GOP Debate Gathered Rally Of Trump Supporters, Unlikely Latina Who Hates Immigrants

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Lupe Morfin Moreno of Santa Ana holds a Trump 2016 sign at the entrance to the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA ahead of the second Republican primary debate, hosted by CNN. The daughter of an abusive Mexican immigrant, Moreno says that the government should crack down on illegal immigration. Sept. 16, 2015 Latin Times / Cedar Attanasio

Simi Valley, CA -- “Welcome GOP Candidates,” reads the sign on Presidential Drive, at the entrance to the Ronald Reagan Library where CNN held the second Republican debate on Wednesday, Sept. 16. But that welcome is partially obscured by the faces, T-shirts, and Donald Trump piñatas being paraded by pro-immigrant protesters hours before the debate. Anti-immigration protesters are there as well, holding signs in support of Republican candidate Donald Trump and in opposition to jus solis, or birthright citizenship.

Trump supporters rally across the street, mostly keeping to their own side Madera Road, the four-lane road at the end of Presidential Drive. Local police confirm that they had segregated themselves when they arrived, a little later than the unions.

On one side of the street, pro-immigrant supporters wave red flags with the logo of the United Farm Workers, the agricultural union founded by Chicano civil rights activist César Chávez. On the other side of the street, activists calling themselves "Trumpeteers" sit in lawn chairs by banners decrying birthright citizenship and the liberal media.

Latina Trumpeteer

“I Grew up surrounded by illegal aliens,” says Lupe Morfin Moreno of Santa Ana, who supports Trump’s proposals to deport immigrants in the country illegally and end birthright citizenship.

Moreno doesn’t look like the Trump supporters you see on TV. A simple wooden cross hangs around her neck and her straw hat wouldn’t look out of place on one of the campesinos across the street. Her thick dark hair is dusted with polvo del camino, wisps of white hair. Her skin is light brown.

How did Moreno, daughter of a Mexican immigrant father and a Tejana mother end up on this side of the street?

“I found out one day that my dad was a smuggler,” Moreno says, contrasting his law-breaking with the morals instilled her by her Catholic education. “He also molested me.”

Moreno mentions this as just one item in a long list of personal grievances with what she describes as “illegals.” The immigrant she married and later separated from, the Spanish-speaking immigrant who had a picnic on the lawn in front of her house in Santa Ana, a Latino ice cream truck driver who peed on her property.

“There he is with his penis out,” she says, as another “Trumpeteer” interrupts her story asking for zip ties to secure one of the birthright citizenship banners.

“Here, take my duct tape,” Moreno says reaching into her satchel. “Just don’t use it all,” she says kindly to her friend, as she resumes her story.

“So anyway I’m so upset. And I yell at him and he just shakes off his penis and walks away. And I call the cops but they wouldn’t do anything about it.”

More Controversial Than Abortion? 

“You still believe in the myth that Planned Parenthood provides mammograms?” said a young woman with her voice raised and a sign in her hand that advocates shutting down the clinic. “I’ll call them right now and show you that they don’t.”

More arguments could be heard over corporate influence in politics, climate change and other issues. But not immigration: emotions of fear and anger run too high.

“We’re not going to walk down there,” says Pat, a blond Simi Valley native who wears a UCLA athletic shirt. “We’ll get killed. They are angry people.”

Pat asks me not to give his full name. It’s a small town, and he’s afraid that his boss might fire him if he finds out that he’s a Trump supporter. He stands with his friend Donna, who also grew up in Simi Valley and wears a viking hat with fake blonde pigtails and held a plastic axe, an allusion to her nordic heritage.

“There was Nancy, trying to shovel,” she says, recounting the ground-breaking of the Reagan Library

To the pro-immigrant protesters, Pat and Donna fit the Trump-supporter stereotype. They’re blonde and Aryan-looking. They grew up playing ice hockey in Simi Valley. Pat explains that when he says that “they are angry people,” he’s not talking about Latinos; he’s not talking about race.

“If there were German people coming in I’d want to stop them, too. It doesn’t matter if they’re Latino. What would Latinos do if 20 million Germans started coming in?”

Behind him, Latino activists held a sign evoking Azatlán, a controversial homeland concept important in the Chicano movement.

“We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us. Azatlán!” the sign says.  

We’re Not Killers, We’re Dreamers

“We’re not killers, we’re dreamers,” says Guisell Martinez of Los Angeles.

Martinez started her day working as a janitor, as she’s done most days since she came to the U.S. from Honduras in 1998. She’s a single mother of three children born in the U.S.

“I’m not ashamed of my work, but I work for a better future for my children.”

On Presidential drive, she joined fellow union members representing janitors, farm worker, teamsters and other professions brought together by CHIRLA -- the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.

“We’re fighting and we’re going to keep doing our thing over here,” Martinez says, adding that “they can do what they want over there,” as she pointed to the Trump supporters on the other side of Madera Road.

Guisell Martinez Guisell Martinez of Los Angeles participates in a protest with unions and groups affiliated with CHIRLA, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. A Honduran immigrant in the U.S. legally, Martinez fears that immigration policies proposed by leading GOP candidates like Donald Trump would have a negative impact on her community. A union janitor, she says that organized labor has allowed her increased security and better working conditions and wages. Sept. 16, 2015 Latin Times / Cedar Attanasio

White Immigrant Supporters

Back on the pro-immigrant side of the street, two elderly caucasian women hold small signs that read “UNAMERICAN.” Lorraine Tessier has paper-white skin and a wisend smile. Vicki Smith, her partner of 45 years, explains that the signs reference comments made by President Barack Obama.

“When I hear folks talking as if somehow these kids are different from my kids or less worthy in the eyes of God, that somehow they are less worthy of our respect and consideration and care, I think that’s un-American,” Obama said in Iowa on Monday.

“My family came from Italy and the Czech Republic,” Tessier says, arguing that, aside from Native Americans, everyone in the country was an immigrant one way or another. She thrust a printed article of the President’s quote into my hands, pointing to a highlighted quote.

“Don’t pretend that somehow 100 years ago the immigration process was all smooth and strict. That’s not how it worked,” Obama said, according to the Daily Kos article .

Invaders, Or Children Of Invaders

“These people across the street are invaders, or children of invaders,” says Eveline Miller,  a longtime friend of Moreno. “We started with prop 187,” she adds, referring to the anti-immigrant California law that passed in the early 1990s.

“I was a Democrat,” says Moreno. “I voted for Clinton. But the immigration issue changed my mind.”

“Reagan’s biggest mistake was passing Amnesty [the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act],” says Miller, a comment that was echoed by many on the anti-immigration side of the street.

On the pro-immigration side of Presidential Drive, Latino and Latina dancers performed in Mayan costumes, beating on drums.

“Look at those savages in their loincloths,” Miller says. “They’re so proud. Don’t they know that the Aztecs were cannibals?”

Moreno agrees that the dance is un-Christian, but also says that her niece participates in a similar group.

“She might be there dancing -- she’d be so angry if she knew I was on this side,” Moreno says.

azteca dancer An Aztec dancer performs on the sidewalk of Presidential Drive, at the entrance of Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA ahead of the second Republican primary debate, hosted by CNN. Sept. 16, 2015. Latin Times / Cedar Attanasio

Miller argues that children of immigrants in the country illegally should not be eligible for birthright citizenship, an idea endorsed by a number of the Republican candidate about to take the stage at the Reagan Library, including Trump, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz.

“They come here, they’re born in the back of a Chevy, and then we have to take care of them until they’re 85,” Miller says.

“The real problem is the welfare,” says Ted Hilton, a former San Diego public administrator who helped write some of the language in Prop 187, the 1990 California law.

Latinos on the pro-immigrant side of the debate argued that it was Trump, not immigrants and their children that were taking more than they served. Trump.

“César Chávez volunteered for the Navy [in WWII]. Donald Trump deferred 5 times,” says Alex, a member of the UFW, who was drafted into the army during the Vietnam War.

“We pay taxes, we’re part of the community,” says Martinez, the janitor, adding that Trump’s rhetoric had galvanized the Latino community and that “we’ll be ready in November [of 2016].”

Donald Trump supporters reagan Supporters of presidential candidate Donald Trump post up with signs at the entrance of Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA ahead of the second Republican primary debate, hosted by CNN. Many of the activists present advocated for Prop 187, a controversial piece of immigration legislation that was passed in the early 1990s. Many of its provisions were found to be unconstitutional by federal courts. Today California has some of the most immigrant-friendly laws in the country. Sept. 16, 2015 Latin Times / Cedar Attanasio

Update: Itay Hod at The Wrap pointed out that Lupe Moreno has actually met with Trump, and gave the following press conference in July. She describes losing her nephew in a violent attack, something that was not mentioned in the interview she gave to the Latin Times. 

 

 

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