- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 20, 2016

CLEVELAND — Voters watching coverage of the Republican National Convention’s first night saw Melania Trump’s speech, a fight over party rules and withering attacks against Hillary Clinton. But those who got their news from Spanish-language newspapers and television saw a party equating illegal immigrants to criminals and terrorists.

Hispanic voters are playing an increasingly important role in elections, but the view they get of American politics is often markedly different from what the average viewer of CNN or reader of USA Today might see.

Immigration is a dominant focus on Spanish-language television networks, on the radio and in the newspapers, and the overwhelming viewpoint is that illegal immigrants deserve legal status. So when the convention kicked off Monday with speeches from parents whose children were killed by illegal immigrants, the Spanish-language press gave it prominent, and negative, billing.

“You can imagine how it’s playing,” said one immigrant rights activist.

La Opinion, a daily in Southern California, editorialized that it was evidence the Republican Party has no respect for Hispanics. By placing the immigration speeches on the same night as speeches about Benghazi, it said, Republicans were equating immigration and terrorism.

Univision, the largest Spanish-language television network in the U.S., played the speeches straight — but devoted an entire story to them.

Two-thirds of Hispanics get at least some of their news in Spanish, a 2013 Pew Research study found. Although some reporters win praise for evenhandedness, the Spanish-language press overall tends more toward advocacy journalism than does the English-language media.

“It tends to be immigration-centric,” said Alfonso Aguilar, president of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles.

Whether the coverage shapes Hispanics’ views or reflects attitudes already held, the Spanish-language coverage leans decidedly against the Republican Party, and there is little question how their consumers see presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Nearly three-quarters of Hispanics are watching the Republican National Convention, according to polling by the Latino Victory Fund, the Fusion network and Latino Decisions, a Democrat-leaning firm. The poll also asked whether they agreed with Mr. Trump’s statement that Hispanics love him and found nearly 90 percent said no.

Some 79 percent said Mr. Trump’s rallies are “hateful,” 78 percent said they were “dangerous” and 70 percent said they were “scary,” the poll reported.

Mr. Aguilar, who this week reversed himself and endorsed Mr. Trump, said part of the challenge for Republicans is that they aren’t handling Spanish-language media properly. Some Republicans shun Spanish media altogether, and many of those who do engage handle interviews the way they would with an English-language network or paper, leaving both sides talking past each other on the issues.

“We are also responsible, as Republicans, to show up in the media to make our case,” Mr. Aguilar said.

Still, Mr. Aguilar said, the Spanish-language media was ignoring the presence of a substantial number of Hispanic delegates at the convention.

Outside of the convention hall, though, immigrant rights activists’ protests drew crews from all of the major Spanish-language networks Tuesday.

Chanting slogans in Spanish and English, protesters built a symbolic “wall” to decry Mr. Trump’s plans for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

“If Trump is set on building a wall, we’re going to give it to him,” said Marisa Franco, director of Mijenta. “But we’ll be walling off his hate.”

The protest was one of the top news stories on the websites for Telemundo, a Spanish-language network, and Fusion, an English-language network owned by Univision and aimed at younger Hispanics.

Fusion, which is unabashedly liberal, features anchor Jorge Ramos, who does double duty with Univision and who has pointedly clashed with Mr. Trump.

In a segment this week, Mr. Ramos held up a letter from the Trump campaign sent to Mr. Ramos’ home. Mr. Ramos wondered whether it was an answer to his long-ignored request for a sit-down interview with Mr. Trump. Instead, it was a fundraising appeal.

Univision ran a web item Tuesday complaining that Mr. Trump is the first Republican candidate in 20 years not to have a spokesperson dedicated to Hispanic outreach. The network said its requests for comment from the Trump campaign are regularly ignored.

Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign Tuesday announced the creation of a Twitter account in Spanish.

“Here’s a fact: Over 40 million people speak Spanish in the United States,” the campaign said. “That’s why today Hillary for America launched a Spanish-language Twitter account, @Hillary_esp, to ensure that Clinton’s message is more easily accessible to more communities across America.”

Inside the convention hall Wednesday, Kentucky state Sen. Ralph Alvarado Jr., who is Hispanic, addressed the crowd in Spanish and urged the audience to stop corrupt politicians. He accused Mrs. Clinton of failing Hispanics.

“Vote Republican. Vote for Donald Trump,” he said in Spanish.

Overall, immigration has played a bigger role at the Republican convention than in years past. Speakers have demanded a secure border and lamented competition for jobs from illegal immigrants.

“In prior conventions, they address it, but only in passing,” said Kris W. Kobach, Kansas secretary of state and a Trump delegate to the convention. “That’s the biggest contrast I see, is that the issue is front and center, it’s prominent, and multiple speakers are hammering on the issue.”

Mr. Aguilar, though, said the Republican Party is making a mistake by not coupling speeches about immigration enforcement with more praise for immigrants overall — particularly those who have made strides toward assimilation.

“Another self-inflicted wound,” he said. “It’s not well thought out.”

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