To many of us progressive Latin Americans, the fervent support the Trump administration has found within a good portion of our community, is somewhat dumbfounding. How could any self respecting immigrant support such a staunchly anti-immigrant cabinet? Especially latin immigrants who have been specifically targeted by 45, since he first announced his run for the presidency and were consistently singled out throughout the election process. This trend has continued on into his actual administration. As recently as last week, the head of state signed off on rescinding DACA (Deferred Action Plan for Childhood Arrivals) which affects vast swaths of productive immigrant youth, 84% of which are Latin American.
Yet, on November 9th 2016, 29% of the latino vote backed Trump. To translate that into tangible numbers; Latino's comprise roughly 17% of the US population; that's just over55 million individuals. Of these 55 million, some 27.3 million were eligible to cast ballots in the 2016 elections. This means Trump got 7.92 million Latin American votes in the past election.
So what gives? What unimaginable force could persuade nearly 8 million people to vote so clearly against their own best interests? God; well more specifically religion... Christianity to be precise.
You see Latin Americans identify in most part under the christian umbrella of religious denominations. A whopping 77% profess to be believers; 55% self classify as catholics, while another 22% label themselves protestant. Of the protestants 72.3% are evangelical, the remaining 27.7% are mainline. Of the totality, another 3% identify simply as christian with no specific denomination; only 18% overall has no religious affiliation, and a mere 1% identify as other.
Let's focus on that huge all encompassing 77% and what that means in terms of voting patterns.
Most people are familiar with christianity in a general sense. We've all heard of the ten commandments and most of us have seen a biblical verse meme or two. The GOP has unofficially but pretty blatantly positioned themselves as the Christian party or party of family values. That sounds wholesome in theory, however in practice it has had some very nefarious consequences. In Texas for example, teen pregnancy and teen abortion rates rose significantly after a 2011 move by the state legislature cut the state's family planning budget by 67%. Subsequently, not only did a plethora of planned parenthood clinics close, which provided life saving screening services and preventative care mostly to high risk, impoverished young girls and women of all ages, but many other non affiliated clinics were affected by the funding slashes. These funding slashes created a larger gap in availability to important information, resources and services in OBGYN, Neonatal and Pediatric care.
Republicans continue to espouse theocratic rhetoric at every turn, harping on religious red buttons such as anti-abortion policies, and making vapid promises about bringing religion back into schools in order to garner support. All the while quietly pushing bills on congress that would gut these very same schools of public funding, stripping them of the resources they need to provide any sort of decent education to our youth, religion aside.
Nonetheless, fanatical christians overlook the social impact of these policies due to their perceived morality. After all, if you believe in the christian depiction of the afterlife, what's a few decades of misery on earth when the pearly gates will bust wide open at your arrival right?
Ultimately, not all Latin American believers fell for the GOP's semblance of faith, otherwise the number of latino votes garnered by Trump would have swelled tremendously. Most true christians can see through the parlor tricks. But for those who blindly fall in with religious affiliations and overlook crucial details about a candidate simply because they claim to hold the same spiritual beliefs, the choice was clear. No democratic option would have stood a chance for them against Trump. Simply because the legislation that would have come to pass does not agree with their sense of morality and the standard to which they think the nation should be held.
Thusly, the challenges the latino immigrant community face going forward under an administration whose direction seems none too kind to the grey areas immigrants sometimes find themselves in, was just not enough to sway a large portion of the latin community; who had the power to influence change in government for their fellow immigrants still in the process of obtaining legal status. Even for green cardholders who have yet to obtain citizenship.