Latino voters took on Trump’s fear-mongering, and we won
© Greg Nash

On Nov. 6, voters like Yolanyelis Torres and Emily Chabla shifted the balance of power in this country. Yolanyelis is a young, stay-at-home mother with five children. She lives in Allentown, Pa., and wants her kids to have a better life than she did. Emily, the U.S. born daughter of immigrants from Ecuador, is a college student and lives in Union, N.J. Both were first-time voters this year, and on Tuesday, along with voters all over the United States, they went to the polls to reject Trump’s hateful rhetoric and to demand respect and dignity for all.

Voters like Yolaneylis and Emily were part of a surging Latino electorate that helped flip the House of Representatives and win key elections around the country on Tuesday. Our community demands to be heard. As we prepare for a new session of Congress, with Democrats in the House majority, Latinos expect to be represented by the people they helped to elect. Our communities demand an end to the divisive ploys of “build the wall” and “stop the invasion,” and insist on a permanent solution for those who remain vulnerable, like Dreamers and those with Temporary Protected Status.

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Our communities were horrified by Trump’s pre-election fear mongering. Instead of seeking to calm the nation after harrowing white supremacist and anti-Semitic violence, he fanned the flames of bigotry. Without missing a beat, Trump doubled down on scapegoating immigrants – sending troops to the border to fight a bedraggled caravan of desperate Central American migrants. Trump then suggested that soldiers might open fire on the migrants, launched a new rallying cry against birthright citizenship, and released the most racist presidential campaign ad in decades.

But on Tuesday, voters said no. They chose respect over racism. They chose decency over divisiveness. And now, newly elected members of Congress, senators and governors must heed that call, putting an end to the shameful scapegoating of immigrants and focusing on real solutions.

In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, like many other states around the country, incoming members of Congress, as well as key senators, governors and state legislators, would not have won without robust support and high turnout from Latino voters. Over the past few months, our organization, Make the Road Action (MRA), knocked on more than 250,000 doors in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Nevada, New York and Connecticut – mostly in Latino neighborhoods and working class communities of color. We also made phone calls, organized voter brigades, and held educational campaign events.

Yolanyelis Torres, the voter from Pennsylvania, was born in Puerto Rico but grew up in Allentown. She first got involved when she met an MRA canvasser in her neighborhood and decided to register to vote. She had never voted before, but now she’s motivated to vote to keep her family safe. She feared that Trump-allied Republican candidates would tear the immigrant community apart. “We have to stick together,” she said, “and vote for a better future.”

Immigrant and Latino communities have been living with this reality for the past three years. Trump has vilified Latino immigrants. His administration’s divisive immigration policies have included the Muslim ban, ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) - threatening the legal status of more than a million immigrants, federal agents detaining immigrants at hospitals and courthouses, and the forced separation of thousands of families at the border – to name just a few.

Latino voters, however, were ready to turn the tide. Emily Chabla, the voter from New Jersey, decided that it was not enough to vote for the first time this year, so she also spent the last several weeks knocking on doors to get out the vote. “Our vote is our voice,” she said enthusiastically as she headed out to talk to voters. “As Trump threatens to take away our citizenship, we must stand together - that’s how we build power.”

Immigrant-led organizations worked hard to ensure that our members and neighbors got to the polls, and they did. But the collective power that Emily described is not limited to the ballot box, and the election was not the end of this conversation. It was just the beginning.

With the elections behind us, we expect our elected officials to stand up for core values of embracing diversity and those who come seeking a better life. And we expect them to defend these ideals with actions, not just words. This fall, for example, during the lame duck session, we reject any dialogue with Trump or the GOP about funding for a border wall. And next year, with a new Congress in session, we expect renewed and serious efforts to pass a legislative solution for DACA and TPS recipients.

We have a long road ahead of us to heal from the divisiveness of the past two years, but this is an important beginning. Trump told supporters that the midterm elections should be a referendum on his presidency, and it was. Trump bet on fear and racism, and he lost.

Javier H. Valdés is the Co-Executive Director of Make the Road Action. On Twitter: @javierhvaldes @MaketheRoadAct