STORRS, CT — The Latino voting bloc was supposed to contribute to Democratic Hillary Clinton’s victory, but even if she had been elected president, for immigrant students at the University of Connecticut she was the lesser of two evils.
Students gathered Tuesday in Laurel Hall at the University of Connecticut to watch the presidential election returns and discuss its implications for immigration reform in the United States.
Republican Donald J. Trump, who pulled off a victory early Wednesday morning, has been outspoken in his desire to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico and early on in the campaign talked about deporting millions of undocumented immigrants, but a Clinton presidency may also have resulted in increased raids, deportation, and border patrol funding, Eric Cruz Lopez, a UConn student, said.
“We are not for Hillary Clinton. We are not for Trump. We are for the people and for the relief that people of color and immigrants need,” Cruz Lopez added.
An undocumented student himself, Cruz Lopez said he was seven years old when he came to the United States with his mother and brother. He said the best possible outcome of the election would be Clinton winning and following through on her promises to the Latino community within her first 100 days in office.
Failing that, a Trump presidency would put undocumented students in particular at risk because they are required to apply to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in order to attend the university, Mayra Reyes, who is pursuing a masters in school psychology at UConn, said.
Reyes was able to receive a temporary social security number that allows her to work and attend the university under DACA because she entered the United States before the age of 16. However, if the program, established through executive action by President Barack Obama in 2012, were revoked, it would seriously expose undocumented students and their families, Reyes said.
“That’s how your name is documented in the system, they have you on record that you are undocumented because you applied for this program,” Reyes said. “That information in the wrong hands could make people vulnerable to being raided in their own homes, to being hunted.”
Voting for Clinton despite her legacy of support for private prisons and deportation remains the best way to preserve the progress of groups like Connecticut Students for a Dream have achieved, said Karla Garcia, a psychology major at UConn.
“If Trump wins, we’ll still keep fighting for it, we’ll still keep going at it, but we definitely don’t want to be 10 steps back,” Garcia said.
Regardless of the outcome of the election, Cruz Garcia said he intends to risk arrest on Thursday with United We Dream Action’s Honey Badger Squad to agitate for end to immigrant detention centers.
“We’re escalating to this point now and we don’t know who’s going to be elected,” Cruz Lopez said. “We have to make sure that our protections are not ended, that 12 million undocumented immigrants are not deported.”
The knowledge that so many Americans were willing to excuse or support Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric makes a powerful statement about the direction of the United States, Garcia said.
“His candidacy brought out so much hate,” Garcia said. “The message he’s sending is disgusting.”
Joseline Tlacomulco, a political science and human rights major at UConn, said she has continued to make her status as an undocumented student known on campus despite the dangers.
“I’m risking it all that way because that fear tactic has been used to silence us,” Tlacomulco, a regional organizer for Connecticut Students for a Dream, added.