Texas immigrant advocates denounce Trump’s ‘divisive rhetoric’

Jan 31, 2018
Cristina Tzintzún, Jolt founder and executive director, speaks as she joins other community leaders to announce a unity concert and march against hate and white supremacy as they gather in front of the Governor’s Mansion in August 2017. RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

While President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union speech mostly struck a conciliatory tone Tuesday night, Texas immigrant rights advocates said that wasn’t the case when he spoke about immigration.

“Trump’s divisive rhetoric, likening Central American immigrants to MS-13 and saying that ‘Americans are Dreamers too,’ is insulting,” Cristina Tzintzún, founder and executive director of the statewide Latino civic engagement organization Jolt, said Wednesday. “His words show that he does not see communities of color and immigrants as equal to all Americans. But we know that Texas and this country are for all of us, and our diverse voices, experiences and heritages are what make our state and country great.”

Since Trump’s inauguration last year, an immigration backlash in Texas has included raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and the passage of a so-called sanctuary cities ban, which has prompted legal challenges that are still pending.

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“I hope that as a society we can judge people on the content of their character and not on their immigration status,” said Efrén C. Olivares, racial economic justice program director at the Texas Civil Rights Project. Olivares also expressed his disappointment at false statements made by the president on how “chain migration” makes it possible to bring “virtually unlimited” family members to the United States.

“Pushing false information I suppose backs up White House proposals, but (under current law) it’s limited to immediate family members only,” Olivares said.

The White House recently outlined Trump’s immigration proposal, which includes supporting a 10- to 12-year path to citizenship for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. In exchange, the White House is seeking $25 billion for a border wall.

“It’s disappointing that Trump’s focus was on separating families and pitting immigrants against immigrants,” Tzintzún said. “We reject his immigration plan because it’s immoral, anti-family and anti-American.

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According to Jolt, 53 percent of young Latinos have at least one immigrant parent. Many of these young Latinos, she said, are becoming politically engaged for the first time.

“Despite Trump’s divisive rhetoric and failure to address the issues that affect our community, I am hopeful that communities of color are coming together and organizing,” Tzintzún said. After organizing in Texas for more than a decade, she said that she’s “never before seen such a diverse and committed coalition of people come together to bring change to our state.”