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Maribel Hastings: “Puerto Ricans and Immigrants: They Are Us”

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KISSIMMEE, Florida – Maribel Hastings, America’s Voice en Español Director, published a new article in La Opinión, as a part of the election series Voz y Voto 2018, shining a light on the growing resentment towards President Trump from Puerto Ricans, not only because of the administration’s irresponsible reaction to Hurricane María, but also because of the inhumane policies they have been enforcing on immigrant communities.

The entire article  is available online here in Spanish and translated below:

On Sunday September 9th, Kissimmee Puerto Ricans went out dressed head to toe in the Puerto Rican flag to celebrate their roots and culture during the Puerto Rican Parade. But even then the midterm elections, less than two months away, loomed large.  

The federal government and the Trump administration’s insensitive treatment of Puerto Rico following hurricane “María”, and Trump’s anti-immigrant and prejudiced policies weigh heavy on the minds of Puerto Rican voters.

The Vélez family, including the matriarch, placed their beach chairs on one of the main streets in the center of Kissimmee watching as floats, queens, a King Momo, policemen and deputies, and, of course, politicians waving Puerto Rican flags — very much aware that they need this vote in the midterms on November 6th — passed by.

Bill Nelson,  Florida’s Democratic Senator, was one of those politicians, who was received warmly by the public. Nelson is in a tight race against Republican Governor Rick Scott to keep his seat in the Senate. Scott even tries to “speak” Spanish to appeal to voters.

Gloria Vélez moved to Orlando from New York 20 years ago and says that the response to hurricane “María” and Trump’s anti-immigrant policies are what’s motivating her to vote.

“I feel so sorry that the federal government does not consider Puerto Rico as part of the United States. Otherwise, they would have done more to help our people over there,” added Gloria.

“Throwing napkins and paper towels to those affected by the hurricane, as if they were animals, was extremely disrespectful to our people,” said Gloria.

That will be a factor in how Puerto Ricans vote, but there is more. “Many things that [Trump] does and says,” adds Socorro Ramos, referring to Trump’s incendiary rhetoric and anti-immigrant policies.

Puerto Ricans, she said, resent the bad treatment of immigrants because “if you do it to them, you do it to anyone.”

Socorro and Gloria agreed that although Puerto Ricans are US citizens they are in danger so long as Trump remains president.

“Now we are in danger. If we do not open our eyes, we will be in the same situation as the immigrants, because they [the Trump administration] treat us in the same way. There are no differences. They do not consider us [the Puerto Ricans] as Americans, even though we are, “said Gloria.

Many of us Puerto Ricans have married people from other countries and other cultures, and the damage they do to these people also hurts us. There is no distinction. Some are citizens and some aren’t, but we have the same language, the culture is similar. They are us, “said Roberto Vélez.

Nelson has secured the votes of, at least, these three Puerto Ricans.

“There are a lot of people who favor Scott. He knew he was going to run for the Senate seat and he started making connections with Puerto Ricans to have that community on his side, “said Roberto.

Hence the trips to Puerto Rico and Central Florida, and the announcements in Spanish. “But I do not let myself get carried away by that. I pay attention to what has happened before, the assistance and support that Nelson has given to this community, “said Roberto.

Although Scott tries to distance himself from Trump, “what matters to Scott is the Republican Party.” He has not been “a governor for all people. I do not trust Scott,”said Roberto, who also supports Democrat Andrew Gillum for governor of Florida.

However, he added, civic groups, but especially political parties, should do more to approach the Latino  community consistently and not only during election years. “Both parties are to blame” for the lack of investment with Latino voters.

Despite everything, said Roberto, we have to go out and vote. “If we do not do it, then there is something wrong here. But I think we, as Puerto Ricans, do not forget about the past and what the politicians have or haven’t done to help us.”