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Stories from the KUNR newsroom and regional partners related to the 2022 elections

Disinformation is targeting immigrants, Latinos, but it’s also looking to change their vote

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A rise in anti-immigrant sentiment, especially toward people from Latin America, is on display in Nevada ahead of the November election. Scapegoating of immigrants is not new, but disinformation on social media channels is amplifying the situation.

Ignacio Romero fights disinformation as a program manager for the Nevada-based advocacy group Battle Born Progress. He describes his work as nonpartisan and says there are many ways Latinos are targeted.

“One is the attacks that go directly against Latinos,” he explained in Spanish. “This disinformation goes to other groups like white people, telling them lies about Latinos.”

He says sizable minority groups have always been demonized throughout history. Nevada’s population is nearly 30% Latino, with a portion of that being undocumented. Romero says that results in people being targeted who speak Spanish or look non-white for just being different.

“They are an easy target,” said Julian Escutia, who works at the Mexican Consulate in Las Vegas.

Escutia’s job is to make sure life for Mexican immigrants is good in the United States. He’s seen how, over the years, undocumented people living in the U.S. have been maligned.

“Why? Because sometimes they don’t have a voice. They are in the shadows. They don’t want to be seen. They just want to be here, left alone, work hard, live their lives, send money back home,” he said.

Regardless of immigration status, he says everyone has rights. Just over 42,000 new citizens have been naturalized in Nevada since the last midterm election, but Escutia says even voting for them is under fire.

“I’ve seen in my 20 years in this field that in every election cycle, minorities are targeted in so many ways to make them stay home and make them feel bad,” said Escutia.

Romero also says there’s a second part of the disinformation effort affecting Latinos.

“There are other attacks directed toward us, meant to divide us, lie to us, about things that really matter to us,” he added.

He says conspiracy theories are prevalent, and most aren’t explicitly political, but there’s the occasional inflation thread on social media that’s tied to a politician or the use of socialism as a boogeyman. It’s the same type of disinformation that most would find in English-speaking communities.

Follow Gustavo Sagrero on social media. @gus.chavo on Instagram, and @goose_chavo on Twitter.

Produced with assistance from the Public Media Journalists Association Editor Corps funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

The photo included in this story is licensed under Flickr Creative Commons.

Gustavo Sagrero is a former bilingual reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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