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For voters with foreign backgrounds, Trump a lightning rod

Michael Knigge
November 8, 2016

Donald Trump's anti-Hispanic and anti-Muslim rhetoric may backfire as Americans finally cast their vote in the bitterly fought presidential election race. Michael Knigge reports from Arlington in Virginia.

US-Wahlen 2016 Wahllokale in Virginia
Image: picture-alliance/AP Images/J. Taylor

Donald Trump built his entire unorthodox campaign on his staunch opposition to immigration by promising in his announcement speech bid to erect a "great wall” along the US-Mexican border in order to keep "rapists” supposedly sent by Mexico out of the country. He later repeatedly doubled down on his anti-immigrant stance by suggesting banning all Muslims from entering the United States.

But while energizing his base, Trump's hard-line approach against immigrants of all different stripes could cost him at the polls as Hispanics and Muslim voters may turn out in large numbers to oppose the Republican presidential candidate.

At a polling station in Claremont Elementary School in Arlington, a city just outside of Washington with one of the largest Hispanic populations in the state of Virginia, voters of various foreign backgrounds expressed their discontent with Donald Trump.

No choice but Clinton

"I came only for one reason”, said Johnny Maldonado, "to vote for Hillary. We don't have any other choice. I don't like Trump. He doesn't help the Hispanic people.”

His wife Maria was also planning to cast her ballot for Clinton because she said she is a woman and her husband was a good president. "I am so glad that 90 percent of Hispanics are voting for her.”

US-Wahl Wahllokal in Arlington, Virginia
Voters in Arlington, Virgina came to Claremont Elementary School to cast their ballotsImage: DW/M. Knigge

The Maldonados have lived in the US for decades, but originally hail from Latin America as do the Dapaixaos, another couple voting for the Democratic president candidate today. For all four of them voting for Donald Trump was never an option as he would not only be bad for America, but also for the world, they say.

While they are voting for the Democratic presidential candidate today, they might consider supporting the right Republican candidate as well, said Johnny Maldonado who praised Ronald Reagan as a great president. "I liked him, I liked his policies and how we worked with the people.”      

First-time voter mobilized by Trump

Assetkena, a Jordanian-born American woman, belongs to a voter segment that has received a lot of media attention since Trump's rise. She is a first-time voter who has decided to cast her ballot on this crisp and sunny fall morning in Arlington simply to try to block Trump's path to the presidency.

She supports Hillary Clinton, she offered, but what really drives her vote today is Donald Trump. "Not that Hillary is not awesome”, Assetkena said, "but I don't want Trump to be my president. I would vote for anyone who is against Trump.”

Other voters today are more conflicted about their vote. Carroll Dexter, a 78-year-old, self-described Independent from Arlington had still not decided whom to vote for even as he was ready to enter the building to cast his ballot. "I don't have a very good choice”, he said. "It's a sad day for the country when you don't have choice.”

US-Wahl Wahllokal in Arlington, Virginia
A school gymnasium serves as a polling station in Arlington, VirginiaImage: DW/M. Knigge

Conflicted Independents

Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump has convinced Dexter enough to earn their vote even though he has read everything he can about both candidates and their positions.

"They both dislike the press, they won't be transparent and there is a trust gap”, Dexter said. "And there is a leadership question in my mind for both of them.”

As a result, he added, he may not even vote for a presidential candidate at all, but instead just a cast a vote for other political offices on the ballot today. 

Another self-described Independent deeply unsatisfied with both candidates has taken a different route to escape the dilemma of voting for either Clinton or Trump.

"I voted for Evan McMullin because I can't imagine either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton as the president of this country,” said David, a 34-year old from Arlington. His vote for McMullin, a conservative-leaning third party candidate with little chance of becoming president, shows just how conflicted many traditional Conservatives are in this unusual presidential election.      

"I think Hillary Clinton is a scary proposition as a candidate,” said David who views his vote for McMullin as a message to the Republican Party. "I hope that Republicans find out that running Donald Trump as a president was a bad choice.” But, he added, "I still hope he wins.”