US-MEXICO RELATIONS

Why this Mexican-born man voted for Donald Trump

How do Mexican immigrants who have returned from the US see the country's new president?

“If they don’t follow the rules, then they have to go.” “Mexico will pay for the wall.” “Donald Trump is the best thing that could have happened to the US.” These opinions are not being expressed by a discontented blue-collar worker from the US rust belt, but by a middle-aged Mexican living in Mexico City.

Jesús Espinosa, born in Mexico City, voted for Trump.
Jesús Espinosa, born in Mexico City, voted for Trump.Karlo Reyes

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Jesús Espinosa emigrated illegally to the United States 30 years ago at the age of 16, and sees no contradiction in supporting Donald Trump. “I voted for Trump and I contributed money to his campaign because the time has come for Mexico to take responsibility for its problems and to stop living off its rich uncle,” he says, speaking just a few hours before the New York property magnate takes up residence in the White House.

Espinosa has double nationality, but returned to his country of origin for personal reasons less than six months ago, and admits that many of his friends and family do not share his views or understand them. “The wall [that Donald Trump has promised to build between the US and Mexico] will save lives, because as things stand, the only people benefiting are the coyotes [guides who take groups of migrants across the border] and the people who cross illegally,” he insists.

I am disappointed that so many people elected a racist like Trump Antonio 'Tony' Isidoro

He believes that emigration to the United States is a problem created by the Mexican government. “Why do you have to go there? Wouldn’t it be better to be well-paid here and stay, why do we have to be so dumb?” he asks, adding: “It’s about time we did something here in Mexico to get rid of corrupt politicians, just like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, who have now been fired,” he says, finishing off his sentence with the catch phrase made popular by Trump during his time on The Apprentice.

Espinosa works at a call center in Mexico City where most of the other employees, like him, are bilingual after spending years in the United States. Most were deported, and few share his views.

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“Trump’s arrival is going to affect Mexico and the undocumented people there, we’re already being hit by it: Look at all the jobs that have been lost because of Ford and General Motors pulling out,” says Zeus Armas, who grew up in Austin, Texas, but was born in Ecatepec, a suburb of Mexico City. “There is panic in the government, while the ordinary people are all talking about the same thing,” he adds.

Armas, aged 28, says the biggest fear among Mexicans is Trump’s threat to deport undocumented migrants en masse. His family was split up after he, his mother and elder brother were deported three years ago while his two younger brothers stayed behind.

“All my life I thought I was Texan until one day they told me I had to go back to where I came from," says Armas.

Life is easier with papers. He says his relatives in the United States are not panicking yet, and that Trump’s threats will take time before they become reality, while people in Mexico are worried about the lack of opportunity. “I wish Mexico had a stronger government – one that was less corrupt – and that we weren’t so dependent on the president of another country to keep our economy afloat,” he says.

It’s about time we did something here in Mexico to get rid of corrupt politicians Jesús Espinosa

In contrast, the family of Ricardo Cruz feels threatened, even though their papers are in order. “I think choosing Trump was a mistake because it is going to cause a lot of problems in the country and around the world. There will be a lot of deportations, jobs will be lost and many will leave out of fear that the government will go after them,” he says, admitting he was surprised when Trump won.

Antonio Isidoro was born in California and spent the first 18 years of his life in the United States, but decided to leave when his parents and brothers were deported a few months ago. “The United States is part of me,” he says, adding: “I had a life there, school, friends, and when you arrive here, you have to start from zero and build everything from scratch,” he says from his new home in Los Reyes-La Paz, on the outskirts of the Mexican capital.

“I am disappointed that so many people elected a racist like Trump,” admits Tony, as he is known to his friends, saying that discrimination exists, but that people deal with it as best they can. His idea of the United States is of land of opportunity and freedom. “It’s a shame that the next president could take away that hope from so many immigrants,” he says before going back to work.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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