America is having two simultaneous conversations in reaction to Donald Trump’s offensive claims that immigrants from Mexico are criminals and “rapists.”
The first conversation we’re seeing play out on social media, in print, and across cable news as company after company ends their business relationship with a Republican presidential candidate.
But the second conversation — the one happening in Spanish in our kitchens, the one happening between two housekeepers on the bus after work, the one happening between an angry immigrant mother and her US citizen son — is the conversation the Republican Party cannot ignore.
About two weeks ago, I called my mom to discuss Jeb Bush, who had just entered the presidential race. Like Bush’s wife, my mother is an immigrant, and I was curious about her reaction to a potential United States First Lady of Mexican heritage.
But my mother had other plans for our phone call — she wanted to talk about Trump.
My mother told me her regular prayer partner had told her about his comments over the phone, and they were both incensed.
In fact, the last time I could remember her being so emotional about a political development was during the border crisis last summer, when flag-waving white Americans in Murrieta, California, blocked a bus carrying women and young children fleeing horror in Central America.
During our call, she railed on Trump, calling our immigrant community criminals, all the while employing those same immigrants to work cleaning his hotels and office buildings across the nation.
She railed on him enjoying expensive meals with food most likely picked by and prepared by immigrants and Latinos.
She railed on the hypocrisy of him marrying an immigrant — “two of them,” she noted — all the while insulting the immigrant mothers who work tirelessly to give their children better futures in America.
And she expressed her anger at Bush, a Latin American studies major who touts his Mexican-American family and Spanish-language fluency, yet, waited days before denouncing Trump’s comments. “I don’t care how much Spanish you know,” she dismissed.
Republicans have long been quick to dismiss Trump as a publicity stunt queen, for years teasing beltway pundits with his presidential aspirations, only to turn around and announce the premiere date of yet another season of “Celebrity Apprentice.”
But Trump is an official Republican candidate now, and following his heinous anti-immigrant claims that are the red meat of the conservative primary base, he trails only Bush in national polling.
The damage between Trump and the Latino community — my mother confessed to always enjoying his television show and slew of D-list celebrities — is beyond repair. It’s over. And Latinos have no interest in making amends with him, because once you show your true colors, you can’t walk it back.
The Republican Party, meanwhile, hangs by a thread in the eyes of Latinos. For the past few years, we've seen seen the mass-deportation votes coming out of the GOP-controlled House. But when I and millions of other Latino and immigrant voters step into a voting booth next year to pick the next president, we’ll be voting for the members of our community, like my mom, who can’t.
Trump’s bigotry has resonated from business to sports to the political worlds, but it’s really gone beyond that. Latinos and immigrants, tired of being the default punching bag of the Republican Party, have led a cultural phenomenon. Univision listened to us. NBC listened to us. Macy’s listened to us.
Will the Republican Party listen?
My Florida dad's voicemail just now: "I just called to tell you I'm going to vote for Trump....(dissolves into fit of laughter, hangs up)"— Adrian Carrasquillo (@Carrasquillo) July 8, 2015
Gabe Ortíz is an online organizer for America's Voice, an immigration advocacy group based in Washington, DC.