Facing Discrimination In Public Life, Latinos Stay Positive About Government Even as 1 in 7 Latinos says he or she has encountered discrimination while voting or participating in politics, 60 percent of Latinos report that local government represents their views well.
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Facing Discrimination In Public Life, Latinos Stay Positive About Government

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Facing Discrimination In Public Life, Latinos Stay Positive About Government

Facing Discrimination In Public Life, Latinos Stay Positive About Government

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

More than 1 in 7 Latinos say they've been discriminated against personally when trying to vote or participate in politics. That finding comes from a new poll released by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. It's part of our series You, Me and Them about discrimination in America. Ashley Lopez of member station KUT in Austin has more.

ASHLEY LOPEZ, BYLINE: During early voting in Texas for the presidential election last year, Jaime Gonzalez Jr. was voting for the first time. He was a college freshman, and a version of the state's strict photo ID law was in place. Gonzalez says he ran through the rules and made sure he was ready.

JAIME GONZALEZ JR.: I just show them, like, a government ID, like my driver license, my ID - Texas ID because we're in Texas.

LOPEZ: Federal courts have ruled the law was designed to intentionally discriminate against minorities. Gonzalez said the state's voting laws are frustrating.

GONZALEZ JR.: It's unfair. That's it.

LOPEZ: Younger Latinos like Jaime Gonzalez are more likely than older Latino voters to say they felt personally discriminated against when trying to vote or participate in politics. But overall, the poll finds that Latinos see a problem with discrimination in government laws and policies.

VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO: It makes sense, given where we are politically right now. So essentially, since Donald Trump launched his campaign, he really put Latinos in the bull's-eye.

LOPEZ: That's Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, a professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas. She says when Trump kicked off his presidential campaign, he did it by targeting Mexicans. Trump has also promised a wall on the southern border, and he said a judge could not treat him fairly because he was of Mexican descent.

DEFRANCESCO SOTO: But then you flip that, and I think the silver lining to this is that you see Latinos in their urban areas - Latinos tend to be concentrated in metropolitan areas - that they feel positive about what their local officials are doing for them.

LOPEZ: And that's something the survey found too. About 60 percent of Latinos say their local government represents the views of people like them. Delia Garza, a city councilor in Austin, says in the first few weeks of the Trump administration, there was a large spike in immigration raids in the area.

DELIA GARZA: We included funding for immigrant services after all the ICE raids happened. I mean, that is directly helping our immigrant population. And so, you know, these are such great things that we're able to do at the local level that could not have been done at the state level.

LOPEZ: Garza is the first Latina to sit on the Austin City Council. She represents a part of Austin that is almost 70 percent Latino. She says she thinks it helps that local officials in bigger cities tend to come from backgrounds similar to the people they represent. Three of the city's 11 City Council seats are held by Latinos.

GARZA: Because when you represent a district like mine, and you see working families that need a little help, it's important to have a elected official that represents you that understands that.

LOPEZ: Latinos in Austin say they feel that. Daniel Segura-Kelly is a local activist whose family is Puerto Rican. He says he feels good about living in Austin.

DANIEL SEGURA-KELLY: We have a City Council that is wildly supportive of our community. Our community can know that this is a safe place.

LOPEZ: Latinos say institutional discrimination is a problem in America today. But when asked, more people agreed that individual prejudice was the bigger problem. For NPR News, I'm Ashley Lopez in Austin.

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