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Marlen Garcia: Trump alienates Latinos, but will they vote?

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks Thursday during a joint statement with Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto in Mexico City. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte, File)

Follow @MarlenGarcia777Every time Donald Trump utters the word Mexico, I cringe.

It goes back to his speech in June 2015, when he announced his candidacy. He said Mexicans entering the U.S. were bringing drugs and crimes. He called them rapists before adding, “some, I assume, are good people.”

It cemented my refusal to vote for Trump, despite voting for Republicans in numerous previous elections. In the last 14 months, Trump has continued to alienate Latinos, especially Mexican-Americans, as he attempts to win over a conservative base and courts a xenophobic segment of the population.

OPINION

Follow @MarlenGarcia777Trump sounded more determined than ever to build a wall on the Southern border Wednesday in his speech on immigration in Phoenix. He’s still harping, unrealistically, about having Mexico pay for it.

But will all of this bring out the Latino vote?

You’d think so but historically, voter turnout among Latinos has been low. In 2012 Latinos resoundingly favored President Barack Obama over Republican challenger Mitt Romney 71 percent to 27 percent. We heard a lot about those numbers.

But here’s another, more startling, statistic: Only 48 percent of eligible Hispanic voters made it to voting booths, the Pew Research Center later announced. In comparison, Pew found that turnout in that election among African-Americans was 66.6 percent and among whites 64.1 percent.

In a survey this summer, Pew found that 67 percent of Hispanic voters said they were following election news very or fairly closely. That falls way behind 85 percent of all voters who answered similarly.

Generally speaking, immigrants in Illinois, many of them Mexican-Americans, are expressing more interest than in years past to vote in the general election, Celina Villanueva of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights said. The group leads the state’s biggest get-out-the-vote campaign among immigrants.

She couldn’t put an exact number on the increase, but Villanueva said voter registration numbers are trending upward by a few thousand. Her group has registered more than 10,000 so far this year at naturalization ceremonies, she said. She expects 20,000 to 25,000 immigrants will be registered by ICIRR alone in time for the Nov. 8 election.

Interest in pursuing citizenship spiked at the beginning of the year, Villanueva told me. Among immigrants in Illinois, “we have the energy there,” she said, “and it’s because of the issues being brought up over and over — the way immigrants, specifically Mexicans, are being portrayed.”

She says immigrant groups are making connections between Republicans’ refusal to vote on President Barack Obama’s pick for U.S. Supreme Court and the delay of his executive action to grant temporary legal status to about 4 million undocumented immigrants. A lower court ruling prohibiting the launching of Obama’s new programs for the foreseeable future stayed in place after a 4-4 tie in the Supreme Court this summer.

“They’re connecting the dots and having conversations,” Villanueva said of the communities ICIRR serves.

This is encouraging for Illinois but it represents only a segment of Latinos. By and large, despite rapid growth in population, Latinos remain disconnected from government and the electorate.

Many Latinos aren’t eager to throw their support to Democrat Hillary Clinton. She follows Obama, who reneged on promises and deported more than 2 million.

But Trump continues to shove us hard in that direction.

Email: MarlenGarcia777@yahoo.com

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