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Nevadans On The State Of The Union


The many people watching the president's discussion of immigration last night included voters in the battleground state of Nevada. Immigrant rights activists and organizers there watched with NPR's Leila Fadel.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: A new time of optimism was already sweeping across our land.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: I'm at a watch party of a pretty diverse crowd - older, younger, black, brown and white - listening skeptically to a president they feel has made a target of people of color.


FADEL: They laugh sarcastically when the president calls for unity and later assumes credit for the record-low unemployment rate of African-Americans.


FADEL: They boo when he calls for the end of, quote, "chain migration," by which he means the policy that allows American citizens to sponsor their families to be with them in the United States.


TRUMP: ...Of the savage MS-13 gang.

FADEL: And when he equates gang violence and then terrorism with immigrants, people here feel attacked. Genaro Marcial-Lorza (ph) is a high school student in the National Honor Society. He was brought here when he was 7, and he's a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

GENARO MARCIAL-LORZA: We're not all MS-13 members.

FADEL: Did you feel like he was saying that?

MARCIAL-LORZA: Yes, definitely.

FADEL: Erika Castro, also a DACA recipient, says the same.

ERIKA CASTRO: He's using those isolated issues to further create this fear and use immigrants as a scapegoat.

FADEL: She says his plan for a 12-year pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million people who are eligible for DACA could eventually solve her problem. But in exchange, he's demanding a wall on the border, and his plans might get her parents deported. And that's why she says the political middle is disappearing. It feels personal, she says, and it feels aimed at people of color, like herself.

CASTRO: This isn't normal - the constant attack on people, on our communities. So it's really hard to find a place where we can kind of come together because he's really creating that division for us.

FADEL: Calena Dunbar is a first-generation American on one side and is ethnically Jamaican, Egyptian, Irish and Native American. She says the president's urging for unity was disingenuous.

CALENA DUNBAR: I don't think that he wants us to unite at all. If he wanted us to unite, he would address every person's issue. He would address the issues of white supremacy alone.

FADEL: While he painted immigrants as criminals or terrorists, criticized athletes who take a knee during the national anthem in protest of police killing unarmed black men, she says he completely ignored the rise in white nationalist hate groups. After the speech, organizers addressed the small crowd of about 40 people attending.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: If you need a place to come...

FADEL: They urged everyone to take their anger and use it to mobilize, vote and flip seats come November. Leila Fadel, NPR News, Las Vegas.

(SOUNDBITE OF ILLA J SONG, "AIR SIGNS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.