By Victor Martinez, Staff Writer

Sixteen months. Or 71 weeks. Or 497 days. Or 11,928 hours. That is how long Donald Trump has been running for President of the United States.

Let me preface this article by explaining my background. I am an American-born man of Dominican descent who was raised in Mexico and moved back to this country five years ago. My experiences outside of this country alongside with my ethnicity are some of the driving forces of who I am as a person.

When I first saw Mr. Trump riding down that elevator, waving at everyone before the announcement, I thought that this was another stunt by the Donald to get more attention and publicity. I honestly did not think he would have a lasting impact on the race. That soon changed.

“…. they’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” That is what a candidate for the presidency said about Latinos in his announcement speech. At first I could not believe it—did a man who just announced he wanted to run for president call Mexicans and Latino immigrants rapists and criminals with his next breath? I was shocked. That is the kind of inflammatory, offensive rhetoric that sinks campaigns. Yet, that was just the beginning on this crazy freight train we call an election.

Then he followed it with one of his signature pieces of rhetoric during his entire campaign. “We will build a great wall along the southern border. And Mexico will pay for that wall.” That was shocking, unexpected, confounding, and insane all at the same time. A wall that would approximately cost $25 billion dollars. A wall that would not only serve as terrible diplomacy with one of our neighbors and one of our closest trading allies, but also, an idea that William Basham, Commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection under President Bush, called, “one of the dumbest ideas I have heard.” Yet, Donald has made the wall a central part of his rallies and does not fail to bring it up when talking about Latino immigrants.

Up until that point in his campaign, I was shocked that a man could say all these things about Latinos, more specifically about immigrants. One of the foundations of American society has always been inclusion of immigrants pursuing the American dream. Then Donald accused Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was presiding over a class-action suit against Trump University, of being prejudiced against him because he is Hispanic.

According to Donald, “[Curiel] is a member of a club or society, very strongly pro-Mexican…. I’m going to build a wall…. But he has treated me very unfairly, he’s very hostile and something is going on.” In an interview on Face the Nation, Donald said that a member of the independent judiciary was deliberately pursuing his case against (the very criticized) Trump University because he was of Mexican heritage and therefore biased. Not only does that not make any sense at all, but it implies that because somebody is of Latino descent, or any other descent for that matter, that person cannot be counted on to do their job—a job which they have done for over 10 years with an exemplary track record.

I was frankly dumbfounded. Every time I turn on the news, it seems that Trump has said another horrible thing, maybe about women or Muslims, or more about Latinos. His campaign is truly undead. It seems that no matter what outrageous, racist, and discriminatory vitriol he spouts, his campaign still trudges along.

The conservative side of politics in our country has made immigration, particularly Latino immigration, a central issue over the last couple decades. We (Latinos) have gotten used to it for the most part, hearing how immigration is destroying our country, how immigrants are taking all the jobs of “proper” Americans. But never in my life did I feel like a major politician was saying that Latinos were not as American as others. You always hear conservatives argue against immigration, but if the person is Latino and was born in this country, most of Conservatives will try to appeal to them. Donald does not. He puts his followers in an anti-Latino, anti-immigrant frenzy. He has tapped into the people’s fears and insecurities and has exploited them.

Journalist Kate Linthicum of the Los Angeles Times penned a phrase I find appropriate to describe those Trump followers who want him elected because of his views on immigrants and Latinos: “The ugly American.” This phrase refers to the American citizen who wants to discriminate against others, who feels that people who want a better life for themselves and their families in this country are somehow a threat to Americans’ security and standard of living. Who knew that there were so many “ugly Americans” in this country, and that they are following Donald Trump.

Throughout Donald’s campaign I went from shock, to abject disgust, to not being able to understand or comprehend how his campaign is still alive and kicking. However, the feeling I have now is one of defiance. He and so many of his followers expect to be able to say whatever they want and not be held accountable. That is wrong. We as a country must stand up and say “no more.” They cannot call other people rapists, or killers, or “bad hombres” just because they feel that their place in this country is not what it was a few decades ago. It is time people tell Donald and those who think like him to look back upon our nation’s history and understand that this great country was built on the backs of immigrants from all corners of the world. The US, more than any other country in the history of humankind, is one of ethnic and national inclusion.

In the words of one of the men most revered by Republicans,

“I received a letter just before I left office from a man. I don’t know why he chose to write it, but I’m glad he did. He wrote that you can go to live in France, but you can’t become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Italy, but you can’t become a German, an Italian. He went through Turkey, Greece, Japan and other countries. But he said anyone, from any corner of the world, can come to live in the United States and become an American.” – Ronald Reagan