New York Times
By Liz Robbins
April 7, 2016
Along the campaign trail, Donald J. Trump likes to pick out the people who, despite his having insulted their ethnic group, support him in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. They love him, they really do.
And with Mr. Trump leading in the polls for New York’s presidential primary on April 19, some small groups of immigrants have come forward to support him. Never mind that he has said Mexicans are rapists and drug dealers, suggested a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States and called for the deportation of the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.
These immigrants are supporting him for reasons that are intensely personal and, not surprisingly, are often aligned with their politics back home.
A recent informal poll conducted by a Russian-language radio station in New York City showed that more than 80 percent of 5,000 callers preferred Mr. Trump, the Republican front-runner, to Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party’s likely nominee. A group of Latino Republicans in Rockland County is planning to endorse him, and some older Indian-American professionals and young Hindus in the region already have.
Consider the case of Anand Ahuja, a lawyer in his mid-60s on Long Island, who was a founder of Indian-Americans for Trump 2016, a political action committee that oddly does not raise money. Mr. Ahuja visited the United States in his 20s on a tourist visa from India, and said friends were marrying for green cards. They stayed and prospered, but he returned to India and waited nine years to immigrate legally.
Mr. Ahuja praised Mr. Trump for wanting to stop immigrants from entering the country illegally. “You should not reward people who have broken the law,” he said. “You follow the law, you get punished. That’s why I like Donald Trump when he says, ‘Let’s build a wall.’”
He added, “I believe anybody who came in this country illegally should be deported.”
Or as Tony Mele, 55, the chairman of the Latino National Republican Coalition of Rockland County and a private security consultant, put it: “When you’re in New York and you’re standing on the long line for tickets to a show, or in the supermarket, what happens when one person jumps the line with a cart? It’s like, ‘Oh no you’re not!’ I don’t care if it’s Mexico, Ecuador, what island you came from.”
Mr. Mele, who was born in the South Bronx, added, “You got a guy like Trump saying, ‘Hey, get to the back of the line like everybody else.’”
Rene, 38, a business owner in Spring Valley, N.Y., and a member of the Rockland County coalition, came to the United States illegally as a teenager from Ecuador 22 years ago. His employer offered him a work authorization. Eventually, he applied for legal permanent residency and became a citizen in 2006. He did not want to give his surname for fear of retribution against his school-age children or his businesses.
Rene supports Mr. Trump because he believes the Democrats have not helped immigrants like himself. He said he was fed up with the corruption and resulting lack of resources in the East Ramapo Central School District. Its school board, dominated by ultra-Orthodox Jews, is facing lawsuits and an inquiry by the Federal Bureau of Investigation over its spending in public schools and yeshivas.
“Our community is tired of dealing with the same things going on over and over again,” Rene said. “The only way to make our voice count is to start looking for our way to get in.”
No one else in the Latino coalition would comment publicly. Like Rene, they are afraid of a backlash, something other immigrant supporters of Mr. Trump have faced.
“You become a subject of mockery and fun and criticism,” Mr. Ahuja said. “Initially people were calling us very bad names on my Facebook. They wrote, ‘Shame on you being an Indian, you are a Donald Trump supporter.’”
Devesh Kapur, director of the Center for the Advanced Study of India at the University of Pennsylvania, said Mr. Ahuja’s group was an outlier in an Indian diaspora that had overwhelmingly voted for Democrats. In the 2008 presidential race, 84 percent of Indian-American voters chose Barack Obama, according to a Pew Research Center survey.
“It has no reflection of representativeness by a long, long shot,” said Mr. Kapur, who is an author of a coming book about Indian immigrants’ success in the United States. “Whether it’s Sikhs for Trump, Hindus for Trump, in each of them you would say: ‘Really? How can that be?’ It’s a really tiny fraction. They represent themselves, not all Sikhs.”
In contrast, in Brooklyn and on Staten Island, Russian immigrants — especially older ones — have voted Republican because they see the Democratic Party as aligned with the old Soviet Union, said Gregory Davidzon, a radio station owner in Brooklyn and political kingmaker. His station conducted the daylong poll last week; he said he was not endorsing any candidate, merely explaining the phenomenon.
“They are for the Republican Party against their own history, against the Soviet Union, this is what my feeling is,” Mr. Davidzon said. “It’s nothing personal with Trump.”
Isaak Shikhman, 70, a Republican on Staten Island who came as a Jewish refugee from the Soviet Union in 1989 and became a citizen in 1995, said he supported Mr. Trump for his ability to deal strongly with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and for his views on immigration. “We came to this country legally,” he said. “It’s very important if Mexican people do the same.”
He laughed when asked about Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a Democratic socialist who is running against Mrs. Clinton.
“My life for 43 years was in a Communist country,” Mr. Shikhman said. “I don’t want that back.”
Adity Sharma, 30, a law student, and one of about 20 members of Hindus for Trump, a Facebook group that occasionally meets in cafes in Brooklyn, said her Indian-American family supported Mrs. Clinton. “To each his own,” she said, adding of Mr. Trump: “He’s a strong candidate, he’s different than the others. By him not being so politically correct, it does make people sit up and listen.”
She and the group’s other members believe that current American policy is too friendly toward Pakistan and that Mr. Trump could change that to benefit India. They also approve of Mr. Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim refugees.
Raju Bathija, 56, another member of the group, said she no longer trusted Mrs. Clinton or her foreign policy in India. But more than 15 years ago she said she attended a fund-raiser for Mrs. Clinton’s Senate race, as a member of the Indo-American Democratic Party. It was in a Fifth Avenue apartment that she said Mr. Trump had donated for the occasion.
Now she and Mr. Trump are both opposing Mrs. Clinton. How to explain that?
“You go where your bread is buttered,” Ms. Bathija said.
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