“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best… They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems… They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” — Donald Trump announcing his candidacy for president, June 16, 2015.
Rosa Cisneros of Gainesville wishes she could introduce her 77-year-old mother, Belarmina Menjivar, to President-elect Donald Trump.
Cisneros is certain if Trump could hear her mother’s life story since she migrated into this country from El Salvador in 1972, the man who will be sworn in Friday as the 45th president of the United States would not speak disparagingly about Mexicans in particular, and Hispanics in general.
Having been abandoned by her husband, Menjivar recounted for The Times how she left her eight children behind in El Salvador, entered Mexico, and during President Richard Nixon’s second term in office, she made her way into California to start from scratch.
After a year in Los Angeles, Menjivar moved to Chicago, where she was told wages were better.
“I worked two, three jobs, never took a vacation and saved every penny,” Menjivar said.
Eventually, Menjivar juggled multiple jobs while selling baked goods and gift items in her Chicago neighborhood.
“I bought a three-story building and brought my children to this country, too,” Menjivar said.
The 54-year-old Cisneros is carrying on her mother’s entrepreneurial spirit. She too saved her money working at a Starbucks inside O’Hare International Airport. She moved to Gainesville nine years ago and opened Supermercado La Rosita, 210 Atlanta Highway, which features a cafeteria that serves popular Mexican and Central America dishes.
“We have to show President Trump that we come here to work and better our lives,” Cisneros said. “Not everyone coming to this country are the bad people he talks about. I know that if he met my mother, he would have a totally different view of us.”
In a nation split down the middle along party and ideological lines, other Hispanics in the area have mixed feelings about a Trump administration over the next four years.
Charles Alvarez said he voted for Trump, and thinks building a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border is a necessity. A Republican who ran for Gainesville mayor in 2013, Alvarez is also in favor of Trump repealing and replacing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, which gives immigrants who came to the U.S. as young children the opportunity to work legally.
“Those who are good citizens will benefit,” Alvarez said of Trump’s pledged initiatives. “Eventually, the country will be better for it. The ones who have committed violent crimes need to get out of the country.”
A New Yorker with roots in Puerto Rico, Alvarez is a U.S. citizen.
On the other side of the coin, Luis Santos-Rivas said he did not vote for Trump because he thinks he will be “a bad president for everybody.”
Santos-Rivas doesn’t understand why Trump insists he will build a wall along the southern border.
“A wall won’t resolve anything,” Santos-Rivas said. “The government has to fix the (immigration) system first, otherwise the undocumented situation will never end. Right now there are concerns about who is going to pick the harvest. They will have to hire undocumented people to do it, and then the cycle will start again because those people won’t go back to their countries.”
Santos-Rivas also would like to see Trump leave DACA in place.
“Those young people are good students, many of them,” he said. “They don’t know any other country.”
Santos-Rivas is hoping Trump’s stay in the White House is brief.
“The president-elect has shown no respect for anybody in this country,” he said. “I hope he gets impeached very soon.”
As the chair of the Hall County Republican Party, Debra Pilgrim said she, the local GOP’s executive board and the group’s members recognize that Hispanics who have come here legally are “an important part of this community.” Pilgrim said the vast majority of Hispanics share the same conservative family values and right-to-life beliefs that form the core of the Republican Party.
“They want to see things done right here,” Pilgrim said of the local Hispanic community. “They want to see the immigration process work in the right fashion. Trump is not against immigration. He wants to see it work properly.”
Gainesville attorney Arturo Corso said he’s seen the concern in the faces of many in the Hispanic community who come to him asking what will happen under a Trump administration.
“I think it’s important for people to take a deep breath and see what happens,” Corso said.
Jerry Gonzalez, the executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, said time will tell whether the most controversial proposals made by Trump were just campaign rhetoric or campaign promises he intends to keep.
“The concerns are real,” Gonzalez said. “Everybody has heard the rhetoric that President-elect Trump used during the campaign. ... Latinos were listening and paying attention.”
Although she voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton, Cisneros said she will give Trump the benefit of the doubt.
“He’s new to politics and he’s not practiced in the art of politics and being nice,” Cisneros said. “We have to wait and see what he does.”