Palmira Diaz’s family worried Wednesday about what a Donald Trump presidency holds for them and said that’s what customers were talking about at their East Tacoma grocery store.
“I’ve been hearing sadness, a lot of worry about what’s going to happen,” she said. “I’m also sad myself. Not just because he won, but because of what he said.
“Words have power. It’s been a sad day for our Latino community.”
While Trump hasn’t outlined specifics in many policy areas, he’s been explicit about his plans for immigration, which include increasing deportation and building a wall on the border with Mexico.
His election concerns many in the South Sound’s immigrant communities.
Diaz, now 34, immigrated to the United States from Mexico when she was 7. She, her parents and her four siblings are permanent residents and worked together to open the family store.
“First of all, I’m not a rapist,” she said, referring to comments Trump made when he announced his campaign. “I’ve contributed to this country. I have paid all my taxes, and it’s really sad that not just him, but a lot of people think that we don’t contribute to this country at all.”
Trump said in his campaign announcement: “When Mexico sends their people, they’re not sending their best. ... They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume are good people.”
Diaz’s sister, 39-year-old Shelly Espino, worried about the effect deportations would have on businesses, including her family’s.
And she said some customers were concerned about his foreign policy.
“That he can create a war or something,” she said. “There are some countries that are ready to get into a fight.”
But there was some support for Trump at the store Wednesday.
Palmira Diaz, 34, whose family owns the El Jalepeno Mexican Grocery Store in East Tacoma, tells of her father’s journey working the apple orchards in eastern Washington, working at a local restaurant, and finally opening the family store. “I am also sad myself not just because he won, but because of what he said,” Diaz said.Alexis Krell firstname.lastname@example.org
While in line to pay for her groceries, Emigles Portmann said she didn’t like how Trump spoke, but did like some of his ideas, including taking a closer look at who is allowed to immigrate to the United States.
She didn’t think there was any good candidate and said she didn’t trust Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
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“We need to give him the opportunity,” she said.
Contacted by phone, Maru Mora Villalpando, an activist who works with the reproductive rights group Surge Northwest and with Latino Advocacy, both Seattle-based, didn’t share those views.
She said she was “very concerned” about the implications of Trump’s election for Latinos.
“We’re really worried because the now president-elect began his campaign by attacking us immigrants, and specifically Mexicans, and so it’s really worrisome,” she said.
Mora Villalpando, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico for more than 20 years, has rallied to have the Northwest Detention Center on the Tacoma Tideflats shut down. She said she is not prepared to abandon that goal.
“Under this fascist presidency, it will be more difficult,” she said, “but I don’t think it’s going to be impossible for us to dismantle it.”
She said she fears Trump will ramp up deportations soon after his inauguration and said she hopes President Barack Obama scraps the process before leaving office.
“We don’t want him just to hand over the keys to this machine as it is right now,” Mora Villalpando said.
The coalition protesting the federal detention center was concerned about how Trump will affect immigrant students.
One of those students is 21-year-old Kamau Chege, who grew up in Tacoma, graduated from Stadium High School and is an accounting student at Whitworth University in Spokane.
Asked how he was doing Wednesday, Chege said, “Not good. This is not good.”
He came to Washington with his family in 2001 from Kenya, and he has not been back.
Under a work permit from the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Chege had planned his life on a legal career path: two more years of college to become a certified public accountant. The job is good money, he said, even if “not my passion.”
After Trump’s election became certain Tuesday night, Chege said he saw his life plan vanishing with the end of the immigrant-friendly program.
“He has said that he’s going to do that on Day 1,” Chege said of Trump, “so I imagine that Jan. 21, I will no longer have a work permit.
“I will not be able to work on campus. I may not be able to finish my degree and, certainly, I will not be able to work for a public accounting firm without a legal work permit.”
Chege, the advocacy and policy director of the Washington Dream Act Coalition, said he is joining several protests against anti-immigrant actions and helping plot sustained actions.
The potential consequences, he said, are too severe to tolerate.
“There is a good chance that once this man is inaugurated, we will all be forcibly removed, violently removed,” Chege said, “and put in places in the world that we’ve never experienced.”
He called Trump a “disgusting caricature” and said he and other immigrant activists had been surprised by the election outcome, but not unprepared.
“We’ve understood how serious this is for the last 15 months,” Chege said, “and we were hoping that it wouldn’t come down to this.”
He said he does not yet know which career path he will pursue if he must abandon the accounting goal.
“It kind of still ends up in the same place,” he said of his other ideas, “in that you’ll probably still not be able to do that job.”
Toshiko Patri, a 77-year-old Federal Way woman who immigrated from Japan in 1970, said she dozed off in her chair Tuesday night while election results were coming in, knowing that Trump was going to win.
“I said, ‘Man, what has America become?” Patri said.
She called Trump “nasty,” and said that during the campaign she remembered thinking: “Who is that guy? He’s got a foul mouth and no manners whatsoever.”
Patri hopes Trump helps immigrants who want to work in the United States.
She’s not worried about herself, because she’s an American citizen. But if Trump somehow makes it so she can’t stay, she added: “I will fight.”
A family friend was helping Patri run errands Wednesday, 48-year-old Mujaahidah Sayfullah of Puyallup.
She said her 12-year-old was scared of Trump’s rhetoric. Sayfullah and her son aren’t immigrants, but he worries they might be targeted because of their Muslim faith.
“He’s talking about not allowing Muslims in,” she said of Trump. “Of course, there’s going to be that fear, that anxiety.”
Sayfullah said she told her son: “We’re not going to wake up and be shipped off.”
And she seemed optimistic about Trump.
“Sometimes what we think is bad is actually good,” she said. “... He might actually be a good president.”
She thought he seemed more tempered in his acceptance speech than the campaign.
“He’s tuned it down already,” she said. “I think things will change.”
But for Diaz, the rhetoric of the election, both from Trump and hurtful statements she’s seen others post online, has left a mark.
“We didn’t know that part of America,” she said.