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For Latinos, It’s Apathy, No Mas!

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Five days after Donald Trump's presidential victory, the cast of SNL parodied the electoral upset by toasting "the Latinos."  Ironically, of course, the Latinos neither delivered the all-important state of Florida for Secretary Clinton nor voted enthusiastically for the Democratic candidate, when compared to other elections.  Many stayed home on Election Day. Thirty percent voted for Mr. Trump.

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We're guilty, with others over the years, of supporting a fairly simple reductionist argument and referred to Latinos as a monolithic voting bloc. The fact is the Latin American presence in the United States is complex and extraordinarily varied in terms of race, culture, history, place of origin, educational attainment, and economic status.  

For example, Puerto Ricans (U.S. citizens since 1917) who moved to New York City in the 1960s aligned traditionally with big-city, Democratic Party agendas and priorities.  The grandchildren of those early migrants and more recent arrivals to the mainland (many of whom now live in and around the Orlando, Florida, area) are no longer tied to the old-line Democratic platform. Some, in fact, vote Republican based on social issues (opposition to Roe v. Wade, discomfort with same-sex marriage), and Puerto Ricans who favor statehood for the island support Republican candidates who agree with that agenda.

Many older Cuban-Americans in Florida came out to support Donald Trump, not because they liked him but because they traditionally vote Republican.  They also loath to support Democratic candidates — some still blame President Kennedy's failed Bay of Pigs invasion for the growth of Communism on the island. Thus, they have been hostile to President Obama's normalization of diplomatic relations with the island nation. They were unimpressed with Obama's March, 2016 Cuba visit, which featured a "bromance" with Raúl Castro; the two men sat together during a baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays' minor league team and the Cuban national team.   

Politics is one thing, governing another. We're fearful that President Trump will order immigration enforcement into communities shortly after he takes office; during his first nationally televised interview since the November 8th election, the president-elect stated his intention to deport or incarcerate 2 or 3 million people.  

This is worrisome, because immigrants are entitled to due process, and deportation proceedings must be conducted fairly through a federal immigration judge of whom there are fewer than 250 nationwide, all with jam-packed dockets.  

Moreover, President Obama has already deported more immigrants than all other U.S. presidents combined. It is not clear where Trump came up with the 2 to 3 million figure he cited or how he'll reach that deportation objective, given Obama's deportation track record.

Trump's "deportation force" sounds a little too 20th-century European for our sensibilities, but we're relieved to see that many police departments around the nation have re-stated their commitment to "sanctuary city status," i.e. local police officers will not act as federal deportation agents, because they want to preserve local public safety and harmony. 

One of the most heart-wrenching potential effects of Trump's election involves undocumented youth who have received protection under Obama's 2012 executive action known as DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This program has allowed good, hardworking young people who were brought to the USA as children by their parents to apply for "relief" from deportation proceedings.

About 750,000 young people, the so-called dreamers, have been granted protection under this program. With a stroke of Trump's pen, though, DACA could die. Eliminating this program would represent a catastrophic setback for kids who are American in every sense of the word, except for their immigration status. We really don't want to see the president-elect begin his administration by punishing hundreds of thousands of innocent kids.  

Those who didn't vote for Trump — around 2 million more Americans than voted for him — are deeply concerned about this tumultuous transition and worry that the nation is turning an uncharitable, cruel gaze toward our immigrant brothers and sisters.  

Election Day anger and apathy has delivered us a Trump presidency. We can't allow that same apathy to tear apart our communities should Trump try to enforce promises from a quixotic, cruel campaign that won at the polls but tossed the collective serenity of a nation into the sea.

Bryce Ashby is a Memphis-based attorney and board member at Latino Memphis; Michael J. LaRosa is an associate professor of history at Rhodes College.

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