should have to suffer the things you suffered over the last few days.

People have threatened to report you to immigration and customs enforcement. One Tweeter said she hired a private investigator to track you down, and now you fear your family will be attacked.

And for what? For being successful? For wanting to inspire others?

The world can be cold and brutal, Mayte, but never give up.

Our country is still mourning the death of a person who was also called cocky and brazen as a young man and was despised and loved for his braggadocio. His chosen name was Muhammad Ali and he changed the world of sports and civil rights forever.

The morning after winning his first heavyweight title, a fight in which he was a 7-to-1 underdog against a menacing champion in Sonny Liston, he told the world: “I don’t have to be who you want me to be; I’m free to be who I want.”

He was 22 – only a few years older than you are now.

I leave you with his words, Mayte, and with the hope that you will continue doing what you’re doing – striving for greatness and letting the world see your light. In a time when our world is particularly brutal and cold, we need it now more than ever.

Review: ‘Indivisible’ shows the human consequences of deportation

'Indivisible' follows the story of three DREAMers trying to reunite with their families in their home countries.
‘Indivisible’ follows the story of three DREAMers trying to reunite with their families in their home countries.

After so many years of deadlock on the immigration debate, you think you’ve seen it all.

We know who the DREAMers are: children who were brought to this country as kids with no choice in the matter. We know their stories. They grew up here, they’ve lived here all their lives, some of them only speak English. For all intents and purposes, we’ve heard for years, they’re Americans, they just don’t have the documentation to prove it. And chances are that, by now, you’ve already made up your mind on whether their stories are going to sway you one way or the other on immigration reform.

As you sit through the first 20 minutes of ‘Indivisible,’ the question comes to mind: Why do we need another documentary on this subject? Halfway through the movie, when you watch two of the film’s protagonists, Renata and Evelyn, reunite with their mothers on the U.S.-Mexico border, the answer becomes clear.

The families hug through small openings in the border fence: the sons and daughters on the U.S. side of the border, the parents, two of whom have traveled all the way from Brazil and Colombia respectively, on the Mexico side; families very literally separated by iron rods in a fence. They laugh, they cry, they try their best to hug, but as one of the mothers says, she thought she would be able to give her a real hug.

The visuals of that meeting are heartbreaking and put a human face on the consequences of deportation at a time when the issue of immigration in our country could not be more divisive. As one of the DREAMers in the film says: “This is what immigration reform looks like. For families to be able to reunite and not have to hug through a fence.”

The story really takes off after that. The movie chronicles the struggles of three young DREAMers  – Antonio, Renata and Evelyn – attempting to reunite, if only briefly, with their families by visiting their home country. To do that, they have to receive permission from the federal government, however. And on top of trying to wade through the bureaucratic immigration system to gain permission to travel home, these DREAMers are organizing to fight for immigration reform.

They meet with high level congressmen including Chuck Schumer and Marco Rubio and meet defeat after defeat with boundless optimism. But, as we all know, their attempts are unsuccessful.

They are left with only temporary reliefs as a means to see their families again. When Antonio, a 19-year-old who left Mexico at the age of 10 for New York City, returns to his rural home in the Mexican countryside, he is squarely out of place.

Director Hilary Linder captures this sentiment in a shot where Antonio watches his relatives butchering a cow in preparation for a meal. A voice off camera asks if he ever helped with similar preparations as a boy. Yes, he says, but now it’s different. He checks his cell phone as his relatives continue cutting into the meat and Antonio takes his place washing dishes in order to be of help.

In a following scene, Linder capitalizes on the sentiment. Antonio is out in a field with a machete, hacking away at some brush. Antonio tells the camera how hard this work is and that he does not know how to do it. He’s a “city boy” with an education, he says, and he hopes people take that into account when thinking about the immigration debate.

The movie also follows Evelyn, a Colombian immigrant living in Orlando who is the only one of three sisters who is not a U.S. citizen. Evelyn’s sister, Pamela, talks about having to choose between holding her wedding in Colombia where her mother had been deported to and not having Evelyn there, or having the wedding in the United States and leaving out her mother. A perfect illustration of the problems immigrant families have that the rest of us don’t have to think about.

When she finally returns to Colombia after 23 years, Evelyn is greeted by a sign at the airport that says: “Welcome to your roots, your land and your family.” She and her mother lock into a hug that seems to last for a minute to the audience, but is well worth it for the two women on screen, for whom the wait to see each other again in person must have seemed eternal. And that understanding that sinks in after watching the film is well worth the trouble of telling this story again.

In the end, the first 20 or so minutes that Linder uses to set up the story are a bit slow and tell a story that the average American is all too familiar with. But if you can sit patiently through that, the rest of the 78-minute film, which details these young people’s efforts to reunite with their families, is well worth the wait.

New campaign aims to turn Trump’s message on its head

From the beginning of his campaign, Donald Trump made headlines instantly after negative comments about Mexican immigrants. He said Mexicans crossing the border brought drugs, brought crime, were rapists, and some, he assumed, were good people.

In the 10 months since, Trump has doubled down on negative comments about Latinos and also made negative comments about other groups of people, including Muslims and women. And despite vocal opposition from Democrats, Republicans, pundits and civics rights groups, Trump has continued making negative (and often egregious and erroneous) statements about minority groups, seemingly without hurting his standing as the front-runner for the presidential nomination.

Now, an immigrant rights group from Los Angeles has started a new campaign to turn Trump’s message on its head. Through the Turn Ignorance Around campaign, the Coalition for Humane Rights of Immigrants of Los Angeles uses the insinuations Trump made in his campaign announcement speech – that immigrants were criminals – and uses it to make its own point about the contributions the group thinks immigrants, and Latinos in general, make to the United States.

The campaign’s video starts with various Latinos looking into the camera and saying: “I’m a dealer,” “I’m a killer,” “I’m a murderer,” “I’m an attacker,” and then turns the concept around when one man says “I’m a trafficker” then turns around to reveal a shirt that says “A trafficker of stories. I’m a director and I’m Latino.”

The “murderer” says he’s a murderer of boredom: “I’m a comedian.”

One of the “dealers” says she’s a “dealer of care”: a nanny.

The “attacker” says he’s an “attacker of ignorance”: a student.

One by one, each person who introduced themselves as some sort of criminal turns around and reveals the back of their shirt which has their profession (actress, firefighter, attorney, etc.) followed by the words “And I’m Latino.”

“It’s time to turn ignorance around,” they say and the video goes off into a montage of Latino faces. The video ends with the social media campaigns two hashtags #TurnIgnoranceAround and #DumpTrump. The video has been watched more than 885,000 times.

A campaign by the Coalition for Humane Rights of Immigrants of Los Angeles launched a new campaign that flip Donald Trump's comments on immigrants and Latinos on its head.
A campaign by the Coalition for Humane Rights of Immigrants of Los Angeles launched a new campaign that flip Donald Trump’s comments on immigrants and Latinos on its head.