Growing caravan of migrants grows ahead of push into Mexico
By MARK STEVENSON
Monday, October 22
TAPACHULA, Mexico (AP) — Thousands of Central American migrants hoping to reach the U.S. were deciding Monday whether to rest in this southern Mexico town or resume their arduous walk through Mexico as President Donald Trump rained more threats on their governments.
After blaming the Democrats for “weak laws” on immigration a few days earlier, Trump said via Twitter Monday: “Every time you see a Caravan, or people illegally coming, or attempting to come, into our Country illegally, think of and blame the Democrats for not giving us the votes to change our pathetic Immigration Laws!” He apparently sees the caravan as a winning issue for Republicans a little over two weeks ahead of midterm elections.
In another tweet, he blamed Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador for not stopping people from leaving their countries. “We will now begin cutting off, or substantially reducing, the massive foreign aid routinely given to them,” he wrote.
A team of AP journalists traveling with the caravan for more than a week has spoken with Hondurans, Guatemalans and Salvadorans, but has not met any Middle Easterners of the sort Trump suggested were “mixed in” with the Central American migrants.
It was clear though that more migrants were continuing to join the caravan.
José Anibal Rivera, 52, an unemployed security guard from San Pedro Sula crossed into Mexico by raft Sunday and walked up to Tapachula from Ciudad Hidalgo to join the caravan. “There are like 500 more people behind me,” he said.
He vowed to reach the U.S. border, still nearly 2,000 road miles away at its closest point. “Anything that happens, even if they kill me, is better than going back to Honduras,” he said.
Ana Luisa España, a clothes washer and ironer from Chiquimula, Guatemala, joined the caravan as she saw it pass through Guatemala.
‘The goal is to reach the (U.S.) border,” she said. “We only want to work and if a job turns up in Mexico, I would do it. We would do anything, except bad things.”
Isis Ramirez, 32, a mother of three from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, awoke Monday morning on a square of sodden cardboard in Tapachula’s town square, her swollen feet stretched out in front of her, wrapped in bandages applied by paramedics. Blisters had formed on her feet from the cheap plastic sandals she wears.
“There are more sick people. It’s better that we rest today,” she said.
Nearby, Julio Asturias, 27, a migrant from San Juan, El Salvador charged his cellphone from a dangling wire.
“I want to return to Arizona, and when I heard that the caravan was passing, I joined it,” he said. He said he was deported a couple of months ago after police pulled him over for a burned-out tail light.
On Sunday thousands of migrants stretched out on rain-soaked sidewalks, benches and public plazas in Tapachula, worn down by another day’s march under a blazing sun.
Keeping together for strength and safety in numbers, some huddled under a metal roof in the city’s main plaza Sunday night. Others lay exhausted in the open air, with only thin sheets of plastic to protect them from ground soggy from an intense evening shower. Some didn’t even have a bit of plastic yet.
“We are going to sleep here in the street, because we have nothing else,” said Jose Mejia, 42, a father of four from the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula. “We have to sleep on the sidewalk, and tomorrow wake up and keep walking. We’ll get a piece of plastic to cover ourselves if it rains again.”
Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador suggested Sunday that the United States, Canada and Mexico work out a joint plan for funding development in the poor areas of Central America and southern Mexico.
“In this way we confront the phenomenon of migration, because he who leaves his town does not leave for pleasure but out of necessity,” said Lopez Obrador, who takes office Dec. 1.
The migrant caravan, which started out more than a week ago with fewer than 200 participants, has drawn additional people along the way and it swelled to an estimated 5,000 Sunday after many migrants found ways to cross from Guatemala into southern Mexico as police blocked the official crossing point.
Later in the day, authorities in Guatemala said another group of about 1,000 migrants had entered that country from Honduras.
In interviews along the journey, migrants have said they are fleeing widespread violence, poverty and corruption in Honduras. The caravan is unlike previous mass migrations for its unprecedented large numbers and because it largely began spontaneously through word of mouth.
Migrants received help Sunday from sympathetic Mexicans who offered food, water and clothing. Hundreds of locals driving pickups, vans and cargo trucks stopped to let them clamber aboard.
Civil defense officials for Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas said they had offered to take the migrants by bus to a shelter set up by immigration officials about 5 miles (7 kilometers) outside Tapachula, but the migrants refused, fearing that once they boarded the buses they would be deported.
Ulises Garcia, a Red Cross official, said some migrants with injuries from their hard trek refused to be taken to clinics or hospitals, because they didn’t want to leave the caravan.
“We have had people who have ankle or shoulder injuries, from falls during the trip, and even though we have offered to take them somewhere where they can get better care, they have refused, because they fear they’ll be detained and deported,” Garcia said. “They want to continue on their way.”
Garcia said he had seen cases of swollen, lacerated and infected feet. But “they are going to continue walking, and their feet won’t heel as long as they keep walking,” he said.
Jesus Valdivia, of Tuxtla Chico, Mexico, was one of the many who pulled his pickup truck over to let 10 or even 20 migrants hop in at a time, sometimes causing vehicles’ springs to groan under the weight.
“You have to help the next person. Today it’s for them, tomorrow for us,” Valdivia said, adding that he was getting a valuable gift from those he helped: “From them we learn to value what they do not have.”
Passing freight trucks were quickly boarded by dozens of migrants, and straining tuk-tuks carried as many as a half-dozen.
Brenda Sanchez of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, who rode in Valdivia’s truck with three nephews ages 10, 11 and 19, expressed gratitude to “God and the Mexicans who have helped us.”
Democrats look to Latinos to provide midterm support
By NICHOLAS RICCARDI
Monday, October 22
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Patricia Lugo rattled off a string of fierce adjectives describing life under the Trump administration — “ugly,” ”bad,” ”terrible.”
She joined a cluster of other Latinos in a Las Vegas shopping center in listing grievances against the president that included referring to Mexican immigrants as rapists and separating parents from children at the border.
Lugo is determined to support Democrats as they fight back, but she’s alarmed that a handful of friends and family have given up on voting.
“They say it doesn’t do anything,” said Lugo, 56, a promoter for a footwear chain. “And it doesn’t matter who votes because (politicians) do whatever they want anyway.”
Trump rode to his improbable victory in 2016 by winning a troika of Rust Belt states where there are relatively few Latinos. This was supposed to be the election Latinos struck back.
Many Democrats presumed that Latinos, who are largely clustered in a handful of states, would be better-positioned to flex their muscles and punish the president for his actions and rhetoric targeting Latino immigrants — most recently when he pledged to send troops to the border to block a northbound caravan of Central American migrants.
Latinos had been poised to play a prominent role in several House races in California and Senate races in Florida and the southwest.
But as Election Day nears, polling shows it’s more affluent and predominantly white college-educated women with whom Democrats have made the most inroads, while Latinos haven’t fully turned against Trump and his Republican Party.
“Donald Trump is the most hostile president to Hispanics in American history, yet Donald Trump has between a 25 percent and 35 percent approval rating among some Hispanics — higher than 40 percent in Florida,” said Fernand Amadi, a Florida-based Latino pollster.
About 25 percent of Latino voters are reliable Republicans, but others seem willing to support the GOP amid the solid economy.
“From their perspective, this Trump’s crazy and a bigoted loudmouth, but we deal with people like this in every day of our lives,” Amadi said.
The relatively tepid showing for Democrats so far from some Latino voters was evident this month when the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which supports House candidates, trimmed its financial support from candidates trying to oust Republican congressmen in one west Texas district and another in California’s Central Valley.
In Texas, polls indicate enough Latinos are sticking with Republican Sen. Ted Cruz that he is likely to fend off a challenge from Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke. And in Florida, Arizona and Nevada, Democrats remain neck-and-neck with Republicans in Senate races.
Still, there are positive signs for Democrats among Latinos.
Gil Cisneros, a former Naval officer and philanthropist, more than doubled Latino turnout when he won the June primary for a formerly GOP open House seat in Southern California. Democrats report initial signs that Latinos are requesting ballots at a higher clip in California — home to several competitive House races — and that early Latino voting is strong in a district in southern New Mexico that has long been held by the GOP.
Democrats predict there will be a significant bump in Latino turnout, but they’re not sure it’ll be enough.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is spending $25 million to reach out to Democratic voters who normally sit out midterms, including Latinos. Rep. Ben Lujan of New Mexico chairs the organization. Executive director Dan Sena says the group understands that Latinos need extra attention and candidates they can believe in.
“You can show up to vote against the president, but you also need a candidate who shares your values,” Sena said.
The politics of Latinos are diverse, ranging from older, GOP-leaning Cuban émigrés in Florida to newly naturalized Democratic-leaning Mexican immigrants in the Southwest, to families in Texas, New Mexico and Colorado that have lived in the country for generations.
Politically, they have one thing in common: They vote less in midterm elections. Latinos lag behind blacks and whites in turnout and their participation typically plummets in non-presidential years.
In 2014, for example, only 27 percent of eligible Latinos cast a ballot compared to 46 percent of whites and 41 percent of blacks. Polls show elevated excitement about voting in November among all groups, but Latinos still lag.
“We’re younger. We haven’t voted as much. There’s an intimidation factor,” said Chuck Rocha, a Democratic strategist who noted the average age of a typical Latino eligible to vote is 27, while the typical white is 40. Rocha and other Latino Democratic strategists worry the party has taken the community for granted rather than wooing them with the intensity with which it has targeted white college-educated women.
Trump can contribute to Latinos’ reluctance to dive into politics. Multiple Democrats said in interviews that the president’s hardline immigration policies and dalliance with white supremacists can demoralize Latinos.
“I’ve seen it firsthand in focus groups — the visceralness of the reaction to his face and his picture, where I have Latino voters who won’t even read the mailer,” Rocha said.
Matt Barreto of the Hispanic polling firm Latino Decisions said Trump’s immigration policies are sowing fear among Latino voters, many of whom have members of their extended family threatened by the president’s attempts to deport immigrants. That doesn’t necessarily mean these voters will automatically turn out at the polls.
“There’s a fine line between voter anger, which can be mobilized and lead to people wanting to take action, and alienation, where people feel the system doesn’t work for them and they withdraw,” Barreto said. “We are observing both this cycle.”
Alma Landaverde feels anger and alienation clashing in her constantly, but anger has won out. The 31-year-old hotel worker is a legal immigrant from El Salvador with four U.S.-born children, but other members of her family rely on temporary protected status to remain in the country — a protection Trump is trying to end.
Landaverde can’t vote, but after seeing images of children the Trump administration separated from immigrating parents and placed behind bars, she started canvassing for the Culinary Union, a powerful pro-Democratic union of which she is a member.
“I imagine it happening to one of my kids,” Landaverde told a crowd of workers at a union hall. “I feel like I want to do more — but I can’t because if I say something they’ll arrest me.”
Landaverde overcame her fear and now canvases for her union but can still feel afraid when she talks to minority voters.
“Some people say, ‘because of all the racism, I’m scared,’” Landaverde said. “But when they see you believe in something, they say ‘yes, I’m a voter.’”
Nevada is a state where Democrats must turn out Latinos to win. Latinos delivered the state for President Obama twice, Hillary Clinton in 2016 and former Sen. Harry Reid, who won a surprise victory against an immigration hardliner in 2010. To many Latino Democrats, Reid’s victory is a case study in how the party needs to appeal to the demographic. The senator invested early in continuous contact with the community and promised concrete actions, in his case, introducing pro-immigration bills.
But even in Nevada, Latinos sometimes don’t turn out. In the 2014 midterm elections, their participation rate plummeted and Democrats were wiped out, losing a congressional seat in a majority-minority Las Vegas district and all statewide races.
This year the state is the site of one of the hottest Senate races in the country. Republican incumbent Dean Heller is facing Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen. In Heller’s last race, in 2012, he barely survived in a presidential year when Barack Obama won Nevada with heavy Latino turnout.
Heller softened his tone on immigration in that campaign, but in a reflection of how midterm Nevada electorates are less Latino, he has now embraced Trump and the president’s tougher rhetoric.
Heller and the president have Latino supporters in Nevada.
“We’re not all Democrats,” said Laura Nowlan, a Latina who runs a staffing firm in Las Vegas and is staunchly opposed to abortion rights — like Heller and Trump.
Still, Las Vegas’ diverse neighborhoods are the heart of the state’s Democratic party, and there are plenty of voters like Klaudia Chavez, a 58-year-old grocery worker who registered to vote for the first time in 2016 to cast a ballot against Trump.
She’s ready to do so again by opposing Heller and any other Republicans.
“We kind of woke up a bit,” said Chavez, who’s already made plans to vote with her daughter and mother.
Both sides ignoring swing voters in hot Texas Senate race
By WILL WEISSERT
Monday, October 22
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — With Mike Pence and Donald Trump Jr. already visiting the state and the president himself coming Monday, Ted Cruz is convening a veritable parade of Republican powerbrokers in the final weeks of the Texas Senate campaign to ensure Democrat Beto O’Rourke doesn’t upset him.
O’Rourke is countering with the opposite. He’s blowing off the Democratic Party’s political luminaries and instead cranking up the cool — rocking with Willie Nelson, securing shout-outs from star rappers and road-tripping with a 38-year-old Kennedy whose family name still has its mystique.
While their approaches seem divergent, both candidates are opting to sacrifice one goal to accomplish another. They’re trying to fire up the loyalists they see as key to victory, even if it means slighting moderates and undecided voters — energizing the right and the left while ignoring the middle.
“There’s a common misconception that elections are mostly decided by so-called ‘swing voters,’” O’Rourke’s campaign wrote in its “Plan to Win.” Cruz has for months noted that there are more Texas Republicans than Democrats, so if he guards against conservative complacency, he wins.
Both may be onto something. A recent Quinnipiac University poll that showed Cruz leading the race by 9 points also found that, among likely Texas voters who could name a Senate candidate, 96 percent had made up their minds.
“There are many of us who argue there is no middle and there are no swing voters left,” said Texas Democratic consultant Colin Strother.
O’Rourke hasn’t completely written off non-Democratic voters, trumpeting bipartisanship at rallies. But he hasn’t softened a platform of universal health care, gun control, decriminalizing marijuana and offering a $10,000-per-child federal grant for pre-kindergarten.
“Beto is saying, ‘Hey look, you’re all welcome here, but this is what I believe,’” Strother said.
After spending months hitting rural corners of the state that other Democrats gave up on decades ago, O’Rourke is now largely sticking to reliably blue venues such as college campuses, a Willie Nelson concert in Austin, a Houston show featuring rapper Bun B, Texas-Mexico border concerts and rallies and a Dallas sunrise jog.
The recent Austin City Limits festival was so choked with “Beto for Texas” T-shirts that it sometimes seemed the lanky Senate hopeful was headlining along with Metallica. And as R&B star Khalid won an American Music Award this month, he declared from the stage, “Shout-out to Beto.”
“He’s representing everyone and not just a certain group of people,” said 18-year-old Anoosha Adtani, who joined a line of students snaking out the door when O’Rourke appeared at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
Not on the schedule are ex-Vice President Joe Biden and former Secretary of State John Kerry, though they’ve pitched in on Democratic campaigns elsewhere. Liberal powerhouses like Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also haven’t stumped for O’Rourke.
Instead, he’s brought in Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy III, who is enough of a greenhorn nationally that Cruz has made fun of him, laughing about how Kennedy drove O’Rourke between events and saying, “It may be the first time in history anyone’s ever asked a Kennedy to drive.” That raised in peoples’ minds the deadly, 1969 car crash on Chappaquiddick Island involving Sen. Ted Kennedy, Joe’s great-uncle.
With his party controlling the White House and Congress, Cruz now touts a Republican status quo he attempted to torch as a tea party firebrand. In addition to the Trump administration’s top brass, fellow Texan John Cornyn, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, hosted a Washington fundraiser for Cruz despite their past policy clashes. Fox News host Sean Hannity and ex-Texas Gov. Rick Perry, now Trump’s secretary of energy, also campaigned for him this weekend.
Still, George W. Bush lives in Dallas but isn’t hitting the trail on Cruz’s behalf, underscoring how he’d rather have Trump supporters than traditional, country-club Republicans.
A three-term El Paso congressman, O’Rourke has stayed within striking distance despite his party not winning any of Texas’ nearly 30 statewide offices for almost 25 years. His crunch-time strategy is to mobilize 5.5 million people who “are very likely to vote for Beto if they vote, but who might not vote unless we contact them.” That means prioritizing those who moved to Texas from other states and often settled in urban areas, and millennials who are “the most diverse, most progressive generation in American history,” according to his playbook.
Chairman James Dickey said the Republican Party of Texas has been similarly contacting new and past sympathetic voters for months, not just in the race’s final weeks.
“We have a very clear process that has worked very well,” Dickey said.
Texas added 1.6-plus million registered voters since 2014’s midterm elections, with young voters helping to power that surge. But Austin Republican analyst Derek Ryan noted that four years ago, only about 14 percent of the newly registered voters under 20 wound up casting ballots.
O’Rourke, though, insists that courting youth is no fool’s errand.
“Young people have been coming out to our events in record numbers,” he said after the San Antonio event. “I’m going where the leaders are.”
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