“I am officially running for President of the United States, and we are going to make our country great again.”
Ugh! On June 17, 2015, Donald Trump spoke those words in launching his presidential campaign and thus launching my family into a massive, collective “oh great” eye roll. Because even though some saw his announcement and subsequent campaign as a joke, there has been nothing funny about his marginalizing, repulsive rhetoric toward Latinos like me and my family.
To Donald Trump and his followers, I am not much more than an immigrant, born and raised in Mexico City. This apparently also makes me a criminal and/or rapist who only comes to the United States in order to import crime and drugs.
The problem with his broad brush bigotry is I am actually an American citizen. One who happens to be a successful professional living in Beverly Hills with my Mexican-American husband and our two sons, all U.S.-born. We have worked hard to provide the opportunity for our boys to attend top schools because we value education and continually encourage them to pursue academics with a passion. We also volunteer in multiple organizations, donate a decent amount of our annual income to causes we are passionate about, and we are all very politically active and informed.
But the story of me and my family doesn’t fit The Donald’s narrow-minded narrative. And after a year of hearing him fuel the bigoted fires to the point where a surprising number of Americans agree with his premise, I am sure you can appreciate our disappointment and concern over this contrived, negative perception. Few would disagree that it is hard not to be bothered when others pre-judge you based off of unsubstantiated opinions. It is even more difficult when you wonder if that perception is irreversible and the potential consequences for Latinos moving forward.
For example, The Guardian’s, Rory Carroll points out that Trump’s bullying tactics have spilled over into our schools with students in California taunting Latino children with “You were born in Taco Bell!” and “You’ll get deported!” Or at sporting events at Indiana High Schools, where an opposing team of predominantly American Latino athletes had to endure a cheer of, “Donald Trump will build the wall….” In fact, Southern Poverty Leadership Center reports the rise of fear and anxiety among children of color is alarming and that inflaming racial and ethnic tensions in the classroom is having ‘a profoundly negative effect on all children.”
But it doesn’t have to be this way. That’s why I, as the Executive Director of the Latino Donor Collaborative, along with our board members, have decided it is time to speak up and take action. We are producing a national campaign to counter the misinformation and present a more realistic perception of American Latinos. If one substitutes the fear-based comments to actual reputable and quality data, they find that Latinos actually believe the U.S. is the best country in the world (Pew Research Center). They would find that Latinos are actually powering America’s New Mainstream Economy, creating businesses and jobs, driving housing and retail sales while replenishing America’s workforce with a new generation of young, well-educated and productive workers.
What Trump and his supporters fail to understand and accept is that Latinos constitute a consumer market of $1.5 trillion, with a purchasing power that has been growing 70 percent faster than any other group in America since the late 1980s. (University of Georgia). Latinos comprised 33 percent of Nissan’s and 100 percent of Honda’s combined U.S. retail auto sales growth in 2014. (IHS Automotive’s Polk Market data unit). Even more, Latinos are driving net new-business formation in the United States. According to a study by Stanford University’s Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative, from 2007-12, American Latino-owned net new-business formation skyrocketed 47 percent while non-Latino net new businesses declined by 2 percent. New businesses mean new jobs.
And, in response to Trump’s irresponsible, erroneous allegations about Mexicans being rapists and criminals, according to a 2011 U.S. Government Accountability Office Study “Criminal Alien Statistics: Information on Incarcerations, Arrests and Costs,” found that of the three million arrests of immigrants, legal or not, only two percent were for sex offenses. The truth is that white, non-Latino American citizens commit far more of these violent crimes than Latinos (legal or undocumented) will ever commit.
Like the saying goes, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but they are not entitled to their own facts. It is vital for Americans to pursue the facts and pursue the truth about Latinos’ positive, powerful impact on the American economy. It is vital for voters to demand candidates that know leadership to unite, rather than fear to control. And remember that Americans’ vote in November will have tremendous consequences for generations to come.