Alana Rush’s mother nicknamed her “Salmon” because she goes against the current.
Rush, a Latinx woman, believes minorities should be pro-immigration. But navigating immigration issues can be an upstream battle for salmon like Rush. Her sentiment isn’t shared by everyone in her family or community.
The 21-year-old political science senior and secretary of the UF Dominican Student Association is one of more than 10,500 Hispanic/Latino students at UF in Fall 2018. Like other students, Rush’s experiences and cultural background as a Latinx woman have shaped her beliefs.
But while UF Latinx students share a similar culture, they have yet to find common ground on their politics.
Hispanics are predicted to become the largest minority group of eligible voters in the 2020 election, according to the Pew Research Center. With the presidential election quickly approaching and Republican President Donald Trump seeking reelection, the Latinx voter turnout in battleground Florida, and their polarized views on immigration, the economy and foreign policy have the potential to greatly influence the election’s outcome.
As a Democrat, Rush disagrees with Trump’s hard-line immigration policies.
“People come into countries because they’re seeking help,” she said. “They’re seeking resources to help them live better lives, to live the American dream, and I feel like he’s just trying to stop that from happening.”
Rush’s great-grandmother, along with her kids, fled the Dominican Republic in the 1950s because of dictator Rafael Trujillo. Although Rush is liberal, she’s noticed that older Puerto Rican Army and Navy veterans on the other side of her family align with conservative values.
Rush believes her family’s conservative views stem from their military service and growing up in a U.S. commonwealth, which gave them a strong sense of patriotism toward the U.S. as opposed to the Dominican side of her family.
When discussing politics with other Latinx students, Rush said she was often shocked by their agreement with conservative values.
Jarrod Rodriguez, the president of UF Turning Point USA and the treasurer of UF College Republicans, feels that President Trump has effectively addressed the concerns of Republicans.
Rodriguez’s family fled Cuba during Fidel Castro’s communist regime. While living in the U.S, he said his family told him stories about the horrors of communism. He said he wants to maintain the American values that helped his grandparents thrive was one of the main reasons why he became interested in politics.
He believes Trump has received unnecessary criticism from Democrats for doing what other presidents have done before, particularly with immigration and foreign policy in the Middle East.
“We’ve been conducting airstrikes for years and in fact, the ‘king of all airstrikes,’ Obama never caught fire from Congress for conducting airstrikes in that region,” he said.
On the other hand, Harrison Riumbau, also Cuban, leans left and serves as the Latinx caucus chairman for the UF College Democrats.
Cuban Americans who weren’t born in Cuba were reported as 41 percent Republican, with 28 percent identifying as Democrats, 29 percent as registered independents and 2 percent with another party registration, according to a 2018 poll from Florida International University.
Riumbau, a 19-year-old UF political science and economics sophomore, said there’s “no possible way” Trump could be seen as supportive to the Latinx community.
“Any reach that Trump has shown to appeal to any Latinx group has only been ... for personal benefit or political benefit in terms of elections,” Riumbau said. “And any other remarks that aren’t in that fashion have only been diminishing and destructive.”
Jacqueline Vanegas agrees with Riumbau’s assertion.
Vanegas, a 19-year-old Colombian and a UF political science and history freshman, serves as the College Democrats’ Latinx caucus chairwoman. Growing up in South Florida among a large Latinx community, she witnessed those around her fear being deported under the Trump administration.
She believes Trump has fostered division and xenophobia between Americans and immigrants by choosing to build a border wall.
“Colorism within the Latino community is not only prominent socially, but also politically,” Vanegas said. “When you think of immigration, you think of more mestizo, dark-skinned Latinos, and you see discrimination more toward them, rather than those Latinos who are white and come from European descent.”
Despite polarizing views within the Latinx community, Vanegas believes Latinx people still share underlying moral principles.
“There’s always going to be a pride of being Latino,” Vanegas said. “While there can be different political views, I think at the end of the day, we all want what’s best for us.”
Contact Samantha Chery at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @SammyChery4276.