‘Hang on, Donald Trump is working on it:’ Trump’s immigration stance feels safe for some Latinos

Jorge Rivas carried a machete in El Salvador to protect himself as a teenager. His weapon was not a collectible item or meant to impress anyone.

“If you have a gun you have to be ready to use it,” Rivas said. “As a kid, I saw decapitated bodies.”

After managing to escape the worst conditions his homeland had to offer, Rivas is happy to trade in a machete for the frying pan he uses at his restaurant.

Today, Rivas owns Sammy’s Mexican Grill in Catalina, Arizona. Even with a successful business under his wing, Rivas does not to use his earnings to visit his homeland.

Photo by Malik Shelp.

By Phil Bramwell

“I do not want to put my family in danger,” Rivas said.

He and his brothers were exposed to that danger firsthand years ago while trying to escape civil war in El Salvador.

With Donald Trump, Rivas is confident the businessman turned politician has the solution to stop undocumented immigrants from entering the United States: building the wall.

Rivas’ current lifestyle is much different from living in constant fear before he escaped as a teenager.

“El Salvador is the most violent country in the Western Hemisphere,” Rivas said. “The level of violence in Central America does not compare to the level of violence in the United States.”

It can be challenging for people to understand the violent situation, but Rivas’ childhood gave him the knowledge to tell others how he feels.

Jorge Rivas, owner of Sammy’s Mexican Grill, preparing food for his customers. (Photo by Malik Shelp).

“As a person from Central America, I know for a fact that millions of people have been abused, robbed and raped,” Rivas said.

On January 25, Trump has signed an executive order saying he will defund cities and universities that declare sanctuary status. That original executive order, in addition to a second order, are both currently blocked in court.

At UA, students have called for the campus to declare itself a sanctuary for undocumented students, but Rivas challenges students to think about why they want a sanctuary campus.

“People think that they are protecting the weakest person in society, but it just helps people break the law,” Rivas said.

Casting his vote came down to a comparison between Trump and prior administrations.

“For the last 50 years illegal immigrants have been deported,” Rivas said, but he believes there is a different set of standards for Trump than people had for Obama.

Under Obama’s administration, 2.5 million undocumented immigrants were deported. Trump has promised to deport 11 million more.

“You already know in the back of your mind that if you get caught you will be deported,” Rivas said. “That does not change anything.”

“People think that they are protecting the weakest person in society, but it just helps people break the law,” Rivas said.

The problem, Rivas said, is Latino news outlets that have taken a decided stance against Trump and encourage a dissenting opinion amongst the community they serve.

But Rivas doesn’t think that people should be kept out of the country, in fact he encourages people who are trying to enter the country legally not to lose hope.

“The process is going to be ugly and bad.” Rivas. “Hang on, Donald Trump is working on it.”

Rivas’ restaurant experienced some turbulence after Rivas’ wife, Betty, who co-owns Sammy’s Mexican Grill, appeared on stage at one of Trump’s campaign speeches with a sign. It read, “Latino’s support D Trump.” The moment was captured on CNN and rumors began to circulate about the circumstances of Betty Rivas’ appearance.

Betty Rivas, co-owner of Sammy’s Mexican Grill with her husband, Jorge Rivas, shakes Donald Trump’s hand during a campaign stop in Tucson on Saturday, March 19. The Rivas’ restaurant received bogus phone calls for two days after Betty appeared on CNN on-stage with Trump holding a sign that read “Latinos support D. Trump.” (Photo by Sam Gross).

“Some people said my wife had been paid to hold a sign but none of that is true,” Rivas said.

The restaurant received bogus phone calls for two days following the rally. Rivas says a Univision reporter told him the calls were placed by “paid subcontractors of the democratic party.”

Customers who ate at the restaurant in person during the following days stayed loyal to the business.

“Customers would say they do not support Trump but you have the right to express yourself,” Rivas said.

According to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, other Hispanic owned businesses have been affected by Trump’s changes in trade policies.

“I have traveled to Washington D.C. four times since his election to influence his staff and our federal delegation related to the north American trade agreement,” said Lea Marquez-Peterson, who is the president of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Hispanic owned business have experienced changes as the value of the Mexican peso rises or falls. Mexican tourists help Arizona businesses stay open.

As for his mindset Peterson acknowledges Trump’s thoughts on Mexican people are generalizations.

“His tone and comments reflect his impressions which seem to be focused solely on drug cartels,” Peterson said.

However, the Hispanic chamber supports Trump’s administration overall.

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