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"Hurry up and die": Latino politicians report a surge of hate

Hispanic politicians in California say they have received a deluge of racist messages, mail and offensive phone calls since Trump took office. The messages often come with death threats.
Univision News Logo
3 Ago 2017 – 12:20 PM EDT
A man yells at California senate president Kevin de León at a university event in southern California.

LOS ANGELES, California - One letter begins "Dear Corrupt Mexican," closes with "Hurry up and die" and is signed by "White Power." Another is a picture of California Senate president Kevin de León, scrawled with swastikas, the word "pig," and a mustache and hair reminiscent of Adolf Hitler.

"If you guys pass one more socialist piece of legislation, I will hunt you down like the dogs you are," reads another.

Latino politicians at every level of government in California say they’ve experienced an increase in hateful messages, mail and phone calls since Donald Trump took office. Univision News got access to a number of those messages. Many of them invoke Trump, and others include threats of physical violence and even murder.

"I have been told that I am illegal, that I am a criminal, that I am not an American, that I am a traitor," De León told Univision. He is the first Latino to hold the position of California senate president in more than a century. "I have never felt such negative energy, attacks against me," he added.

Los Angeles Councilman Gil Cedillo, who has also been attacked by Trump sympathizers, told Univision that his staff now opens his mail in order to keep his spirits up.

"It’s difficult for politicians because every vote comes with danger," he said.

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De León, who has spoken out against Trump and defended undocumented immigrants, has been particularly criticized for his support of SB 54, which would make California a so-called “sanctuary state,” by limiting state and local police cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operations.

His office shared some of the hate mail he’s received: "You're a fucking piece of shit," concludes one letter.

"We will assist federal authorities in both identifying and apprehending illegal alien criminals, and those who have collaborated in concealing their identity to federal authorities," reads another.

His detractors have also protested at public events and at de León’s Los Angeles office. At a university forum in May, people in the audience yelled: "Get out!" and "Build the Wall!”

De León, who lived for a number of years in Tijuana, Mexico, has been open about the fact that a number of members of his family were undocumented, but have since become legal permanent residents and naturalized citizens.

Eric Guerra, the first Hispanic council member in Sacramento in the last three decades, told Univision that he thinks the racism and hate has to change.

"I've noticed that often, every week, it's regular to see a racist comment," he said. "We have to continue the fight, but not with this same tone.”

Despite the "nefarious statements,” de León said avoiding aggression has become part of his job, and that he plans to continue defending immigrants. "Today, more than ever, we have to heal the country, communicate,” he said. "Despite the verbal assaults and hostility from the White House, California is still the best state in the best country in the world."