Ask a Mexican: How Can You Talk About the Mistreatment of Mexican, Asian Immigrants, but Not Irish, Jewish Immigrants?April 19 2017
Dear Mexican: You are a racist, my friend. How can you bring up Japanese and Chinese mistreatment, and not Irish or Jewish mistreatment? It’s because it doesn’t fit into your narrative of whitey being the vilest creature on Earth.
Worrying about language, culture and assimilation doesn’t make you a racist (even though Mexican isn’t a race, but I digress). People want to protect the melting pot of American culture. People want people to come here legally and assimilate—not forget or ignore their ancestors’ culture, but to embrace American culture.
Your race-baiting demagoguery is intellectually dishonest and a threat to the American way of life for all colors and ethnicities.
Jeff Sessions Is My Boo
Dear Gabacho: Ah, the wonders of the Internet. You no doubt found my columna from some random Google search or Google News or Stormfront or some other fake news outlet; read a couple of back issues; then surmised I hate gabachos for being white. No seas pendejo.
Again and again, I’ve brought up gabacho racism against European immigrants—whether it’s Benjamin Franklin railing against Germans, the British deeming Jews trying to enter Israel when it was still Mandatory Palestine as “illegals,” or the entirety of the Dillingham Commission report. I do love gabacho racism against “white” immigrants, because it’s proof that when idiots like you say they only want “legal” immigrants and don’t mind people holding on to the traditions of the motherland, it’s as much of a a false flag as saying Rick Bayless is a great Mexican chef.
Hate white people? The Mexican LOVES white people! Without them, tequila would’ve never become a worldwide product, and the Mexican soccer team wouldn’t have any other team to get humiliated by. It’s gabachos who ruin the United States—and if you can’t tell the difference between whites and gabachos, then you don’t know your Chris Rock.
Dear Mexican: I’ve noticed you haven’t addressed too many issues dealing with Mexican gangs in your column. Tell me what’s up with the Norteños and Sureños, and why they hate each other so much.
Aren’t all you Mexicans after the Reconquista in the first place? How did this split happen, and how does a guy like me stay out of the way in la Mission in Frisco?
Mulatto Man (Who Happens to Look Mexican)
Dear Negrito: Imagine all the power Mexicans would have if we were one unified force. Trump wouldn’t be president, for one. And we wouldn’t have all these ridiculous gang beefs that leave too many of our young dead, hooked on drugs or condemned to la vida loca.
I’m not going to get into the history of the Norteños and Sureños, because I’m sure you can find some documentary about their history on a NatGeo special, and I don’t want one side to think I favor the other side. Besides, the only gang I claim is the Gashouse Gang—look ’em up, eses.
“The grass is dry and golden,
waves scour the headlands,
and the sea churns around me …”
When Teow Lim Goh first walked through the old immigration barracks on Angel Island, in San Francisco Bay, she was waiting to learn her U.S. immigration status.
It was 2010, and Goh, a poet, had received a coveted H-1B visa, which allowed her to stay and work in the U.S. She had emigrated from Singapore, attended college in Michigan, and had been put into a lottery system for the visa. While her circumstances were much different than those of the Chinese immigrants who passed through Angel Island from 1910 to 1940, as she walked the island’s paths and looked out over the same ocean vista, she felt that she shared their feelings of hope and uncertainty.
From that visit came Goh’s first book, Islanders, a collection of fictional poems.
Called the “Ellis Island of the West,” the Angel Island Immigration Center processed Russians, Germans, Koreans, Indians, Japanese and Mexicans for entry into the U.S., but it was the Chinese who had the longest detention periods there and bore the brunt of institutionalized racism. It was during long periods of captivity on the island that they painted or carved poems in Chinese into the walls.
“It was a way to pass time and process their experiences,” Goh said in an interview.
The immigration center closed shortly after a fire burned down the women’s barracks in 1940. While the men’s barracks is marked with at least 135 poems, any poetry that the women might have scrawled there was turned to ash.
In Islanders, Goh attempts to fill that hole in history with words of her own. Written from the perspective of early Chinese immigrants and others, Goh’s poems are based on historical accounts. These would-be Americans faced a future full of uncertainty and the bureaucratic tangles of an emerging immigration system.
Goh eschews the rhyming structure of traditional Chinese poetry, and instead writes in free verse. Her sparse lines take on various perspectives: an immigrant, an immigration official or an American citizen.
“How much injustice do we have to abide by in order to survive?” Goh said. “Those are the questions I attempted to ask with those poems.”
Those questions have come to the fore since Donald Trump’s election. Trump attempted a temporary travel ban for seven Muslim majority countries (which was recently tweaked to six countries after legal troubles). The Trump administration has also rolled out a plan for enhanced immigration enforcement, including a border wall.
“Trump tapped into a sentiment that was already there,” Goh told me recently. “It did not start with him, but he articulated it. He was willing to breach standards of decorum to say aloud what a lot of people had been thinking.”
Islanders is a testament to the early roots of such sentiment. The Angel Island Immigration Center was the result of anti-immigrant laws passed in the late 1800s, particularly the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first of its kind in the U.S. It put limits on immigration based on race and class, keeping out any Chinese who were not merchants, teachers, clergy or diplomats. Unaccompanied women were assumed to be prostitutes and turned back, as was any immigrant without enough money, deemed “likely to become a public charge.” Judy Yung, an Angel Island historian, calls the law “the end of free immigration and the beginning of restrictive immigration.” The Chinese Exclusion Act set the tone for a number of other acts focused on banning specific races from immigrating.
Goh explores the outlooks of diverse individuals in her poems, separated into five sections. She delivers the voices of American workers at the immigration center, who became part of a system that separated families for months or longer and drove some immigrants to suicide. She delves into San Francisco’s 1877 Chinatown riots, where anti-Chinese anger, fueled by a downturn in jobs, led to violence against Chinese immigrants, who often worked for the railroads or mining companies.
An integral part to the story of Angel Island were the “paper sons,” who Goh also writes about. After San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake demolished immigration records, many Chinese men claimed legal residency, a claim that was hard to refute. This brought an increase in boys and young men who claimed to be the sons of Chinese residents of the U.S. Related only on paper, they came to be called “paper sons.” To uncover them, U.S. officials would interrogate newcomers for weeks, asking the layouts of their villages, the number of steps at their front doors, and other questions about their “families.” The wives of paper sons faced a double test, as they had to attest to who they were, as well as to the fictional past of their husbands. Any son, paper or real, who couldn’t pass the tests was sent back. If an immigrant appealed, he or she faced the prospect of life in cramped wooden barracks from six months to a year, as their case was resolved.
Goh’s book is an ode to people caught in an unfair system. Her poems are a mournful byproduct of imprisonment, though she says the lessons the islanders’ stories hold have gone largely unnoticed.
“The one thing I learned while researching this book is we don’t learn from history,” said Goh, who is now a U.S. citizen living in Colorado. “The history is there. We’ve been through this, but we’re still going through the same questions.”
Anna V. Smith is an editorial fellow at High Country News, where this review first appeared.
By Teow Lim Goh
90 pages, $14.99
Ask a Mexican: My Mexican Boyfriend Broke Up With Me Because of His Immigration Status; How Do I Deal?March 08 2017
Dear Mexican: A Mexican man recently broke up with me. We had great sex but a somewhat distant relationship. Anyway, the reason he left me was his immigration status. He says he can’t “be with me mentally,” because he’s somewhere else mentally—not knowing where he might be living in the next days and months is really bothering him. There is also the fact that he can’t find work now because of E-File.
I’m trying to find closure. It’s only been a few days since he left me, but I’m struggling with finding peace in myself. My friends say things like, “You’re better off without him,” and, “Things happen for a reason.” I miss him, miss the great sex (adventurous, great oral, got very close to anal) and most of all, I miss the idea of him. He’s liberal politically, helps his family here and in Mexico, is a good person, helps others and is very organic. I forgot to mention he has beautiful long hair and is “como un tren,” which means he’s solid like a football player and made me melt when I touched his “guns.”
Please help me deal.
La Heina No More
Dear Ya No The Chick: Man, you know Trump is destroying lives when Mexicans can’t even have sex with gabachas anymore without deportation on their mind. (Quick thought, gents: Think of 45’s blobbish physique to hold out just a bit more.)
It seems like the two of you had a great relationship outside of el sexo, and he’s obviously concerned about his livelihood and those of his fellow undocumented friends and family, so don’t take it personally. The most important thing right now is for you to be there for him, even if he’s unavailable physically. Protest whenever the inevitable migra raids inflict terror on the barrios in your city. Bombard your congressman and senators, demanding they oppose Trump’s wall of shame. Donate to nonprofits designed to help out people like your hombre.
Remember: The most important body part of his to have right now is his back. Oh, and #fucktrump.
Dear Mexican: This past Thanksgiving weekend for me was a bit surreal. I was born and raised here in the beautiful city of Nuestra Señora de Los Angeles and decided to visit my mother in Arkansas, where she recently moved with her new husband. (Her husband is from the state of Guerrero!) Before my boyfriend (who is white) and I arrived, my mother told me that they (her husband’s family and friends) were going to kill a goat in honor of me and my boyfriend’s arrival, and have a huge fiesta on Saturday. I thought she was pulling my leg.
Thursday, we had the traditional turkey; come Friday evening, there was a weird stench coming from the back yard of the house. My boyfriend and I noticed that my mom’s husband and his friends were preparing the goat. Mind you, my boyfriend and I only eat three meats in our diet—chicken, beef and a little bit of pork. Someone told me that this tradition happens in many places in the world, and the type of animal they kill in your honor depends how important you are.
So, do Mexicans really do this, or am I just super-special with my family?
Turning Vegetariana Very Soon
Dear Gabacha: I have always maintained that only the world’s superior cultures go crazy for goat. That means that the GOATs of the world are Jamaicans, Vietnamese, Koreans, Pakistanis and, of course, Mexicans.
If your ’billy mom is now with a guy who’s immersing her in the art of cabrito, consider yourself blessed. That he and his compas slaughtered a goat in your name is nothing but respect.
“Weird stench”? Watch your manners—and be glad they didn’t make you a taco bowl.
On this week's deeply depressing weekly Independent comics page: This Modern World looks at the reign of the mad king; Jen Sorenson looks at the detainment of America; The K Chronicles fears this is just the beginning; and Red Meat goes for a swim.
Dear Mexican: Recently at the local Northgate market, I saw a man wearing a T-shirt that said “MEXICAN” followed by a clarification: “NOT Latino: Latinos are Anglo Europeans from Italy. NOT Hispanic: Hispanics are Anglo Europeans from Spain.”
I may be crazy, I’m pretty sure the words for those two descriptions are “Italian” and “Spanish.” Do I need to start telling my family members that we are actually of Latino descent? What’s the proper term so I don’t refer to all such people as “Mexicans” like an asshole?
Dear Gabacho: Don’t pay attention to that T-shirt; it’s the mindless droppings of a group of yaktivists who long ago declared your beloved Mexican the biggest vendido in Aztlán, beating even Carlos Menstealia and Paul Rodriguez.
Mexicans are Latinos in the way Americans are North American: an identity of convenience, not a matter of the corazón. The only time Mexicans use “Latino,” like Americans with “North Americans,” is when trying to group themselves with other people based on perceived shared traits: language for Mexicans, countries involved in the Monroe Doctrine for Americans. Other than that, “Latino” and “Hispanic” are labels with about as much use in the daily lives of Mexicans as condoms.
Dear Mexican: In the 1820s, the Anglos were coming to Texas (which at the time was under Mexico’s control) for the rich farmland. When doing so, they violated the empresario land system, and brought slaves despite Mexico’s outlawing of it.
So my question is: Do you think the current immigration issue is simply a matter of, “What goes around, comes around?”
A Curious Anglo History Teacher
Dear Gabacho: More like, “Agua que no has de beber, déjala corer,” which translates as, “Water that you shouldn’t drink, let it stream by.” In other words, gabachos should’ve never drunk from the fountain of Manifest Destiny or cheap Mexican labor, because now they’re faced with either total Reconquista, or a collapse in their standard of living once cheap Mexican labor and imports goes adios.
This brings to mind another aphorism: Be careful what you wish for, because it just might park its car on its front lawn …
Dear Mexican: My girlfriend and I have had a standing argument about what some of my relatives call me. My cousins’ children call me “tío,” and I say I’m their uncle. My girl argues that they are really my second cousins, and I’m really their cousin, too. I can see her point, but she’s a gabacha and doesn’t understand that they refer to me as their tío out of respect for being older. All our white friends agree with her, but all our Mexican friends agree with me.
So who’s right?
El Tío Primo
Dear Cousin Uncle: Que chingada do gabachos know besides how to despoil the environment and kill indigenous folks?
But they’re technically correct on this: According to gabacho conventions, the children of your first cousins are called second cousins, while your children and them are first cousins once removed, whatever the hell that means.
I still say gabachos should be like Mexicans on this one: Even though the technical term for a first cousin is primo hermano, we usually use that to refer to any second cousin or third cousin thrice removed—basically anyone and everyone younger than us in our family.
Anyone older? tío. Anyone evil? Trump.
Dear Mexican: Why do SO many chamacos of this generation. who are Mexican, refuse to learn Spanish and/or speak it? What’s the big deal? Are they THAT embarrassed of their native tongue because they’ve been so Americanized, or what? It’s been bugging me for years!
I’m Mexican-born and raised in San Diego, and grew up quite differently from most Mexican kids, I guess, but I never backed down to speak, read, write and learn Spanish. Osea, que conejos con está generación?!
Cachanillo, ¿Y Que?
Dear Pocho: Sure, the Pew Hispanic Center and other survey-happy think tanks publish study after study showing how quickly children of Mexican immigrants learn English, and how fast they begin to favor that idioma instead of habla. But the fact remains that it’s more acceptable than ever for people to speak Spanish, especially given that we’re in the end stage of Reconquista. And still, Mexico kids end up becoming English-dominant, as they always have in post-World War I America.
Why? Because despite what Univisión wants you to believe, English is how you win in los Estados Unidos—and win, we must. Besides, what’s wrong if Mexican kids lose the ability to speak Spanish? Sure, being bilingual is great, but a lack of Spanish doesn’t somehow make you less Mexican—just ask Cuauhtémoc.
Dear Mexican: When I was a small child of a poor farm family in Oklahoma, we started to have visits from an extended family of about a dozen persons who were following the harvest work from the border northward. They would stop again on their way south when harvest was over. Our farm was on a river, and our cabin had lots of shade and space for them to set up their tent and make the campfire. My mother always welcomed them, and we nine children were delighted to find these friendly brown children to play with. Mama would give them corn, tomatoes and sweet potatoes from our garden. They, in turn, would show my mother how to make flat bread on the cooking fire, and how to use very hot peppers in cooking.
I regret that the way to cook that flat bread was not passed on to me. I wish someone could tell me how to cook that bread. It would remind me of the great joy and delight we all felt when we saw them coming down our road from the high Dust Bowl plains. “The Mexicans are coming! The Mexicans are coming!” we shouted, and it was a great moment in our lives twice a year for three or four years in the 1930s.
Most of the Mexicans I encounter now are doing yard work or picking fruit here in Florida. Each time I see a brown face, I greet them with a smile and think of those wonderful people who I have always considered amigos. If anyone can give me a recipe for making the flat bread like those amigos made it, I would be most grateful.
Okie From Kissimmee
Dear Gabacho: Flat bread? You mean a tortilla, right?
Your letter is sweet, so I’ll spare you any further ridicule other than to note, as I always do when talking about Oklahoma, that the state should unconditionally support undocumented immigrants since it was founded by those dirty illegals called Sooners.
Dear Mexican: I have visited other countries. None would appreciate me waving my flag in their country.
It all comes down to this, MI AMIGO: If you enter this country from any other country, you must have the necessary paperwork to allow you to stay and/or work here. If you enter without paperwork, you have committed a crime. It’s called ILLEGAL ENTRY. All over the world, this law will send you back to your country of origin. Why the hell do Mexicans think for a minute that they are excluded from this law?
Donald Trump has some muy loco ideas. There will be no wall or his other mierda. But be prepared: Should he become the boss, he will look very closely at criminals, reoffending, running back to Mexico and coming back—at the very least. It can’t keep going this way.
You will all work yourselves out of your American dream. I’m sick and tired of Mexicans thinking that this land belongs to them. NOT ANYMORE. Get in line in the legal way. Everybody needs to stop using and abusing the American system. We are now in so much debt that poor citizens don’t have jobs and money to support their families. STOP that CRAP NOW. If you don’t belong here, go back to your country.
Tool for Trump
Dear Gabacho: Don’t blame Mexicans for the national debt; blame the Iraq War and Reaganomics. Don’t blame Mexicans for coming into this country, with or without papers; blame NAFTA, capitalism and the people who hire unauthorized Mexicans. Don’t blame Mexicans for saying the American Southwest belongs to them; blame an unjust war. Don’t blame Mexicans for using and abusing the U.S.; blame an American system that has encouraged cheating every step of the way ever since the Boston Tea Party. Better yet, blame EVERYTHING: That’s all Trump supporters do, anyway.
Man, I haven’t come across a whinier bunch of CHAVALAS since hearing Mexicans defending the use of “puto” during soccer matches.
Dear Mexican: How do I keep my Mexican friend from stealing all my shit?
Amigo de Aztlán
Dear Gabacho: Coat your stuff in condoms—that’s like kryptonite to Mexican men!
Dear Mexican: My co-worker donned a poncho and sombrero for Cinco de Mayo and got totally wasted. He said he had no bad intentions and does not understand why Mexicans get so upset when he embraces Cindo de Drinko. Oh, and he does not understand why “Cinco de Drinko” is offensive, because it’s an American holiday, anyway.
Can you help explain why some Mexicans get offended when a gringo wears our attire on Drinko de Cinco?
I’m the Mexican in the Office Who Brings Tamales During Christmas
Dear Pocho: At this point in America’s history, I say let the gabachos dress up as gross caricatures of our raza. They have little else going for them: Birthrates are down; death rates are skyrocketing; and all their daughters are shacking up with paisas. They’re tilting hard for a new identity, so now’s the time to enact the final stage of Reconquista: Get them borrachos while wearing sombreros and bigotes, then sic la migra on them. Just like it was prophesized in the Florentine Codex, you know?
Dear Mexican: My beloved mojado has crossed back over the border into his native Mexico. Family emergency.
He seems to think it’s going to be a cinch when he comes back. The desert, pumas, mountains, electric fences, people trying to rob and shoot you, being short on cash … where’s the difficulty, right? I know it seems like only a scared, privileged bolilla would have a problem with this, considering how many people come here that way every day, but I keep reading all this scary stuff about how many people die trying to come here.
If a Mexican gets a passport to enter, can he start the process of becoming legitimate once he’s here? I’ve tried doing research, but my Spanish isn’t that good. What are his best options for getting back, illegally or legally. Car trunk? Swimming the Rio Grande? My main concern is getting him back safely. Just please don’t say marriage—aunque es guapísimo y tiene un corazón de oro—probably one day, just not yet.
Please help me, Mexican. Extraño mi novio gordo y sexi!
Lonely in Lancaster
Dear Gabacha: Yeah, at one time, a Mexican could just pay a penny at the border and cross over—that’s how my grandfather did it in 1918. Or pay a hippie chick from Huntington Beach $50 to stuff him in a trunk of a Chevy (pronounced “Chevy, not “Shevy”) as she crossed into San Ysidro, as my papi did it in 1968.
The days of easy crossings are long gone, and now usually a miserable mess. The easiest way to get your beloved fat boy back? Vote Democrat in 2016—you can look it up!
Dear Mexican: I’m a native Alabamian who has immigrated illegally to Georgia. I was wondering: Why there is such a large Mexican and Guatemalan population in both of these states? I thought there were a lot in Alabama until I crossed the border into Georgia!
Chica Guadalupe del Taxi
Dear Gabacha: The 2010 census showed that Alabama had the second-largest percentage growth of Latinos (read: Mexicans) of any state in the country, with the other Top 5 states also in the South. There are so many Mexicans in Alabama that I know young raza who argue about Alabama vs. Auburn the way Mexicans in Southern California babble about Chivas vs. América!
I can’t answer for the Guatemalans, but the Mexican angle is easy: jobs, and gabachos willing to hire Mexicans even if they’re undocumented. Interestingly enough, all these states are also expected to go for Donald Trump during the presidential election—so is the pendejo going to build a wall around the South, too?
P.S.: The South is also the place where many a farmer has openly stated that Americans will not pick crops, no matter how much they’re paid—you can look it up!
Dear Mexican: In the not-so-distant future when the Mexicans are running the entire show, what will they do with our lame-ass “public assistance” programs—where people get checks for sitting on their asses, having more kids in fatherless homes, expecting food stamps for watching TV, subsidized housing that they treat like shit, etc.?
I See It, I’m Sick of It, and I’m Really Sick of Paying for It
Dear Gabacho: Absolutely. We’re definitely going to target the número one abuser of the welfare system: gabachos living in red states, ’cause illegals aren’t eligible for welfare. You can look it up!
Dear Mexican: We had a torrid and passionate romance for about a year. I could have done anything for her—meaning I loved her.
After the first breakup, for about six months, we had make-ups and breakups. Once, I broke off the relationship because I understood she was, and is, commitment-phobic. After the breakup, I told her to please not to call me anymore, because she would screw me up. (She loved me, but she did not want to be with me). One day out of the blue, she calls and tells me that she’s thinking about me. and that all she thinks about is sex with me in Acapulco. I called her the same day. and we had a very nice conversation.
The very next week, I got laid off as part of a merger. I called her to announce the news and to tell her I needed a friend. She kind of blew me off and never called back—even after I wished her happy birthday a couple of days later. What kind of person does not return that call?
The next week—after she did not answer my calls—a friend suggested I send her a message saying, “I had a good time last night.” She responded immediately, calling me an asshole. I guess my question is: Porque las mujeres te patean ms fuerte cuando haz caído? Why do women hit you harder when you’re down?
Pobrecito de Mi
Dear Poor Little You: Compa, this ain’t an ¡Ask a Mexican! question; it’s an Ask God! pregunta.
So give me a moment … are you there, Diosito en el cielo? It’s me, the Mexican. Why did you have to make women so locas? Wait, what? Us men are the locos, and we should just worship mujeres unconditionally? OK … are you there, Santo Niño de Atocha? It’s me, the Mexican…
Dear Mexican: I’m an Italian-American transplant from the East Coast, so I kind of have an outsider’s view of the West and relations between Mexicans and gabachos. Seems to me that Mexican Americans here are pretty much the hardest-working bunch of people I’ve seen anywhere. They also have much more soul, a love of life and personality than the majority of white people I’ve met. Assholes like Donald Trump are too stupid to realize that without Hispanic influence, our culture would be pretty boring, and worse, it would lack the perspective of real, grassroots people. How the hell did we forget, as Americans, that most of us came from the same type of poor, hard-working people?
My skin gets pretty dark in the summer, and more than once, I’ve been taken for a Mexican-American. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a compliment.
Un Hermano Italiano
Dear Italian Brother: It’s the same shit the Irish pulled with your Sicilian paesanos, and what ustedes did to Poles and Portagees—the story of America.
The one difference we Mexicans have with all previous generations of immigrants is that gabachos are hard-wired to hate everything Hispanic, thanks to their Elizabethan ancestors, who told all sorts of abominations about the Spanish back in the Armada days. And if you think the distant past doesn’t explain the present, then refry this: Why do gabachos think a faded 1980s celebrity is worthy of becoming president? Oh, wait: It’s because they thought a faded C-list actor from the 1950s was worthy of becoming president during the 1980s. Oh, fuck …
In the midst of the raucous and polarized presidential election, a quieter story has been at play as well: the growing political clout of Latino voters.
Nationwide, about 12 percent of the country’s eligible voting population is Hispanic—and the West is home to nearly 40 percent of those voters, far surpassing other regions. This November, Hispanic voters are projected to turn out in greater numbers than they did in 2012, with a nearly 10 percent increase forecast by the the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund.
At the same time, the Latino voting bloc is in transition: Latino populations are getting younger, larger and more politically engaged. In the process, they promise to change Western presidential politics.
Now, not only are there more Hispanic younger voters, but an increasing percentage of them are born in the United States. That naturalized population is beginning to dominate the Latino population of voters. (Noncitizens can’t vote.) Young Hispanics make up a larger proportion of the voting block than in other groups: 44 percent of Hispanic voters are between the ages of 18 and 35 this year, compared to 27 percent among white voters.
“Every election cycle, there is a tsunami of young Latino voters that is reaching voting age,” says Joseph Garcia, director of the Morrison Institute Latino Public Policy Center at Arizona State University. “This very well could be the last year that you could even think you could win an election without the Latino vote.”
While Latino influence on the outcome of elections is increasing, voter turnout among Hispanic voters remains generally low. In 2012, only 48 percent of Latinos who could vote actually did—compared to 64 percent of eligible white voters that made it out to polling places in the general election. But as the Latino population grows, the rate of voter turnout is increasing, too.
While participation is on the rise, significant barriers still prevent some from voting; historic trends take time to reverse. “More Latinos are eligible to vote, but you still face this millennial challenge: Young people, regardless of race, by and large, don’t vote,” Garcia says. Also, “If your parents don’t vote, you’re less likely to.” Often, Hispanic youth and their families work long hours or hold multiple jobs, which makes it harder to get to polling places on Election Day. Garcia says that was the case for his late father, a roofer from New Mexico, whose long commute and working hours made voting in person unrealistic. “The voting hours (6 a.m. until 7 p.m.) weren’t set up to make voting easy for him,” he says.
Immigration has been the defining issue for many Latino voters, 66 perecent of whom say they want to see comprehensive immigration reform. That issue has influenced a majority of Hispanic voters’ political leanings. While many Hispanic citizens hold more conservative values on social issues like gay marriage and abortion, the Republican Party’s views on immigration and environmental protection have led many voters to lean Democratic in presidential elections, says Jens Manuel Krogstad, an expert on immigration and social trends at the Pew Research Center. In 2012, more than 70 percent of the Latino community voted for President Barack Obama, and Latino voters are still expected to lean left come November. “(Republicans) are being interpreted by a lot of potential voters as anti-Latino—and that could impact the ballot this election,” Garcia says.
As more young voters come of age, the left-leaning tendency could strengthen. The younger and increasingly engaged Hispanic electorate in the West could be more of a deciding factor in upcoming elections, particularly in battlegrounds states like Colorado, Nevada and increasingly competitive Arizona.
In Colorado, a competitive state in the presidential election, a greater proportion of the Hispanic population has been born in the country. This is a recent shift from older generations where a greater proportion migrated to the United States. This November, more than 277,500 Latinos are expected to cast ballots—a more than 7 percent increase, according to projections by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.
The growing Latino population in Arizona could prove disruptive to the state’s notoriously conservative politics. According to the Arizona State University Morrison Institute and the Pew Research Center, if Latino voter turnout continues to rise at its current rate, Arizona would become a battleground state by 2030. This November, more than 433,000 Latinos are expected to cast ballots—an 8 percent increase from 2012, according to projections by the NALEO.
In Nevada, Hispanic groups are becoming more vocal on the immigration debate and about their opposition to Trump, whose campaign has taken an anti-immigration stance. But their influence is complicated by the fact that the state has the largest percentage of undocumented immigrants in the country (nearly 8 percent; California comes second with just more than 6 percent), according to the Pew Research Center. Organizations including NALEO and United We Dream, a group that represents immigrant youth, have begun to urge their peers to register and vote. Perhaps the most vocal group is the “dreamers,” a growing coalition of young, undocumented Latinos who’ve lived most of their lives in the U.S. While they can’t vote because they are not recognized as legal citizens, a group of them have started to go door-to-door to urge Hispanics across the West to register. “There is a force to gather the troops, so if Trump is the GOP nominee come November, they will be ready to vote against him,” Garcia says. In Nevada, more than 194,000 Latinos are expected to cast ballots in November, a more than 7 percent increase in turnout.
Until results from November’s presidential election are in, it’s hard to know for sure when the potential political clout of the Hispanic demographic could be realized. “Every election cycle, there is a new wave of Latino voters that mature into voting age, and everyone is watching that group more and more closely,” Garcia says. “But the monumental political shifts haven’t quite played out.”
Paige Blankenbuehler is an editorial fellow at High Country News, where this story originally appeared.