EDITOR’S NOTE: Julianne Hing is reporting on the collision of politics and immigration in the 2016 campaign. But we need your support to get her on the campaign trail—and Beacon Reader will double every dollar you donate! Learn more and donate today at The Nation's page on Beacon Reader.
It was only a matter of time. After weeks of aggressive talk on immigration from GOP presidential candidates, immigrant rights activists and Tea Party demonstrators clashed in a face-to-face confrontation last Wednesday. More than a dozen people affiliated with the youth activist network United We Dream crashed a Tea Party rally on Capitol Hill where Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz were the featured speakers, along with a roster of conservative heroes like Sarah Palin and Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson.
“We knew we would be entering into a hostile environment,” Mario Carrillo, United We Dream’s communications manager, told me. “But it was shameful.” Things quickly got physical. There was shoving and pushing, Carrillo said. At one point, according to UWD, a Tea Party rallier yanked UWD member Erica Fuentes’s hair, and another spit on UWD member Astrid Diaz.
“Donald Trump seemed like a sideshow, but it’s gotten to the point that he’s riled up the far right wing. It’s not just about a wall. It’s not just about anchor babies. It’s stirring up fear in people,” Carrillo said. “His rhetoric is leading to real-life consequences.”
It’s easy enough to see Trump as a ringleader of a mad circus, traipsing across airport tarmacs and firing up voters in packed rallies with his signature squint and scowl. But as we ready ourselves for the second round of GOP debates this Wednesday night, it’s clear that the xenophobia at the core of Trump’s campaign is resonating, and his antics are already echoing beyond the campaign trail into both culture and policy.
Last month, a homeless Latino man in Boston was attacked by Scott and Steve Leader, two brothers who later told state troopers that they’d been inspired by Donald Trump, who was right about “all these illegals,” the AP reported. The brothers, who were later arraigned on assault, battery and indecent exposure charges, punched, kicked, and beat the sleeping man with a metal pole. They also urinated on him.
On September 4, 14-year-old Brian Zaragoza was walking home from the grocery store in Indianapolis when he was shot while the assailant, speeding by in a car, shouted anti-Latino slurs. A nearby taco stand was also hit by a similar shooting the same day. Cops have yet to label those incidents hate crimes, or say whether attackers were specifically targeting Latinos, Fox59 reported a few days later.
Whatever the motivations, these attacks on Latinos are too much coincidence for some—and the result of too much unchecked “slander” of immigrant communities, says Erika Almiron, executive director of Juntos, a Philadelphia-based immigrant rights organization. She’s watched the summer of blustery GOP debate on immigration with a mix of disgust and concern, forced as she’s been into a defensive crouch of constant vigilance.