Trump victory spells uncertainty for Minnesotans feeling alienated by his rhetoric

Pres. elect Donald Trump shakes hands Mike Pence.
President-elect Donald Trump shakes hands with his running mate, Mike Pence, during election night in New York. The day after the election, immigrants, Muslims and others who felt scapegoated during the campaign say they now face an uncertain future with a Trump-Pence White House.
Jim Watson | AFP/Getty Images

Danielle Wong went to bed while Tuesday night's presidential election results were still rolling in. Hillary Clinton was trailing Donald Trump, but Wong hoped the race would turn around by morning.

Instead, she woke up around 2:30 a.m. to about 100 people chanting "USA, USA, USA" through the courtyards of the University of St. Thomas' St. Paul campus.

"I just remember feeling this chilled feeling go through my entire body and I couldn't stop shaking," Wong said. "I already knew what had happened."

Wong is the 17-year-old daughter of immigrant parents from Indonesia and Malaysia. She and her roommate, who is African-American, sat in their dorm room speechless and in tears after hearing that Donald Trump had won the presidency.

From the start of his presidential run, many immigrants said they felt targeted by Trump.

In his first campaign speech, Trump referred to Mexicans as rapists and criminals, and vowed to build a wall between the United States and Mexico. He also promised at one point to ban all Muslims from entering the country. And just days before the election, Trump told a Minnesota crowd that Somalis moving to the United States weren't properly vetted and that many are joining terrorist groups.

On Wednesday morning, the day after the election, immigrants, Muslims and others who felt scapegoated during the campaign say they now face an uncertain future.

"This morning it was sort of sad emoticons and a lot of 'I love you's," said Muhamad Elrashidi, a Rochester resident who was a delegate for Bernie Sanders. He voted for Hillary Clinton because he felt she was the most qualified candidate and had an inclusive message that countered some of Trump's rhetoric.

"It was really shocking and disappointing to see there were so many people who were willing to vote for someone who embraced views of racism or misogyny or intolerance," said Elrashidi, a Muslim whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from Egypt in the 1960s. "Intolerance to people like me."

Ze Thao, 23, is a student at the University of Minnesota. She was born in a refugee camp in Thailand before moving to the U.S. in the late 1990s, and she couldn't hold back tears talking about the election results.

"America is the only home I really knew," Thao said. "There are a lot of people out there who are trying to figure out if this is the America that they know and this the America that doesn't welcome them, where else can they go."

Among those feeling lost and uneasy about the rhetoric are many Latinos in Minnesota, too. The state is home to more than 280,000 Latinos, about 40 percent of whom are under the age of 18, according to the most recent numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Trump has said he'll revoke executive orders issued by President Barack Obama, which could include a 2012 order that allows undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children to get work permits and avoid deportation. That could make life hard for young people in the state.

Ana and Nadine put on their stickers.
Ana Schaff, right, and her mother, Nadine Engbrecht-Schaff, put on their "I voted" stickers shortly after casting their votes for Hillary Clinton inside Temple of Aaron in St. Paul Tuesday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

"That's a big one for Latinos, especially young Latinos who have only known Minnesota as their home because they either were brought here when they were months old or have never been to their country of origin," said Henry Jimenez, executive director of the non-partisan Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs. "That fear of what will happen next is definitely [being] expressed today."

Trump has also pledged to stop accepting Syrian refugees fleeing war in the Middle East. A total of 18 Syrian refugees have settled in Minnesota in 2016, according to the state's Refugee Resettlement Programs Office.

Members of the Minnesotans for Syrian Refugees, an advocacy group, said they're still unsure what will happen, but that it's likely programs will be suspended when Trump takes office. The few Syrian families who have already found refuge in the state are alarmed.

"They're very new here — they're just getting settled," said Sarah Fleming, a co-founder of the group. "To have something like this happen right when you get here and the trauma that you're experiencing and transitioning as a refugee, is very unsettling."

In some ways, Trump's anti-immigration stances mirror others from the United States' past. In the 1850s, the American Party sought to prevent Irish immigrants from becoming citizens, said Erika Lee, director of the immigration history research center at the University of Minnesota.

"We don't think of them as different today, but they were considered as different to native-born Americans and to some of the other European immigrants who had already come," Lee said. "There was the same concern over a changing America, a changing ethnic makeup in America in addition to some of those larger economic and political concerns as well."

A commitment to diversity and opposition to what they see as xenophobia is part of why some voters supported Clinton. To Nadine Engbrecht-Schaff and her 21-year-old daughter, Ana, Trump's promises stirred up hate and moved the country backwards.

On Election Day, the mother and daughter dressed in pantsuits to cast their ballots for Clinton and watched the returns come in with a group of female friends. Nadine says it was hard waking up to the news that Trump had won enough votes to become president.

"Who of my friends and family and neighbors did that?" Nadine said. "I know people are trying to send some kind of message, but I think it's an expensive message. I'm kind of concerned for the next four years."

While Nadine is discouraged by Clinton's loss, she said it's also a wake-up call. The women's group she belongs to is already planning a meeting next week to talk about how, in spite of Trump's victory, they can get more active and make a difference.

MPR News reporter Laura Yuen contributed to this report.

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