Hispanic support for Trump raises red flag for Biden

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People walk to the pedestrian crossing at the San Luis Port of Entry, in the heavily Hispanic Yuma County, a Democratic stronghold in the southwestern corner of Arizona along the Mexico border, in San Luis, Arizona. (REUTERS/Rebecca Noble)
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David Lara, a long-time conservative activist and Yuma Union High School District Governing Board President, sits for a portrait, in heavily Hispanic Yuma County, in downtown San Luis, Arizona, on November 17, 2023. (REUTERS/Rebecca Noble)
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Updated 17 December 2023

Hispanic support for Trump raises red flag for Biden

  • Recent Reuters/Ipsos survey found Trump narrowly leading Biden in support, 38 percent to 37 percent.
  • Advocacy group UnidosUS poll found that the top issues for Hispanic voters are inflation, jobs and the economy
  • Democrats were focused too heavily on voting rights and how Trump posed a threat to democracy, says political analys

SAN LUIS, Arizona: When Michele Pena ran as a Republican candidate for the Arizona state legislature in a heavily Hispanic and Democratic-leaning district on the Mexican border, few believed she could win. Pena, the daughter of a Mexican immigrant, was a school volunteer and single mother with no political experience. She began with a campaign budget of just $1,600. She nonetheless scored an upset victory last year in the district, which is separated from Mexico by miles of border wall built under former President Donald Trump to keep out “bad hombres.” “Hispanics go hard Democrat there all the time. But they saw me as a regular person, and when we got talking, a lot of people told me things aren’t going well,” the 49-year-old said in an interview from her home city of Yuma.

The predominant concerns for many voters were high food and gas prices, job prospects and the quality of schools rather than issues around minority rights, she added.
Pena’s surprise win underscores how a growing number of Hispanic voters are switching their allegiance to Trump and Republican candidates in Arizona and other election battleground states, according to interviews with five Republican and Democratic analysts.
It’s a worrying trend for Democratic President Joe Biden as he prepares for a likely general election rematch with Trump in November 2024. Hispanics, who have typically leaned Democrat, are the largest minority in the US electorate, making up almost a fifth of the population, and will play a pivotal role in a handful of swing states that will decide the election.
Take Arizona, where a tight race beckons.

A sign shows a projected visualization of the ongoing construction of the San Luis Port of Entry funded by President Joe Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act, in the heavily Hispanic Yuma County, in San Luis, Arizona. (REUTERS/Rebecca Noble)

A third of the population is Hispanic in the state, which Biden won by just 10,000 votes in the last presidential race. In the southwest district that Pena won last year, registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 12 percent.
In 2020, Trump’s national share of Hispanic voters rose by 8 percentage points to 36 percent, compared with the 2016 election, according to the non-partisan Pew Research Center.
More recently, a Reuters/Ipsos survey of almost 800 Hispanic adults carried out this month found Trump narrowly leading Biden in support, 38 percent to 37 percent. The survey results had a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of about 4 percentage points in either direction.
“All the data we’ve seen since the 2016 elections suggests there’s considerable weakening of Democratic support among Hispanics,” said Ruy Teixeira, a veteran Democratic political analyst who has spent decades studying Hispanic voting trends.
Teixeira said Democrats have been focusing too heavily on issues including voting rights and how Trump posed a threat to democracy.
“They are dancing around the number one issue — high prices,” he added. “It’s not what working-class voters want out of a political party.”
Such assertions are supported by a November survey carried out by UnidosUS, the largest Latino non-profit advocacy group, which found that the top issues for Hispanic voters are inflation, jobs and the economy.
Democrats reject suggestions they are focusing on the wrong issues. They point to heavy investment by the Biden campaign in the 2020 election, and the Democratic Party in the 2022 congressional elections, to run ads in key states on issues including job growth and improving the economy for working families.

Knocking on doors
Pena used a campaign strategy that Republicans have been executing for several years to attract more Hispanic voters: show visibility in working-class neighborhoods, run more Spanish-language TV and radio ads, open Spanish-speaking offices, and try to convince voters that Republicans can improve their lot more than Democrats.
The Republican National Committee opened Hispanic community centers in 19 states in 2022 — including two in Arizona — where volunteers were trained to door-knock and make calls in Spanish.
In Arizona, Republicans have backed legislation they believe appeals to working-class Hispanics, including the “Tamale bill” that would have relaxed rules around the selling of food made in home kitchens. The state’s Democratic governor vetoed the measure this year on health-and safety grounds.
Pena said she knocked on hundreds of doors in working-class areas in small cities such as San Luis with a message focused on improving schools, lowering prices, and love of family. She heard worries from voters about social policies backed by many Democrats, including gender-neutral bathrooms in schools.
“They saw I was a Republican, and it was a new perspective for a lot of people,” Pena said, because few had spoken at length to a Republican candidate before.
Pena’s victory was a minor political earthquake in Arizona. Democrats expected to win both the district’s seats, which would have created a 30-30 tie in the state House of Representatives, robbing Republicans of their majority.
Pena defeated Democrat Jesus Lugo Jr. by just over 3,000 votes, 4 percent of the vote.
Democrats say they have made similar on-the-ground campaign efforts. Lugo, a social worker, told Reuters he ran on a platform of reducing homelessness, domestic violence, substance abuse, increasing mental health resources and criminal justice reform.
The 30-year-old rejects suggestions he lost to Pena due to the issues focused on. He said she won because the Republicans used a political tactic known as the “single shot“: running only one candidate in a district with two seats, increasing the chance for Republicans to win one seat rather than losing both.
Matt Barreto, the lead Latino pollster for the 2020 Biden campaign, said the playing field in 2024 will be different. He said the 2020 contest was a struggle in some areas because of the COVID-19 pandemic, when Democrats — unlike Republicans — heeded government warnings and did not campaign door-to-door or open offices in Hispanic neighborhoods.
Jason Miller, a Trump campaign spokesperson, said Trump would focus on issues important to Hispanic voters, including the economy, crime, and the southern border. “Hispanic voters will be very important in 2024,” Miller said.

Support for border wall
Democratic analyst Teixeira said his party had made a fundamental mistake in recent election cycles: assuming Hispanic voters would find Trump and fellow Republicans’ tough rhetoric against illegal immigrants as racist.
“Huge proportions of the Hispanic population, especially working-class Hispanics, are actually pretty disturbed by illegal immigration,” Teixeira said, referring to migrants crossing the border into the US without visas.
Many Hispanics do find Trump’s rhetoric offensive and vote for the Democratic Party. Most are focused on which party can best address their economic concerns, according to the UnidosUS poll.
In Reuters interviews with a dozen Hispanic voters in Yuma County, which contains part of Pena’s district, none said they found Trump’s rhetoric about illegal Mexican immigrants — whom he once described as murderers and rapists — as racist or xenophobic.
The people were focused on high prices, which most blamed Biden for. Of the dozen, six plan to vote for Trump, and the rest were undecided. Eight supported a border wall and wanted illegal immigrants kept out.
A large chunk of Trump’s border wall sits close to San Luis, which has a population of around 35,000 and is a mix of big modern stores such as Walmart and scores of small Spanish-language food and clothing shops.
Alma Cuevas, 56, a retired school librarian in the city, came to the US with her family from Mexico aged one.
An independent, she is undecided about next year’s election, but doesn’t think she can back Biden. She feels he has failed to deal with the influx of thousands of migrants across the border.
She is leaning toward Trump, because she felt better off economically when he was president.

’People feel disappointed'
Jaime Regalado, a non-partisan veteran analyst of Hispanic voting patterns and polling, echoed the complaints of some Hispanic rights groups, saying the Democratic Party only courted Hispanics at election time, assuming their support, rather than working full-time for their support.
Biden aides rejected that claim. They said his campaign had already made the largest and earliest outreach to Hispanics for a presidential re-election campaign, including Spanish-language ads targeting Latino voters in battleground states.
One ad tells voters that it’s Biden whose economic policies help Hispanic families, rather than Republicans.
“We refuse to take any vote for granted. That’s why this campaign is investing early and often to mobilize Latinos to again help deliver Joe Biden the White House,” said Maca Casado, a Biden campaign spokesperson.
They will face an uphill task convincing voters like Aracely Mendez, a lettuce picker in San Luis, who said she voted for Pena last year and will back Trump in 2024.
“People feel disappointed with the Democrats,” the 42-year-old said. “Prices went up. It’s tough.”

In Tijuana, shelter for Muslim migrants on US doorstep

A migrant prays at an abandoned warehouse turned migrant camp in Calais, northern France, on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. (AP)
Updated 12 sec ago

In Tijuana, shelter for Muslim migrants on US doorstep

  • Increasingly, migrants from the Middle East and North Africa also undertake the perilous route via South and Central America

TIJUANA, Mexico: From Algeria, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan, citizens of distant, Muslim countries wait for US asylum at a shelter in the Mexican border city of Tijuana -- more used to seeing migrants from Latin America than the Middle East.
At the Assabil Inn, Mexico's first shelter catering for US-bound Muslim migrants, the backstories of the guests are as varied as the assortment of languages they speak.
"Almost everybody follows the same faith. So it feels like you're among your brothers and sisters," Maitham Alojaili, a 26-year-old who fled civil war-wrecked Sudan, told AFP before joining Friday prayers at the facility's mosque.
"People get kidnapped. Anything could happen. Sometimes, when you leave home, there's a very high chance that you don't come back," Alojaili said of the circumstances that compelled him to leave everything behind in search of a better life far away.
Data released this week by Mexico's National Migration Institute said some 1.39 million people from 177 countries have traveled through the country so far this year, trying to reach the United States without entry papers.
The figure represents almost the whole world -- the United Nations has 193 member states.
The majority came from Venezuela, Guatemala, Honduras, Ecuador and Haiti.

Increasingly, migrants from the Middle East and North Africa also undertake the perilous route via South and Central America.
For many, it includes a journey on foot through the dangerous Darien Gap, a dense jungle on the Colombia-Panama border replete with dangerous animals, criminals and human traffickers.
Yusseph Rahnali, a 31-year-old Algerian, told AFP he opted for the United States "because they accept everybody."
Europe is not an option, he said, because of visa requirements. Instead, he flew visa-free to Ecuador before crossing seven other countries to Mexico where he awaits news on the US asylum process.
Migration is at the heart of the campaign for the US presidential election in November.
Seeking re-election, incumbent Joe Biden signed a decree this month shutting down the border to asylum seekers after certain daily limits are reached.
On Tuesday, in an attempt to balance the crackdown criticized by the left and human rights groups, he announced a new potential citizenship path for immigrants married to US nationals -- which was in turn slammed by conservatives.

In Tijuana, 29-year-old Afghan journalist Fanah Ahmadi told AFP he traveled to Brazil on a humanitarian visa, then through "nine or ten other countries" to get to Mexico.
"There are many difficulties on the way but I am still grateful that... today, I am here," said Ahmadi of the Assabil Inn, where migrants receive food and shelter, "and we are near the border as well."
The Inn, opened in 2022, can house up to 200 people and allows Muslims to pray and eat halal. A stay can last from one week to seven months.
"Muslims have their home here in Tijuana," said founder Sonia Garcia, a Mexican who converted to Islam through marriage.
In 2023, a record 2.4 million people crossed the US-Mexico border without travel documents, according to US figures.
The flow hit a high of 10,000 people per day in December, which has since been reduced as both countries have cracked down.
For purposes of statistics, migrants from Muslim countries are grouped by US officials into a category labeled "other," due to their small number compared to those from Latin America, India or Russia.
Trump, as US president, banned migrants from Muslim countries in a measure that has since been overturned.
On the campaign trail he has ramped up his anti-immigration rhetoric, saying migrants were "poisoning the blood" of the United States.


UK PM Sunak’s Conservatives set for heavy election defeat, polls forecast

Updated 19 June 2024

UK PM Sunak’s Conservatives set for heavy election defeat, polls forecast

  • Polling by YouGov showed Keir Starmer’s Labour was on track to win 425 parliamentary seats in Britain’s 650-strong House of Commons
  • Savanta poll, published by the Telegraph newspaper, said Sunak could even lose his own parliamentary seat in northern England

LONDON: Three opinion polls on Wednesday predicted a record defeat for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives at a July 4 election, forecasting the Labour Party would comfortably win a large majority after 14 years in opposition.
Polling by YouGov showed Keir Starmer’s Labour was on track to win 425 parliamentary seats in Britain’s 650-strong House of Commons, the most in its history. Savanta predicted 516 seats for Labour and More in Common gave it 406.
YouGov had the Conservatives on 108 and the Liberal Democrats on 67, while Savanta predicted the Conservatives would take 53 parliamentary seats and the Liberal Democrats 50. More in Common forecast 155 and 49 seats respectively.
Chris Hopkins, Political Research Director at Savanta, said its projection put Labour on course “for a historic majority.”
The three polls were so-called multilevel regression and post-stratification (MRP) surveys, an approach that uses voters’ age, gender, education and other variables to predict results in every British voting district. Pollsters used the method to successfully predict the 2017 British election result.
They are largely in line with previous surveys predicting a Labour victory, but show the scale of the Conservatives’ defeat could be even worse than previously thought.
YouGov’s forecast of 108 seats for the Conservatives was around 32 lower than its previous poll two weeks earlier.
Both Savanta and YouGov predicted that the party of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher could be left with the lowest number of seats in its near 200-year history contesting elections.
Sunak, who in a final throw of the dice last week pledged to cut 17 billion pounds of taxes for working people if re-elected,
has failed to turn the polls around so far in a campaign littered with missteps.
His task has been made harder by the surprise mid-campaign return to frontline politics by prominent Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage, a right-wing populist, whose Reform UK party threatens to split the right-of-center vote.
Britain has a first-past-the-post electoral system, meaning Reform could pick up millions of votes across the country without winning any individual seats.
YouGov predicted Reform would win five seats and Savanta none. More in Common did not give a figure for Reform.
The Savanta poll, published by the Telegraph newspaper, said Sunak could even lose his own parliamentary seat in northern England, once considered a safe Conservative constituency, with the contest currently too close to call.
Sunak has acknowledged that people are frustrated with him and his party after more than a decade in power, dominated at times by political turmoil and scandal.
All three surveys projected several senior government ministers, including finance minister Jeremy Hunt, were on course to lose their seats.
Most opinion polls currently place Keir Starmer’s Labour about 20 percentage points ahead of the governing Conservatives in the national vote share.
Other polls in recent days have also presented a grim picture for Sunak, with one pollster predicting “electoral extinction” for the Conservatives.

Community leader accuses Reform UK’s Nigel Farage of ‘undermining Muslim communities’

Updated 19 June 2024

Community leader accuses Reform UK’s Nigel Farage of ‘undermining Muslim communities’

  • Iman Atta, of the Tell Mama organization which monitors Islamophobia in the UK, called on other political leaders to ‘step up’ to address divisions
  • Britain needs ‘leadership that will bring communities together, not divide them further,’ she says

LONDON: A Muslim community leader has accused Reform UK’s Nigel Farage of “attacking and undermining Muslim communities” in a bid to win votes during the July 4 general election, according to the Independent on Wednesday.
Iman Atta, of the Tell Mama organization which monitors Islamophobia in the UK, said Farage’s comments last month were “worrying,” and called on other political leaders to “step up” to address divisions.
When questioned about Conservative plans to bring in national service for 18-year-olds, the Reform UK leader said there are “a growing number of young people in this country who do not subscribe to British values, in fact loathe much of what we stand for.”
Farage confirmed during his interview on Sky News that he was referring to Muslims.
Describing his comments as “disgraceful,” Atta said the claims are “nothing new,” a reference to remarks Farage has made in the past.
After the Westminster terror attack in 2017, Farage told a US TV network: “I’m sorry to say that we have now a fifth column living inside these European countries.”
Referring to his “fifth column” remark, Atta said: “He obviously keeps on attacking and undermining Muslim communities in any way that he can find in order to be able to attract more votes and spread more polarization among communities.
“It’s actually quite worrying for us to see that, especially at a time when our country needs leadership that will bring communities together, not divide them further.”
Atta added that now is the time for “leadership that is calling out hatred and division, that is promoting integrity, that is addressing really what brings our communities together in a challenging time across the world.
“I think it’s a time that we need to see better leadership step up.”
Tell Mama has published its Manifesto Against Hate, with key proposals for the next government, including the appointment of a “hate crime czar” to prioritize and oversee initiatives; more ministerial engagement with local communities “to foster inclusivity and reduce social divisions”; and boards to be established at local, regional, and national levels to promote dialogue and collaboration between Muslim and Jewish communities.
Atta said that following the Oct. 7 attacks and subsequent Israel-Gaza conflict, the relationship between the two communities suffered “quite a fracture,” which will take years to repair.
“Communities on all sides have just forgotten about the basic elements of understanding, empathy and listening. There has been a lot of abuse online toward both Muslim and Jewish communities, but also offline,” she added.
Atta said there has been considerable “anger within Muslim communities on the approach the UK has had on the Israel-Gaza war.”
Regarding next month’s elections, she said some Muslims feel that engagement with a new government, “whoever that government is, is key in order to be able to lobby and change the dynamics of how we speak about the war, but equally how we address the issues that are arising (in communities in the UK) off the back of the war in Israel and Gaza.”

White House cancels US-Israel meeting in anger at Netanyahu’s latest accusations: report

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a state memorial ceremony at Nachalat Yitzhak cemetery in Tel Aviv.
Updated 19 June 2024

White House cancels US-Israel meeting in anger at Netanyahu’s latest accusations: report

  • Israeli leader’s claim Washington has been withholding weapons a ‘public stunt,’ officials say

LONDON: The White House canceled a meeting with Israel regarding Iran after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the US of withholding weapons on Tuesday, according to an Axios report.

In a video released on Tuesday, Netanyahu claimed he had told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that it was “inconceivable that in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunition to Israel.”

He implied the holdup was slowing Israel’s offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

President Joe Biden’s top advisers, angered by Netanyahu’s public statement, made a public statement of their own by canceling the US-Israel meeting scheduled for Thursday, Axios reported.

“This decision makes it clear that there are consequences for pulling such stunts,” a US official told the news outlet.

Another said the meeting had been postponed, not scrapped altogether.

Biden has delayed delivering certain heavy bombs to Israel since May over concerns about civilian deaths in Gaza.

However, Blinken said on Tuesday that the 2,000-pound bombs are the only ammunitions under review. He told reporters that “everything else is moving as it normally would.”

Europe must host Gaza children, Greek foreign minister says

Palestinians gather on Wednesday to receive food cooked by a charity kitchen in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip. (Reuters)
Updated 19 June 2024

Europe must host Gaza children, Greek foreign minister says

  • The psychological impact of the war on the youngsters is ‘tremendous,’ Gerapetritis says

ATHENS: Europe has a duty to host children hurt and traumatized by war in Gaza for as long as the conflict continues, Greek Foreign Minister George Gerapetritis said.

Gerapetritis is seeking partners in what he hopes would be a project to temporarily bring the children to the EU. He said he discussed the idea with Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Mustafa this week.
“We need to face this tragedy very clearly,” Gerapetritis said.
“Europe should be open to injured people from (Gaza) but also to children who are now facing famine or other sorts of dangers.”


Foreign Minister George Gerapetritis believes Greece’s historical ties with the Arab world give it credibility to act as a peace broker.

Greece was elected as a member of the UN Security Council for 2025-2026 earlier this month. Gerapetritis believes Greece’s historical ties with the Arab world give it credibility to act as a peace broker.
The 56-year old, who has held the post for a year, did not say how many people could be hosted by Greece or the EU but said the issue was under discussion with Palestinian authorities.
Gerapetritis stressed that the initiative was not linked to regular migration, which has become politically sensitive in Europe and strongly opposed by a resurgent right.
“This is an obvious call for humanitarian assistance. We’re not talking here about economic migrants or other types of irregular migration,” he said, days after far-right parties surged in European parliamentary elections.
Greece condemned the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas against Israel but has called for a halt to Israel’s ground and air assault on Gaza that Palestinian authorities say has killed more than 35,000 people and flattened whole cities.
The World Health Organization says many in Gaza face famine-like conditions, and more than 8,000 children under five years old are suffering from acute malnutrition.
In addition, the psychological impact of the war on children is “tremendous,” said Gerapetritis.
Gerapetritis said he talked to Palestinian and Israeli prime ministers this week about ways to seal peace and reconstruct Gaza.
“We shouldn’t wait ... for the war to stop to start discussing it,” he said.
“It is going to be a giant project, and we have to develop it as early as possible,” he said.
A Gaza ceasefire would also help reduce attacks on ships by Houthis in the Red Sea, which has affected Greece’s shipping sector.
“I am relatively optimistic that alongside the ceasefire that we’re hoping to achieve very shortly, the situation also in the Red Sea will become much better,” Gerapetritis said.