On Wednesday, Donald Trump traveled to Mexico to meet with President Enrique Pena Nieto. We reached out to Ricardo Aca, who has been a vocal critic of Trump, to see if what the GOP candidate said following the meeting with the Mexican leader would change his view. Aca sent us this note in response:
"Unless Donald Trump was planning on apologizing to the Mexican community for his negative remarks last year, I can't understand why Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto would invite the Republican presidential candidate to Mexico. Other than becoming a 'photo-op' with a racist, you don't invite someone into your home after being called a 'criminal,' 'rapist' and 'drug dealer' on national television.
"Mr. Trump now refers to the Mexican president as a 'friend.' But what about the rest of us: the ones who are contributing to America’s economy? What about those who work and help run his buildings and businesses, many I know are Latinos. He says he still plans on sending me back.
"I am not a criminal. I am not a rapist. I am not a drug dealer. I am a hard worker at a restaurant in one of Trump’s New York hotels. I am not his friend."
The topic of immigration has been a hot-button issue in recent presidential elections. But it’s especially been the case in the runup to 2016’s race, with the firestorm of controversy created by Donald Trump’s comments about illegal immigration — and specifically his focus on Mexican immigrants.
But now one of those Mexican immigrants is talking back — and in a very public way. Ricardo Aca is not only an undocumented immigrant, but for the past two years, he’s been busing tables at Koi Restaurant’s Manhattan location — in the Trump SoHo Hotel.
“It used to be like, it’s pretty cool that I work there,” Aca says. “But now ... it’s not something that I brag about.”
This week, New Left Media premiered a video with Aca telling his story. A photographer by trade who recently earned his associate’s degree, Aca has been photographing immigrants like himself with signs proclaiming themselves not to be the rapists or murderers that Trump has suggested. Aca came to the US with his family when he was 14 and they've been living in Brooklyn's Bushwick neighborhood for nearly 10 years.
“I personally work two jobs, my stepfather works two jobs. Everything that my family has, we have earned it, by working,” Aca says in the video.
Although Trump isn’t technically his boss and can’t utter to Aca those two words he’s famous for, Aca still feels anxiety because he's part of the Deferred Action program initiated by the Obama administration in 2012. The program allows certain undocumented immigrants who came to the US as minors to receive two-year work permits and exemption from deportation. It's a policy that Trump has vowed to scrap, if elected.
Aca says he believes Trump's wealth has allowed him the privilege to say whatever he wants, regardless of whether he wins or loses the presidential race. But for Aca and others like him, the stakes are high, yet he believes eventually something better will come out of the situation.
“It’s no longer really relevant what I do — or that I’m a busser. It’s more about sending the message and telling my story, which is the story of many other immigrants like me.”