Dear Donald Trump: Pissed Off Latinos Are Powerful Latinos

History has shown that when Latinos feel threatened, they fight back—with their voices and voting power.
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Jorge Ramos (left) photo courtesy of NASA. Donald Trump photo from Shutterstock.

As a Latina, a child of parents who weren’t born in the States, I can tell you that this presidential race has become personal.

Again and again, with a flick of his wrist, Trump continues to publicly belittle the Latino community. 

Donald Trump kicked a journalist out of a press conference in Iowa Tuesday—and not just any journalist. Trump kicked out Jorge Ramos, a Univisión and Fusion anchor I grew up seeing my parents watch on TV. My mom still watches him. So his being told to “go back to Univisión” and then even to “go back to his country” bugged me. A lot.

Again and again, with a flick of his wrist, Trump publicly belittles the Latino community. But you know what? He’s only screwing himself and empowering us. History shows that when Latinos’ rights are threatened by a politician, they push back—hard.

Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda, an immigration expert who teaches at UCLA, gave me a quick history lesson. In an interview, he told me Trump isn’t the first to “blame the immigrant.” Not only was this rhetoric common in the 19th and early 20th centuries toward the Irish, Chinese, and many other groups, but it’s been used more recently toward (surprise, surprise) Latin Americans.

A nativist campaign played out in California in the ’90s led by Gov. Pete Wilson. Proposition 187, an anti-immigrant ballot measure, passed in 1994 after Wilson’s re-election. It barred undocumented immigrants from the state’s public education system and even stripped them of access to emergency rooms.

This sort of legislation, the kind that dehumanizes Latinos, is the kind Trump wants to see. It’s also the kind of legislation that mobilizes Latinos. After Proposition 187 passed, Latino voter activity in California surged. A study from 2005 found that “Proposition 187 … drew national attention and potentially served to mobilize the Latino electorate by prodding both indifferent and first-time voters to the polls.”

More and more Californian Latinos came out to vote. More and more registered to vote. The state even went from red to blue , as Latinos demanded representation in their government.

History shows that when Latinos’ rights are threatened by a politician, they push back—hard.

That’s not to say that the same thing happens every time Latinos are attacked. In 2010, the Arizona legislature passed SB 1070, which required law enforcement to question a person’s legal status on “reasonable suspicion.” In other words, if police pulled you over in Phoenix and thought you looked “illegal,” they could demand to see your papers and even detain you. Latino voters didn’t change the state to blue in voting booths, but the Supreme Court overturned some aspects of the bill, and Latino activists have been pushing back on the remaining sections .

Hinojosa-Ojeda expects Latinos to rise again in 2016 if, by some act of absurdity, Trump is still in the race after the primaries. We don’t know for sure what they’ll do, but based on what people I know are saying, I’m with Hinojosa-Ojeda.

Since the confrontation between Ramos and Trump, I’ve seen countless friends and family take to social media. These are people who usually stay quiet on politics, people I doubt have ever voted in an election. They all post the same message: opposition to Trump and support for their fellow Latinos like Ramos.

Numbers show this is true beyond my circle. A Gallup poll released earlier this week shows that Latinos do not “love” Trump, as he so often boasts. Sixty-five percent of Hispanics polled view him negatively —far more than the next two least favorable, Ted Cruz and Rick Perry. Granted, the pollsters noted that respondents weren’t very familiar with the Republican candidates, but they did know one thing: They don’t want Trump to win.

That’s bad news for Trump because any candidate who wants to win this thing needs the support of Latinos—or at least half of them. A study by a political research firm that specializes in Latino voting found that our next president will need nearly half the Latino vote to win . On top of that, we can’t forget that every month, another 50,000 Latinos turn 18, and a lot of these young people are pissed. I know I am.

I mean, if Trump had his way, most Latinos would get deported—immigrant or not—by his ridiculous plan to amend the Constitution and revoke citizenship from persons born to undocumented immigrants . I can’t speak for others in the same boat, but I’d prefer not to move to El Salvador—even with the endless sun and coconut trees. Like many Latin American countries, it is becoming increasingly dangerous. In fact, El Salvador recently reclaimed the title of “the most dangerous country in the world.”

My parents were born there, and I do consider myself Salvadoran, but I’m American too. I’m a U.S.-born citizen with the right to vote. I plan on exercising that right this coming election. In a country where the front-runner of a major political party is telling Latinos we don’t belong, we all should.