#NJRR Live: Looking into the LatinX Vote

Happy Holidays from #NJRR Live!

Welcome to our December 21 episode of #NJRR Live! We are going to be taking a few weeks off after this episode to recuperate and be there with our families for the Holidays. We thank our audience for sticking with us through what has been universally one of the worst years in modern history. As we move into 2021, we will be fighting for a better future. 

Christian Perez is our host tonight. We begin by welcoming Brian to the show so that he can fill us in on the developing situation with ICE concentration camps in North Jersey. A few weeks ago, we had activist Jake Ephros on the show and discussed the four ICE detention centers that are in the state of New Jersey. Brian emphasizes that this problem is quite literally life or death for many of those incarcerated. 

ICE Concentration Camps in New Jersey

Unfortunately, notes Christian, the public’s attention has been shifted from immigration reform to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although it is understandable that COVID is top of mind for the American people at this time, that doesn’t change the fact that families are still being separated. The US government has displaced thousands of children from their families and the situation isn’t getting any better right now.

In North Jersey, reports Brian, there have been recent clashes between activists and police. There is also a hunger strike going on at a Bergen County prison. Facility officials over exaggerate the humanity of living conditions, even going so far as to compare the detention centers to dorm rooms. In truth, it would be more apt to compare them to concentration camps. 

People are assuming that the situation is going to get better somehow since Joe Biden is becoming President. Their attention is diverted and meanwhile, Joe Biden is more likely to make things worse for immigrants than better. This is a dangerous situation and that is part of why we see so many people rising up in North Jersey.

Immigration Is Not A Crime

Being an immigrant is not a crime, regardless of positive legal status. Illegal immigration is a civil offense. Even if immigration was technically defined as a crime, people should not be treated horribly because they came here, often seeking refuge. In Hudson County, they’ve strip searched 100 people, deploying chemical agents such as mace nine of those times. Solitary confinement has been used 85 times. In order to see their families, those in captivity had no choice but to submit to invasive body searches.

There are some pending bills and contracts that are a step in the right direction, such as a recently announced bill that would stop the forming of new ICE contracts or renewal of contracts in New Jersey. People are applauding this, but the bottom line is that it’s not enough. There are contracts that still have 4, even 6 years on them, and people are dying NOW. Social distancing is quite literally impossible in these facilities. 

COVID and Incarceration

COVID doesn’t care who you are or what you’ve done. It will find its way to you if you are not careful. Incarcerated populations are suffering. In a prison, the entire community is vulnerable; even the correctional officers are susceptible. Five correctional staff in Elizabeth have died due to COVID complications.

The people that are currently being incarcerated in ICE facilities aren’t murderers. Their transgression was coming to this country in search of a new life. Immigration happens because of environmental, social, and political back and forth but people won’t acknowledge that. This is because people don’t want to do the work of getting educated on the facts. They’d rather sit back and blame minority groups such as immigrants for America’s problems.

Presidential Politics

Brian predicts that a lot of immigrants will hardly care who is President because, as far as they’re concerned, it doesn’t directly affect their daily lives. Their main concern every day is putting food on the table for their families. When you live paycheck to paycheck, it’s harder to have time to pay attention to Presidential politics. This is by design. Meanwhile, our government has decided after months of arguing over our cries for help to put out a measly $600 stimulus. In contrast, there is significant money going to military expenses in the same bill.

If it’s going to be four more years of this, things are going to get very depressing. It is quite apparent that the mainstream media are not willing to bring attention to these crucial issues or significantly criticize Joe Biden. If you are able, we ask that you help us get the word out. We will never allow our message to be tainted by corruption; we don’t accept corporate money. New Jersey Revolution Radio relies on your donations to operate. We want to be the best possible source of information for you. If possible, please donate to our network. Christian notes that it’s the giving season: keep it in mind. 

This week’s #NJRR Live podcast with Christian Perez and special guest Flavio Hickel Jr.

#NJRR Live Welcomes Professor Flavio Hickel

On July 24, 2015, Christian published Episode 3 of his podcast, Modernity and Absurdity. This episode was about Bernie Sanders and the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and his featured guest was Professor Flavio Hickel. The same guest is back tonight for #NJRR Live. Flavio earned his Ph.D. in American Politics from Rutgers University and is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Washington College. There, he teaches courses on Racial and Ethnic Politics and American Political Institutions. His work deals with national identity politics with a substantive focus on the Latinx community and Immigration policy. 

Tonight he will be applying his knowledge and research of the Latinx community to a discussion about voting. Christian shares that a Pew poll conducted in July and August found that the most popular voting issue among Latinx people was the economy at 80%. Flavio shares that this is nothing new. For the past decade, the top issues among Latinx voters have always been the economy, healthcare, and education, not unlike the American population at large. In fact, when you are a minority population fighting to make a living, it is typical for the political priority to be economic issues.  

The Latinx Vote

Immigration does tend to be more important with Latinx voters than with white voters. Latinx people who vote red are nothing new. Between 30 and 40 percent of Latinx people voted for Reagan and the numbers were similar for Bush. The numbers tend to vary because it is rather difficult to poll the Latinx population about political attitudes. Flavio shares that statistically, the Latinx people tend to be difficult to reach. There are language barriers and many people tend to be working odd hours at the times when these surveys are conducted. Their lives are busy enough as they try to get by and they may not be inclined to volunteer free time to contribute their opinions. 

Why Trump?

So, what is going through the minds of these people? Looking at Latinx people who voted for Trump in the 2020 election, Christian asks of Flavio: Are they Trumpers or are they desperate people trying to get back to work? Flavio says that it’s almost always the latter. It’s been months with no federal COVID relief and all we’re getting after all that time is a $600 payment. People are starving; people are cold; people don’t have enough. Minority groups such as Latinx people are especially vulnerable at this time. At the end of the day, they are going to vote for the person that they think is more likely to make it possible for them to get a job. If they think that’s Trump, then there’s their vote. 

Could Trump Have Won Without COVID? Christian says yes. Trump could have handled the COVID situation so much better. There were a plethora of instances where Trump could have easily done the right thing, i.e. wear a mask, but did not. The American people took notice and that is most likely why Trump lost the election, suspects Christian. Flavio agrees that Trump mishandled the COVID situation “in an epic way” and damaged his own campaign in doing so. 

Social Identity Theory

Social Identity Theory is an academic theory that has been being built upon for decades. The theory states that it’s very easy for people to categorize themselves, even arbitrarily. Our identities matter; they are what we build our self esteem off of. There is, according to psychology, a natural inclination to advance the interests of one’s own group.

According to Flavio’s recent research, approximately 30 percent of Latinx people are actually rather conservative on immigration. We want to understand why. According to Flavio’s research, there are a host of reasons. Sadly, the reasons include resentment of fellow Latinx people. The toxic and hateful rhetoric that is spread by the right wing about “lazy immigrants” takes hold in some of these peoples’ minds. Immigrants want to escape this image, so they try to de-identify themselves from their heritage. This is how they grow to resent their own people.

Ditching Cultural Identities

Flavio has a study coming out soon in which the results indicate that being in a minority group tends to lead to lower self-esteem. Therefore, Flavio speculates in order to improve self-esteem, Latinx people try to ditch their cultural identities. Many consider themselves to be more American than they are Latinx.

The thinking is that you should adopt the American ideas of liberty and personal responsibility, and if you can do that, you might make it in America. Flavio is seeing in his research that this mindset is relatively common among Latinos. However, ditching cultural identity is not possible for all Latinx people. Some people, whether it be due to ethnic appearance, language barriers, or other factors, find that they cannot pass for the constructed and corrupt idea of a “true American” that has been put into their minds. 

Voting Demographics

There are a host of demographics that factor into the complexities of the Latinx vote. We can examine voting patterns and differences of opinion between different age groups, generations, races, national origins, genders, and religions. What correlates most strongly to voting red? Obviously, most significantly, it’s about party differences. Then, we have to look at the resentment factor, which is relatively big among the American Latinx population. And next, there’s a fair amount of sexism, which may connect to the Latinx cultural idea of machismo. Recent studies have disappointed Flavio by indicating that Latinx people do indeed tend to me more sexist than other ethnic groups.

Flavio tells us that the further removed Latinx people are from their original immigrant ancestors by generation, the further they tend to consider themselves from their national identity. This also connects to conservatism. Original immigrants tend to be far more liberal and those who have lived in this country for generations tend to be more conservative. 

More To Be Done

Clearly, more needs to be done. This takeaway, says Flavio, to be considered a silver lining. There’s more to be done but we can do it. Thanks to polling, we have not just anecdotes, but evidence. We have to keep studying the polls and ask where we are failing and what we can do about it.

Flavio has a Twitter and he can also be reached by email at FlavioHickelJr@gmail.com if you have any questions about Latinx public opinion or political science. We are honored to have had Flavio as a guest on our show tonight and pick his brain on these important voting issues. Christian reminds us to check out his podcast, Modernity and Absurdity, particularly Episode 3, which featured tonight’s guest. Until next time, take care of yourselves. We’ll see you next year!

-Leah Giannantonio, for New Jersey Revolution Radio

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