Gutierrez: Fear of Trump Mass Deportation Motivating Latino Voter Surge

‘It’s very sad when the first question a congressman gets from American high school students are how much they should fear their own government’

"Thank you Mr. Speaker. Over the last several weeks, I have visited six high schools in my district to meet with juniors and seniors, about 2,000 students in total. Almost all of the students I meet are U.S.citizens, most are Latinos, some have immigrant parents, some will soon be eligible to vote. All of them have one question for me. It starts at every Q and A at every high school I visit. The questions are about Donald Trump. Is he going to be our next president? Is it true he wants to revoke our citizenship? Is he going to deport us? Is he going to round us up Mr. Gutierrez and deport us all? 

It’s very sad when the first question a congressman gets from American high school students are how much they should fear their own government. Whether their own government is going to break up their families, if their own government is going to treat them not as citizens but as pariahs in their own country.

When they hear Trump is leading in the poll, they feel that means he’ll be the next president. When they see him on shows like Jimmy Fallon, not to mention CNN and Fox News, they feel he’s a celebrity that all of us in American all admire. When they hear that Trump is hosting 'Saturday Night Live,' not just being a guest, but actually hosting even after saying Mexicans are mostly rapists, criminals and drug dealers they get the impression that calling whole groups of people rapists, criminals and drug dealers based on their ethnicity or national origin is basically okay in America. 

The real question they have is, what are you going to do to defend us from Donald Trump? This leads to an intense discussion about American politics and I ask them right back, what are you going to do to stand up for yourselves and your community? Motivating 17- and 18-year-olds to do something is not always easy, including motivating to register to vote when they are old enough to vote. When I ask these young Americans whether they plan to get registered to vote, every hand goes up in the classroom.

Donald Trump is spurring youth voter mobilization like I’ve never seen before. Nationally we know that 93% of Latinos under the age of 18 are United States citizens. Every thirty seconds a Latino citizen turns 18. That is about a million a year for the next decade or so. If they are half as motivated as the young people I’m talking to in Chicago, Donald Trump could have a tremendous impact on the youth vote in the coming election.

But let’s be honest, do we really want to motivate civil participation through fear of deportation? These are American teenagers growing up to distrust their government. Trump wants to take us to the good old days of race relations, which apparently means the 1950s, when President Eisenhower evicted thousands of citizens from the United States, and Dr. Carson, who believes history started 5,000 years old, said of mass deportation schemes, quote, ‘I think it’s worth it’s worth discussing.’ 

Here in the House we debated ways to deport children more quickly. I made the unfortunate but real suggestion that Republicans were gravitating toward mass deportation policies, which provoked a response of the chairman, Mr. Sessions. He said, ‘Gutierrez, there’s no one in responsible Republican leadership that has said we should deport 13 million or 11 million people, and I find it extremely distasteful, Luis, that people would come here and suggest things we have not suggested.’ Now that people are suggesting mass deportation openly and are gaining in the public opinion polls in the Republican party, I wonder why there’s so much silence from the Republican members of this body.

But it’s not just young Latino voters in Chicago that are being motivated by Republican attacks. When Republicans attack Planned Parenthood and block laws to guarantee equal pay for women, that gets women to vote. When Republicans celebrate people who won’t issue marriage licenses to two men or two women, a lot of people in the LGBT community get motivated to register and vote.

When Republicans rail against unions and block increases in the minimum wage while of course they earn a 174,000 dollars a year, and block environmental standards and block sensible gun laws, a lot of middle class Americans get motivated to registered to vote. Together with those young people I talked about at those high schools, we’re forming a very, very powerful coalition. A coalition so powerful, someday Republicans themselves will want to be part of it."

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