For love of their kids, campaigners not giving up on 'progressive agenda'

Trump's victory prompts tears, fear among migrant workers --- but not defeat


MIAMI – Venise Roux remembers the day she hopped aboard a bus in Cap-Haïtien, a commune on the north coast of Haiti. She was 20. After about six hours on the road, she arrived at Port-au-Prince. She had never been there before.

At the Aeroport International Toussaint Louverture, she walked into a plane for the first time. Nearly two hours later, she landed at Miami International Airport. Instead of graduating from high school, as she had dreamed, she earned $2 per hour as a waitress.

When she became a mom, she said her dreams belonged to her two sons. She became a certified nursing assistant. When she started working for Hillcrest Health Care and Rehabilitation Center in Hollywood, she earned $9.25 per hour. It has been 15 years. She makes $13.27.

"My son had a scholarship to go to Jacksonville University, because he played football. I found out he wanted to join the Army, because he wanted to help me," Roux, 50, said. "I told him, 'Even if I have to sleep under a bridge, you have to go to college.' We don't give up." 

Roux spent months campaigning for Hillary Clinton's "progressive agenda" because "of my sons." Her tears began Tuesday night. In her eyes and in the eyes of many other migrant workers who campaigned for Clinton in South Florida, the losers were immigration reform, affordable healthcare and fair and equal pay.  

"I have been getting messages from so many who are so afraid," said Miami Workers Center executive director Marcia Olivo, whose eyes were red and puffy. She organized a Wednesday morning event and expected dozens, but only a few showed up.

"They will need time to recover," she said.


Pedro Ayala, 47, left the Dominican Republic for the Bronx in the 1990s. As an undocumented worker, he earned very little at warehouses, a supermarket and a car wash. He moved from New York to Massachusetts, after a brother found work at a factory in Lawrence, where Ayala is now a city employee.

Ayala was among dozens of Service Employees International Union members who traveled from other states to campaign in Miami. During his two weeks of fast walking, he listened to a GPS that sometimes took him around in circles. Dogs startled him. Cuban Trump supporters confused him. But he kept going.

"An Episcopalian church changed my life. I think the door-to-door evangelizing missions prepared me for this. I think churches play an important part in helping immigrants here," Ayala said in Spanish. "When you are delivering the message of truth and justice, the outcome doesn't matter. Someone can be racist, rude, close the door. None of that matters."

Ayala said he worked along immigrants in South Florida who know what it's like to persevere and be resilient. He became a U.S. citizen in 2012. He is a father of three -- a toddler and two teens. His 18-year-old daughter voted for the first time and has dreams of becoming a New York City police officer. 

"Hispanics are here to stay, and those of us who have found our way will continue to help those who have not," Ayala said. He had a message for those who felt defeated: "Our brothers and sisters in Florida are not alone. We are here for them." 


Rosario Mata, 58, was among the members of Domésticas Unidas, Spanish for United Domestic Workers, who traveled from Texas to Miami to campaign in Little Havana. She and her two daughters were born in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. They have been living in San Antonio for about 16 years. 

While she tended to a swollen foot, Mata said she spent about a week knocking on doors. She talked to strangers about her daughters and their dreams. She said she trained them to refuse to listen to the "No se puede," Spanish for "No, can't do." 

They both excelled in high school and got scholarships to go to college. Mata's youngest daughter works as a teacher and married a U.S. citizen. She voted for Clinton thinking about her sister, who is an MBA grad and remains undocumented. 

"While the world was telling them they couldn't do this and couldn't do that, I pushed them to work hard. Just like the others here in Miami, we didn't come here to get free things. We came her to contribute," Mata said in Spanish. "My daughter and their daughters can do more, but their status is holding them back."


Mauro Kennedy, 54, left Argentina, with his wife, Maria Bilbao, 50, and their son Tomas about 15 years ago during the Argentine Great Depression. Kennedy is of U.S. descent. His ancestors left Pennsylvania in the 1830s and settled in La Paz, where he was born and fell in love with Bilbao. 

The two moved to Buenos Aires, and years later they put their favorite things -- including Tomas' Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings books -- in three bags. In Miami-Dade County, the trained architect washed dishes, worked construction and eventually set up his own business. 

Bilbao became a domestic worker. Kennedy said "she found meaning in life" as an activist "with a sense of purpose."

The Kennedy family spent all of their free time campaigning against Trump and Sen. Marco Rubio. They devised the strategy to divide groups to interrupt Trump's rallies. And they watched it in action around the country.

The parents were most proud of their now 25-year-old son and his growing passion for political activism. 

"We have worried about being undocumented.  We have worried about retirement. We have worried about health insurance," said Kennedy in Spanish. "But when I look at Tomas and all of the things that he has achieved, I have no regrets."

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