As Latino vote surges, this immigrant wishes she could vote

“I wish I could have voted and I would have voted for Hillary.”

Erika Martinez, an immigrant from El Salvador, leaves a polling station in Mount Pleasant. CREDIT: ThinkProgress/Alejandro Dávila Fragoso
Erika Martinez, an immigrant from El Salvador, leaves a polling station in Mount Pleasant. CREDIT: ThinkProgress/Alejandro Dávila Fragoso

In the two decades that Erika Martinez has lived in the United States, she never cared about not being able to vote. But this year is different.

The man at the top of the Republican party ticket, Donald Trump, comes across as “racist” and disrespects immigrants like never before, Martinez, a 41-year-old legal immigrant from El Salvador, told ThinkProgress in Spanish.

The rhetoric is so incendiary, particularly in regard to Mexicans and immigrants, that friends — immigrants like her — have left the country out of fear before the results were even tabulated, Martinez said. “Immigrants are afraid.”

On Tuesday morning, Martinez was coming out of the Mt. Pleasant Neighborhood Library, one of more than 140 polling stations in the nation’s capital that were reportedly experiencing long lines this election. During her workday as a baby sitter, Martinez sometimes takes the baby she cares for there. At around 10:30 a.m. the library was anything but empty, as it usually is, and Martinez could see men and women reviewing ballot information or simply waiting for their turn to vote.

“I wish I could have voted,” said Martinez. “I would have voted for Hillary [Clinton].” Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate, is the better choice to lead the country, she added, noting Trump just “knows more about business.”

Though Martinez can’t vote, she is one of millions of Hispanics who are favoring Clinton over Trump this election. Among likely Hispanic voters, Clinton has gotten as much as 65 percent of support compared to Trump’s 17 percent, according to some recent polls.

There are some 27 million Latinos eligible to vote this year and their vote is considered key for Clinton, who needs the fastest growing minority this country has seen in years to secure swing states like Nevada, Florida, or Colorado.

Martinez, a mother of four, is confident that Clinton is going to come out on top. However, her 13-year-old has been less sure of that lately, and has asked her jokingly if the family would go back to El Salvador if Trump were to win. “I tell him no… We stay here even if he wins,” she said.

And that’s because Martinez is not afraid for her life, or her family’s well-being, if Trump were to become president. After all, her family is legal, honest, and three of her four children were born in the United States. “I’m not afraid, but I wouldn’t want Trump to win.”