It was a bittersweet victory. The young Latina election workers who crowded into a union conference room here Wednesday afternoon had helped pull of a stunning win: Not only had Nevada, long a swing state, gone for Hillary Clinton, but the state elected the nation’s first Latina US Senator, Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat.
And yet, casting a pall over what should have been a joyous occasion was the triumph of Donald Trump, a man many Latinos fear and abhor because of his hardline positions and rhetoric on immigration.
“Everything we did here in Nevada I’m very proud of,” said Miriam Cardenas, 19, who worked on an early voter outreach team put together by a community-based organization.
Still, Cardenas added, Trump’s election had made her heartsick and terrified, both for herself and her family.
“I was scared to even get out of my house this morning, just thinking that I look Hispanic from a mile away,” Cardenas added. “This guy says that we’re criminals, we’re bad people.”
Cardenas, who came to Las Vegas from Mexico at age 8, described herself as “DACA-mented” because she applied for and received legal status under the Deferred Action for Children Arrivals immigration policy established by President Obama this February—a status many fear Trump could do away with, sending hundreds of thousands of young people back into legal limbo. Two of her younger brothers and her mother are in the process of obtaining their U-Visas, which grant witnesses in criminal proceedings permission to stay in the country.
Her eyes welled with tears as she imagined her younger brothers’ learning of Trump’s win.
“My little brother has always been really smart and stands up for what’s right. To have to tell him that the person who literally became the bully I always told him to stand up to just won…This is going to be really, really hard,” she added.
It was a sentiment echoed again and again by the dozen young canvassers at a press conference organized by the Culinary Workers Union and the Center for Community Change Action, a Las Vegas non-profit that works with low income people of color to improve public policies.
Many of the young workers were not themselves eligible to vote, because they are not citizens, but nevertheless spent countless hours during the weeks before the election to try help Democrats win.
Chavelly Gutierrez, also 19, signed up two weeks ago, after her brother told her she needed to be involved because immigrant rights were at stake. Many of her family are undocumented, she said.
Gutierrez, a citizen who cast her first presidential vote for Clinton, said the experience galvanized her and gave her hope for the future despite the crushing disappointment of Trump’s election.
“Now I know what we’re fighting against,” she said.“I’m sad because the elections didn’t turn out the way we wanted, but we’re not going to let Trump just do what he wants with us. Our voices will be heard, and we’re not going to stop fighting for that.”