Is President Donald Trump Pushing Expats In Mexico To Vote?

By Rodrigo Cervantes
Published: Monday, September 14, 2020 - 5:05am
Updated: Monday, September 14, 2020 - 10:53am

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Presidents Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico and Donald Trump
Office of the President of Mexico
Presidents Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico and Donald Trump of the U.S. meeting at the White House in July 2020.

MEXICO CITY — U.S. citizens are already casting their votes by mail, and they’re also doing it from the other side of the border.  And President Donald Trump’s administration might be influencing their electoral behavior significantly.  

As Nov. 3 nears, many U.S. immigrants living in Mexico are sending their votes and registering. And their expectations for this year’s election are high, as either the reelection or the exit of President Donald Trump brings a new wave of voters.  

In Mexico, some might share the benevolent view that president Andrés Manuel López Obrador has of President Trump after making trade, security, oil and immigration agreements throughout his term and visiting him in Washington, D.C.

In what essentially is Mexico's State of the Union speech, López Obrador applauded Trump and said he has treated Mexico respectfully.

"Most importantly, president Trump has praised Mexicans living and working in the U.S." López Obrador stated. 

But others remember Trump from his rhetoric against Mexico, threatening to close trade, building a border wall and attacking Mexican immigrants.

"They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I  assume, are good people,"  Trump said in one of his most noticed 2016 campaign speeches.

And among those paying close attention in Mexico to the re-election — or rejection — of Trump this year are more than a million people officially identified as American immigrants.


A Symbolic Election

Chris Lundry
Chris Lundry is a political science professor and Arizona voter living in Mexico City.

One of the U.S. immigrants in Mexico is Chris Lundry, professor of political science in El Colegio de México, living in Mexico City. He finds it ironic that Mexico tends to be portrayed as dangerous in the U.S., while tons of American expats like him live, work and thrive in Mexico.

Lundry is an Arizona voter and believes in the importance of his ballot. 

"Arizona is a shifting state, with regards to politics, and so I like the fact that I maintain my registration in Arizona," Lundry said.

The researcher arrived in Mexico in 2017. He’s now in quarantine, expecting a child with his Mexican wife. According to data from the U.S. embassy, 10 percent of Americans have family ties with Mexico.

One of the issues the professor has to address with Mexicans is how someone could receive more votes and still lose the election in the U.S., unlike the Mexican election system.

"And so I have to figure out a way to explain the sort of archaic system of the Electoral College," the professor said.

Lundry says the relationship between López Obrador and Trump might seem a paradox but reflects the need to continue bilateral economic and political relations. 

Trade between both nations represents almost $2 billion on a daily basis, according to U.S. data.

But Lundry says Trump tends to be perceived as a racist, and his defeat could bring better agreements.

"Part of this election will be symbolic, and the symbolic element might be the most important part, at least, as people would perceive it here," said Lundry.


The Democrat View

Gricha Raether
Gricha Raether from Democrats Abroad Mexico.

Gricha Raether is president of Democrats Abroad in Mexico City. And he says he’s noticed more U.S. immigrants interested in voting this year.

"We see a lot of people registering now to help out with the Democrats Abroad organization in Mexico, and we attribute and thank Mr. Trump for all of this; of course now the goal is to get him out of office,” Raether said.

The Democrats in Mexico help U.S. immigrants vote and promote a non-partisan website where voters can register before ballots arrive by mid-September.

"It's one of the most screwed-up processes in terms of remote voting in the world, and people need help," said Raether. "We have more than a million voters, American voters in Mexico, that can most definitely have a huge impact on the outcome of this election."

Raether said the election itself will not be influenced by the relationship between the Mexican and U.S. presidents, but Mexico won’t be a priority for the winning candidate because of many other problems, mainly domestic, that need to be solved.

"We need to make sure that we’re not spending money on stupid walls or that we're separting families. These are the things that the U.S. will worry about when it comes to certain extent to part of the population in Mexico," Raether said.

The Republican Perspective

Headshot: Larry Rubin
Jorge Valencia
Larry Rubin, head of the largest group of Republicans in Mexico

Larry Rubin represents Republicans in Mexico. He said his party is also trying to attract the expat vote, particularly as they’ve seen a growing interest.

"I've seen a lot more Republicans wanting to send out their vote more than the previous elections, and I think it’s a testament to president Trump’s stellar records in achieving a number of accomplishments," Rubin said.

The Republican says the big difference between this election and the past one is that people already know how president Trump operates. He says Trump brings real, honest politics and is tough, while making good agreements with Mexico.

"I am sure that he is not a racist at all. I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with him and with the party, so I know the real president Trump," the U.S. expat said.

Rubin said Trump created closer ties to Mexico, unlike the Obama administration in which Trump’s rival, Democrat Joe Biden, was vice president.

The Obama administration was perceived as distant towards Mexico. Deportations of Mexican nationals reached one of its highest peaks in history, and cross-border crime investigations like operation Fast and Furious became scandals.

"At the end of the day, what I see of Joe Biden is he was the number two for eight years, and the relationship with Mexico could’ve not been colder," Rubin said.

American voters in Mexico are required to deliver or mail their ballots to the U.S. Embassy or consulates, or even directly to the United States.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to correct spelling of Lundry's and Raether's names.

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