Laredo, TX Latinos Debate Donald Trump Visit
LAREDO, TX — Still indignant that his city hosted Republican presidential hopeful and business mogul Donald Trump, Gumercindo Alvarez took a Telemundo news reporter around the streets he has traversed as a taxi driver for the past 35 years.
“It’s like him (Trump) telling me I have a dirty house but he’s never been to my house,” said Alvarez, referring to Trump’s comments that border cities like Laredo were dangerous due to crime from the border crossings.
The Mayor of Laredo, Pete Saenz as well as City Manager Jesus Olivares, both Mexican-American, ended up hosting Trump’s visit Thursday after the local border patrol union canceled their invitation to host the candidate.
“Immediately we had to establish another plan to take him around,” said Olivares to Telemundo.
After Trump’s highly publicized visit, Texas Democratic congressman Joaquín Castro criticized the local public officials for hosting Trump in a tweet, saying it was embarrassing for South Texas and Latinos.
But Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz said he made the best of the situation thrust on him.
“It was an opportunity to show him the border, to show him our city, and as a Mexican-American I wanted him to reflect on what he (Trump) has done and said,” said Saenz.
Officials like Saenz wanted to show Trump another side of Laredo that the presidential hopeful didn’t talk about – the lines at the border of thousands of people who legally cross every day between the two countries, helping to generate around $200 billion a year in trade and commerce, according to Saenz.
Residents also took issue with the way they have been characterized.
Taxi driver Gumercindo Alvarez said, “In Louisiana someone killed 3 people at a movie theater, and it was a (white) American, not Mexican, we didn’t ‘send’ him there,” alluding to Trump’s controversial comments that Mexico sends “rapists” and “murderers” to the U.S. through the border.
But others in the town said Trump wasn’t totally wrong.
María Gonzalez, a Laredo resident who regularly crosses between both countries, says that although she did not agree with the way Trump said things, she thought there was some truth to his comments.
“I wouldn’t like as many ‘illegals’ here, because some do come with intentions to kill,” said Gonzalez.
Almost nine out of ten people in Laredo are of Hispanic origin, and many have relatives or know people who are undocumented. Though 30 percent of residents live below the poverty line, many in Laredo hope that Trump saw the dynamism, commerce and vibrancy of this border city.
Mayor Saenz, who ended up as the substitute host to Trump, said he hopes his dignified and respectful treatment of the candidate had made its effect.
“I hope he changed his mind,” said Saenz. “We did everything we could.”