"We are a culture of trouble."

Jazmina Saavedra, a 49-year-old Nicaraguan immigrant and serial Los Angeles entrepreneur, recently ​lost her bid to be a US congresswoman. But she is not giving up on helping President Donald Trump build his promised "big, beautiful wall."

​​

“The wall is a message of love to the people inside this country," she said. 

Having legally immigrated to the United States with her family at age 18, Saavedra believes that a wall on the US-Mexico border and Trump's other hardline immigration policies are what is needed to protect American citizens from immigrants who would enter the country without authorization


She knows that some of Trump's hardline rhetoric about Latin American immigrants -- like his ​warning at the launch of his 2016 presidential campaign that Mexicans are bringing drugs and crimes into the country, and are "rapists" -- does not apply across the board. But overall, she agrees with him.


"There are all sorts of people in every culture," she said, reflecting on her Latin American heritage. "We are a culture of trouble."


Saavedra draws the line at the Trump administration's former practice of separating migrant families as part of its "zero tolerance" policy on illegal immigration. But she doesn't blame the president for that. ​Like Trump, she points to the Democrats for failing for years to pass a comprehensive immigration reform.


Saavedra attributes her views on immigration to her Catholic Christian faith, which she said is part of her Latino culture. 


"We are a people of faith," she said.


That influence goes beyond immigration. Saavedra is an anti-abortion activist, and she made headlines last year when she filmed herself in a Trump T-shirt chasing a transgender woman out of the women's restroom at a Los Angeles Denny's restaurant.


"The LGBT community is hateful, racist. They attack me," Saavedra said. "They are trying to destroy me. They don’t even respect Christianity. One even sent me a picture of a naked Jesus with a big dick."


While her views are stronger than most, Saavedra says she is part of a "silent majority" of Latin American immigrants whose religion makes them natural conservatives and Trump voters. 


She has a point -- sort of. In 2014, the Pew Research Center found that 77 percent of Latinos in the United States identify as Christian, and 59 percent say that religion is "very important" in their lives. 


When it comes to Trump support, the numbers are less striking, but still significant. According to the ​national exit poll taken during the 2016 election, 28 percent of Latino voters cast their ballot for Trump, and ​subsequent ​surveys found lower rates. 


So why haven't most people heard from the millions of Latinos in the United States who support Trump?

(Courtesy of Ignacio Rovisora)

Ignacio Rovirosaa 56-year-old Cuban immigrant and sales executive for an HVAC company in Kansas City, Missouri, says conservative Latinos are afraid to speak out against their brethren. 


"It's fear," he said. 


The result will be disaster, he added: "By the time some speak out it will be too hard to change things -- sort of the Holocaust example. They came for different groups but each group was silent and when it came to them there was no one left to speak for them."

(Courtesy of Rodrigo Pimentel)

But Rodrigo Pimentel, a 21-year-old immigrant from Portugal and immigration coordinator for the Rhode Island Progressive Democrats, senses another kind of terror in his community 


"The fear that I see right now is that their family could be ripped apart," he said. "They could be swept away from this country that they have contributed to, that they have called home. Even natural citizens are not safe anymore."


Pimentel noted that some Latino immigrants are sent back to dangerous countries, like Honduras, which has a ​higher homicide rate than Iraq


He is in danger, too. Having moved to the United States with his family as an infant, Pimentel lost his protected status when Trump ended former President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program. 


"I legally work here, I pay taxes, I contribute back," Pimentel said. "My family and friends are here in this country. Without DACA I stand to lose all of that."


Conservative immigrants, Pimentel said, have not "connected the dots between what Congress and the president are doing behind the scenes and what they are doing in public."

Meanwhile, echoing broader American ​partisanship, conservative immigrants are sure its the liberals who are confused. Rovirosa, who also immigrated to the United States as a baby and volunteers with his local Catholic church to help others get legal citizenship, cites the biblical Book of Proverbs.


"There is the fool, the simple, and the wise, and there are a lot of simple people out there," he said. "If you were a thinker you would be a conservative."


It's obvious to Rovirosa that immigrants should come to the United States legally and assimilate into the culture the way he did. His family was granted asylum in the 1960s, and he said he applied for citizenship after hearing former President Ronald Reagan's soaring anti-communist speeches. He was naturalized in 1996. 


Rovirosa loathes what he sees as the liberal fetishization of ethnic minorities and says that under Obama immigrants lined up at the border expecting sympathy.


"I resent people more if they like me for my race, than if they dislike like me for my race," he said.


Like Saavedra, Rovirosa sees the necessity of Trump's crackdown on illegal immigration, including the border wall, and says the family separations were not the president's fault. 


He compares the anti-Trump protestors who confronted both White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielson at restaurants last month to the repudiation mobs that harassed counterrevolutionaries outside of their homes during the Cuban Revolution.


"For the sake of the sovereignty of our nation we need to have borders," he said, "and zero tolerance."