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Latino Advocate Sees Silver Lining In 'Chaos' Of Trump's 100 Days

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And we've been listening to a lot of voices this week as President Trump reaches his hundred-day mark tomorrow. Let's hear now the perspective of a Democrat. Maria Teresa Kumar is the executive director of Voto Latino. It's a political advocacy organization for Latinos. She's in our studio. Thanks for coming in again.

MARIA TERESA KUMAR: Thanks for having me, Dave.

GREENE: So how would you describe Donald Trump's first hundred days?

KUMAR: Chaos...

GREENE: Chaos.

KUMAR: ...In one word. And I think that he has really - in some ways for the work that we do, it's really difficult to get people to pay attention and - to the civic process and to get them impassioned.

And I have to thank him because we have never been more on alert. And the fact that people are filling their congressional member's town halls and demanding action, demanding protection and they are giving both the Republicans and the Democrats strength to stand up for the little guy, I think it's a good thing. And I am encouraged by it.

GREENE: Now, we should say there are many people who voted for him who say that he is sticking up for the little guy and they like that they - what they have seen from the president so far. But let's focus on your cause. You're saying that you're seeing a lot more passion from your supporters than you've seen in the past. It's almost like a gift.

KUMAR: It is because really difficult to get folks to pay attention to what is at stake when you either participate in the political process or in some cases decide to sit it out. And a lot of folks this year decided to sit it out. That said, the policies that he has tried to implement and the escalation of raids against the Latino community and immigrant communities have really everybody on notice and they're real.

And what is - the silver lining that I see despite a lot of this pushback, a lot of increased racial profiling, a lot of intimidation is that the courts are coming back and saying that the - that things - that there is a system of checks and balances. And I think that when he was first elected, many Americans were concerned that our institutions were not strong enough. And he is not only testing them but he's demonstrating that there are three consecutive different branches of government and that each of them matter.

GREENE: You said last time you wanted to see Donald Trump turn down the temperature when it comes to conversations about race. Has the temperature gone down now compared to a hundred days ago?

KUMAR: It's - I think it's very much symptomatic of who he is is that it depends on what day it is. And it depends on what might be on the - what might be on deck. So sometimes absolutely but then all of a sudden he takes on a - he takes on a Twitter storm that surprises everybody. And that is not helpful. The fact that I can share with you that ICE is, you know, is not only more powerful but feels like there's much more of a swagger of who they can target because they have his full support, is making communities feeling less safe and less receptive to law enforcement. And this is conversations that we hear from law enforcement.

And that is a challenge because all of a sudden you also feel that - young people in the classrooms are also feeling incredible pressure. There's much more bullying going on in the classrooms. I can't imagine the conversations that parents are having on who - in the event that they get deported - who is going to be the guardian of that child. And I can't imagine being that child and having to concentrate in school knowing that when they get back home, they may not have their parents at home.

GREENE: OK. We've been speaking to Maria Teresa Kumar, who heads the advocacy organization Voto Latino, one of the many voices we have been listening to this week as President Donald Trump hits the hundred-day mark tomorrow. Thanks so much for coming in, we really appreciate it.

KUMAR: Thank you, Dave. Have a good one.

GREENE: You, too.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHRISTIAN SCOTT ATUNDE ADJUAH'S "THE RECKONING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: April 28, 2017 at 12:00 AM EDT
Previous web and audio versions of this story called Maria Teresa Kumar the executive director of Voto Latino. She is the president and CEO.