While Republican Presidential candidates like Donald Trump are doubling-down on ugly rhetoric, Latino and immigrant voters are busy planning to fight back at the ballot box.
We’re guessing Trump didn’t see that one coming. In fact, a slew of recent reports note that many of the Latino and immigrant voters naturalizing in time for the Presidential election in November are citing Trump as their primary factor in deciding to become first time voters.
Many of these immigrants are registering in states where growing Latino voters could influence the outcome of the Presidential election, like Colorado, Florida, and Nevada, and many of the Latino, immigrant, and labor groups sponsoring naturalization workshops are reporting full attendance — and much of it thanks to Trump.
In Miami on Saturday, the line for a workshop sponsored by the Florida Immigrant Coalition and Catholic Legal Services, among others, wound up the Marlin’s Stadium walkway for what seemed like miles.
Kids wearing their Sunday best stood next to grandmother’s rocking babies in their arms as cheery but anxious parents reviewed the contents of their paperwork. The line buzzed with Spanish accents from all over Latin America and was sprinkled with Haitian French.
Many waiting in line where there because they had a score to settle, and they were doing it with a smile on their face.
Antonio Fernandez Robinson, a Cuban exile, jumped at the chance to talk about his reasons for being at the citizenship drive.
“I’ve had my residency papers for 19 years but one of the main reasons I’m becoming a citizen now is because I want to vote against Donald Trump,” he said. “He offends me because he is insulting all Hispanics and what he is doing is wrong. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, you don’t have the right to denigrate people the way he has.”
Nancy Arreola, originally from Honduras, was standing in line with her young daughter. She’s had her residency for nine years but wanted to vote against Trump to make a larger point.
“I want to become a citizen vote against Trump so that Honduran brothers and sisters escaping persecution and crime can have a little peace of mind as they try and get educations and work and rebuild their lives,” she said. “They need our support.”
In Texas — the state that spearheaded the effort to block President Obama’s 2014 immigration actions sparing millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation — naturalization applications to the federal government have jumped nearly 14 percent. And, local groups have gone from hosting two to three citizenship classes a month, to 13 a month.
In San Antonio, a citizenship workshop in September drew approximately 400 people — up from the 150 to 200 that normally show up, said Liliana Mireles, a regional program manager of civic engagement for the NALEO Educational Fund.
In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Proyecto Inmigrante usually helps about 1,000 legal residents apply for naturalization each year. Less than three months into 2016, the group has already helped 900, said Interiano, the group’s director.
About half of the legal residents that come through their workshops have lived in the United States for at least 15 years, Interiano said.
Almost 8.8 million legal residents in the U.S. are eligible to naturalize with about 2.7 million of them hailing from Mexico, according to federal figures.
With 1.3 million legal residents living in Texas, the state ranks third among states with the most legal residents eligible for citizenship — a figure the U.S. Department of Homeland Security puts at 950,000.
The jump in naturalization applications is not limited to Texas, and efforts to help as many legal residents as possible include dozens of workshops scheduled across the country in the next few months. But beyond securing their legal status, many legal residents are also rushing to become citizens in time to vote in the 2016 election.
“The community in general is playing close attention,” Mireles said. “They do realize that it is an election year and that they would have a strong presence as a community being able to exercise their vote.”
In the New York Time’s “More Latinos Seek Citizenship to Vote Against Trump,” many Latinos interviewed were unequivocal about why they were registering to become citizens:
Donald J. Trump’s harsh campaign language against Mexican immigrants has helped him win a substantial delegate lead in the Republican primaries, but it is also mobilizing a different set of likely voters — six in the family of Hortensia Villegas alone.
A legal immigrant from Mexico, Ms. Villegas is a mother of two who has been living in the United States for nearly a decade but never felt compelled to become a citizen. But as Mr. Trump has surged toward the Republican nomination, Ms. Villegas — along with her sister, her parents and her husband’s parents — has joined a rush by many Latino immigrants to naturalize in time to vote in November.
“I want to vote so Donald Trump won’t win,” said Ms. Villegas, 32, one of several hundred legal residents, mostly Mexicans, who crowded one recent Saturday into a Denver union hall.
Volunteers helped them fill out applications for citizenship, which this year are taking about five months for federal officials to approve. “He doesn’t like us,” she said.
At the Denver workshop, many aspiring voters agreed on why they are naturalizing this year.
“Donald Trump never! Never!” said Minerva Guerrero Salazar, 40, who has been working for a uniform rental company since moving here from Mexico in 2002. “He has no conscience when he speaks of Latinos. And he is so rude. I don’t know what kind of education his mother gave him.”
Several women said they hoped to vote for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner.
At least one man liked a Republican. Dr. Oscar Argüello Rudín, 71, a Costa Rican who has been a resident since 1971 and recently retired as chief of surgery at a hospital in Colorado Springs, favored Gov. John Kasich of Ohio.
Mary Victorio, 22, a Mexican-born student at the University of Colorado Denver, said she would vote Democratic but was grateful in one way to Mr. Trump. “He gave us that extra push we needed to get ready to vote, to prove to people who see us negatively they are wrong,” she said.