Originally published by USA Today
Adryana Aldeen hovered outside a Dallas polling station Tuesday with a sign that read “Pete Sessions for Congress” and a T-shirt that said “Latinas for Abbott” – promoting both the incumbent Republican U.S. congressman from the Dallas suburbs and the incumbent Republican governor of Texas.
Aldeen, who immigrated from Mexico three decades ago, wasn’t letting President Donald Trump’s harsh rhetoric on illegal immigration get in the way of Republican wins.
“I believe in the sovereignty of the state,” said Aldeen, a GOP activist and special adviser for Hispanic engagement for the Republican Party of Texas. “This is a nation of immigrants, but we need to do everything we can for the rule of law.”
Aldeen joins a significant number of immigrant voters who supported the Republican Party on Tuesday and, in turn, Trump, despite the president’s controversial stances on immigration leading up to the elections.
Over the past few months, Trump initiated a “zero tolerance” policy that led to migrant children being separated from their parents at the border, gave alarming and unsubstantiated warnings about a caravan of migrants coming from Central America, threatened to eliminate birthright citizenship and retweeted a racially charged video linking a convicted murderer to immigrants and the Democratic Party.
The tough talk didn’t seem to chase away immigrant voters in significant numbers. On Tuesday, Democrats got about 68 percent of the Latino vote, slightly higher than the 66 percent won by Hillary Clinton in 2016, while Republicans garnered 30 percent of their vote, just above the 28 percent Trump earned four years ago, according to exit polling.
Asian voters sided with Democrats 77 percent of the time in Tuesday’s elections, and Republicans received 23 percent of their vote, the exit polling showed.
Victor Sanchez, a pro-Trump Republican from Houston, said he disagreed with the president’s threat on birthright citizenship, which is protected under the Fourteenth Amendment, but was not fazed by his tough talk on securing the border.
At a Trump rally in Houston last month supporting Sen. Ted Cruz, Sanchez, 25, who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico when he was 5, said he was pleased to see other Latinos, from Mexico, Cuba and other countries, rallying around the president and his policies.
“There’s thousands and thousands of them,” Sanchez said. “They may be a little shy … but once they go to the polls, they vote their conscience.”
Saba Ahmed, president of the Washington-based Republican Muslim Coalition and a Trump supporter, said it was initially a challenge persuading Muslim immigrants to support the president and the GOP after Trump proposed a travel ban on five predominately Muslim countries.
But, Ahmed tells potential voters, it’s better to try to initiate change from the inside than complain about policies from the outside. She has managed to get more candidates to speak at Muslim gatherings and would like to see a Muslim in Trump’s Cabinet.
“The greatest opportunity for immigrants is within the Republican Party,” Ahmed said. “We have to get involved. We have to get our voices heard.”
Asian-Americans care about immigration, but other issues – such as the economy, trade and college-entrance procedures – are equally important, said Cliff Zhonggang Li, executive director of the National Committee of Asian American Republicans.
Trump scored points with the Asian community earlier this year when his administration backed students suing Harvard University over affirmative-action programs they say discriminate against Asian-Americans, Li said.
Li, originally from China, celebrated Tuesday night with a group of other Asian-Americans at a victory party in Orlando for Florida governor-elect Ron DeSantis.
“Frankly, a lot of Asian-Americans don’t like the tone the president uses,” Li said. “But so far, we haven’t seen any decisive issue that turns off the Asian-American community.” He added: “But we’ll see what happens the next two years or six years.”
Jacob Monty, a Houston-based attorney and Latino and GOP activist, said recruiting Republican voters became markedly more difficult the past 10 days as Trump fired up the rhetoric against illegal immigration.
He got pushback not just from Latino voters but from Anglo business owners, he said, who were turned off by Trump’s comments, especially his promotion of a web video showing Luis Bracamontes, a Mexican man who had been deported but returned to the U.S. and was convicted in February in the slaying of two California deputies, mixed in with images of Central American migrants.
Despite wins on Tuesday, Monty said he’s worried about the long-term health of a Republican Party that supports such scare tactics aimed at Latinos.
“I’m worried the brand has been tarnished,” he said. “I’m still rooting for the home team, but I’m very worried about it.”