A Mexican Immigrant in New Haven Says Hard Times Ahead No Matter Who Wins Presidency

Nov 3, 2016

Jesus Sanchez held his cell phone in one hand and a megaphone in the other. He was simultaneously streaming a protest at the New Haven Police Department on Facebook Live while leading the demonstrators in a chant.

Sanchez is with the social justice organization Unidad Latina en Acción. The demonstrators blocked off traffic to protest what they say was an incident of police brutality in New Haven last month.

Sanchez said he found a home in New Haven after he legally emigrated here from Mexico with his mom and his brother as a teenager. As a "sanctuary city," New Haven is known for its immigrant-friendly policies.

But Sanchez said there’s been a shift in attitudes towards immigrants since Donald Trump announced his candidacy last year.

“New Haven obviously is a colonial town,” Sanchez said, his voice hoarse from another protest he went to earlier that day. “With it comes an ugly side of history, full of racism, full of ideas that right now are seen as despicable. Doesn’t mean that they’re gone, doesn’t mean that we’re exempt.”

Sanchez is 22. He’s been involved with the city’s social justice movement since this summer when he decided to take a gap year from the University of Connecticut’s engineering program.

Millennials like him make up almost half of eligible Latino voters in the United States. But Sanchez, despite his political involvement, isn’t one of them. He hasn’t gone through the naturalization process yet.

At the Unidad Latina en Acción headquarters in New Haven, Jesus Sanchez looks at a voting district map.
Credit Ryan Caron King / WNPR
Sanchez marches in a protest at Yale University. Protesters called for the school to change the name of Calhoun College, named for U.S. Vice President and slavery advocate John C. Calhoun.
Credit Ryan Caron King / WNPR

Sanchez joked that it’s sort of a relief that he can’t vote this year. But he said he gets frustrated with his peers who can and don’t want to.

“A lot of people that wish they had that right, we don’t have it,” Sanchez said. “Even though I understand how the politics of this country still apply to my everyday life, I still have no say in it.”

Sanchez, who’s gay, said he’s worried that a change in presidential leadership could set back the LGBT rights movement. There’s also a lot on the line for the Latino community here in New Haven, he said.

Under sanctuary city policy, law enforcement here turns a blind eye to undocumented immigrants, and that has drawn ire from congressional Republicans, who last year tried to block funding for sanctuary cities across the country.

But Sanchez doesn’t support Hillary Clinton’s candidacy either. He’s afraid Clinton could continue the Obama administration’s immigration polices, which lead to a high number of deportations.

“It’s not like, if Clinton wins, all of a sudden immigrants are gonna have a pathway towards citizenship,” Sanchez said, “or undocumented students are gonna have access to financial aid. That’s not going to happen.”

But, Sanchez said that people should still vote for the candidate that represents their best interests. After the election, Sanchez said, no matter who wins, he’ll just have to push harder for the rights of people like him.