By Martin Dassum
For Latin Americans around the world, the 2016 presidential election is a crucial event. I am not talking only about the relevance of this event for leaders and governments. We are on the edge of a new election.
In my opinion, one of the leading candidates in the polls, Donald Trump, does not fit in the profile of a president that will guarantee stability for Latinos in and out of the United States.
America has built a paternalistic image among Hispanics around the world. There are Latino families with relatives all over the nation. Some people’s jobs depend on the relationships between their countries and America, some depend on medicines and American products, while others just travel. All Latin economies have large American investment and our top trade partner is the U.S.
The Latino population has bonds with the United States and there are decisions, such as the next president, that raise interest.
Since the time of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, we have seen nothing but progress in the equal rights movement. The success in making a country more equal has made America the country to look up to in the eyes of Latino societies.
Growing up in Ecuador, my world was much less racially diverse. However, when I moved to America in 2009 and started college at Webster University, I was given the chance to understand diversity and equality through learning about America’s history, something complicated to see elsewhere.
Fast forward to Aug. 9, 2014. At around 8 p.m. I turned on the television to see images of several public places being vandalized in Ferguson, Mo. I was living back in Ecuador at this point, but I was astonished by the news. It had been 49 years since the March of Selma and yet social tensions had aggressively increased – not only in Missouri but nationwide. I thought then that we have seen so much progress, just to see all of it deteriorate so quickly.
In times like these, leaders are responsible for leading toward change. I never expected leaders would sponsor racism, disapprove the use of languages other than “American” and misjudge millions by calling them criminals. However, my expectations fell terribly short when the things I feared became personified in Donald Trump.
According to a Washington Post article, he said, “When Mexico sends its people, they are not sending their best. They are not sending you. They are sending people that have lots of problems, and they are bringing those problems with us. They are bringing drugs. They are bringing crime. They are rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Rather than assume, I know for a fact the vast majority of Mexican immigrants are good people. It is frightening how Trump can be approved by millions.
In the hypothetical scenario that Trump becomes president, I believe this will bring instability and will weaken the process of pursuing equality. Trump carries a misconception of the Latino people.
I have several Hispanic friends living in America and have had the chance to see how their communities function. They are assets to the economy. Some of them work in factories, others in construction.
Some have master’s degrees and teach American-born college students. According to Greg Anrig’s book Immigration, Jobs and the American Economy, there is no important correlation between immigration and unemployment. In my opinion, it has always been a necessity.
Trying to deport immigrants will have social complications. There will be thousands of families split up and many people will lose everything. Latinos have decided to move to America in search of a better life. The eagerness to fight for a new beginning has made them hard workers.
There is no real reason to target a group of people and consider them a threat and advocating segregation. This raises several questions for me. Will we be welcomed to travel, study and do business in America? Are we going to have tensions between countries? I could go on about racial tensions, too, but the fact of the matter is I am not sure of any answers.
What I expect from a presidential candidate is positive answers, and Trump certainly does not offer any.
If anyone asked me years ago what I expected the fight for equality would look like in 2015, my answer would not be what we are currently experiencing. I just hope the new president of the U.S. will allow me to turn on the news and see justice and equal rights. It might sound idealistic but I am sure it is possible.