For many immigrants, U.S. midterm elections traditionally draw minimal interest. But this election cycle, the reaction is different as a Democratic victory for control of the House or Senate or both would have huge repercussions for immigrant communities.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s controversial policies on trade, immigration, taxes and a host of other issues that impact immigrants could be challenged or reversed with the Democrats back in control of Congress.
In the 2016 presidential election, foreign language media was a fundamental source of information for immigrants, as mainstream outlets aimed to connect with broader audiences.
In the 2018 midterm elections, a “news-you-can-use” component is a key part of how these outlets continue to serve their audiences.
Cameroon native Pamela Anchang is managing editor of The Immigrant Magazine and host of “Impact,” a new radio talk show for the immigrant community based in Los Angeles.
“Given the climate that we’re in, everybody is paying attention,” she told VOA. “Now, immigrants are aware that elections have consequences, and when you don’t vote for whatever reason, it comes back to either serve you or hurt you.”
In the past, the midterm elections were also of little concern for La Opinion, a Spanish language daily newspaper in Los Angeles. However, the midterms of 2018 are “completely different” because of Trump, said Gabriel Lerner, La Opinion’s editor-in-chief.
“This has been like an earthquake, a political earthquake for many of the Latinos, so people are really interested in what is going on,” Lerner said.
The homepages of Spanish language media websites in the U.S. are packed with news about deportations, raids and arrests by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and President Trump’s latest plan for building a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.
”In the case of Latinos, Trump positioned himself as a foe since the beginning of his campaign when he defined that Mexican immigrants are criminals, are rapists — this created a lot of strong reaction against Trump and Trumpism in the community,” said Lerner.
Anchang said Trump’s tough stance on immigration does not only create strong reaction in the Latino community, but many other immigrant communities, including the African diaspora.
“Because issues are what drive us,” Anchang said.” If you just talk about elections in general, nobody cares. But if you talk about how it affects you personally, they pay attention. What is really important to Africans — health care [and] being legal. We have a lot of Africans who are undocumented.”
“It is very possible that the results of these midterm elections will be a vote of confidence for President Trump,” said Vincent Chang, chief content officer and executive editor of World Journal, a Chinese-language newspaper. The outcome of the midterms will show how much trust the electorate puts in Trump and his policies, he said. Within the Chinese community, those who are U.S. citizens tend to support Trump’s policies on immigration, he added.
Chang said the issues the Chinese language readership is concerned with include core administration policies regarding tax reform, the economy and immigration. Chang said his paper will be closely watching potential changes throughout Congress after the midterms.
Local races get a lot of attention
During every election cycle, news organizations tailored to the immigrant communities also have in-depth coverage of local races of candidates from their own ethnic groups.
”We’ll follow closely how the Chinese-American candidates perform in the different districts, regardless of whether they win or lose,” said Chang.
That also rings true in Southern California’s Little Saigon where political billboards with the names of Vietnamese-American candidates can be seen everywhere. They are running for local and state level races, from mayor to the state senate and every position in between.
Unlike the mainstream media and many other immigrant communities, the Vietnamese community is excited about the midterms almost exclusively because of the local races.
“We don’t pay much attention to the federal level [races]. But mostly [we focus on races at the] local level,” said Dzung Do, staff writer for Nguoi Viet Daily News, a California-based Vietnamese language paper that printed its first edition 40 years ago. Do said many Vietnamese Americans will vote for a Vietnamese name, regardless of a candidate’s position on the issues.
The topics they want to read in the press and hear from the candidates include U.S. relations with Vietnam, education and security, according to Do. Since many Vietnamese Americans arrived in the U.S. as refugees, immigration is not as much of a priority as other immigrant groups.
Immigration is a passionate topic for the guests on Anchang’s “Impact” radio talk show. They included a Korean-American, a Filipino-American and a Latino-American. Some of the guests said that Trump’s immigration policies are highly discriminatory and create widespread fear. Some would like amnesty for those who are already living in the U.S., while others argued that immigrants must follow U.S. law and wait their turn in line to gain legal entry to the U.S.
Anchang said her message to her readers and listeners is that only by voting can they keep the status quo or create change.