María Elena Salinas: Latinos in the U.S. have been afraid for a long time

Maria Elena Salinas on El Paso shooting

Hispanic Americans say they are fearful and anxious in the wake of the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, where a gunman opened fire inside a Walmart and killed 22 people last Saturday. A racist manifesto posted online before the shooting claimed, "This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas." Since the attack, President Trump has come under scrutiny for his use of the word "invasion" to describe migrants. Critics have linked his language to the manifesto.

Maria Elena Salinas is an award-winning journalist, anchor, and author, who recently joined CBS News as a contributor. She told "CBS This Morning" that the feeling in the Hispanic American community is one of "fear, disbelief and anger." But that fear, she said, has been there for a long time and it's not just in El Paso.

"I spoke to community leaders and leading organizations in California and Arizona. In Arizona, LUCHA (Living United for Change in Arizona) told me this is something they have been fearing for a long time. They say that people in their community are afraid to go out," Salinas said. "And in California, another organization told me something very interesting. They said the fear has been there for a long time, again, since the president came into office, and what they're feeling is that people feel unprotected. It's not only that they feel threatened, but they feel unprotected because they feel that rhetoric and that agenda has extended to all institutions in the country."

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With more than 57 million Latinos living in the U.S., most of them born here, Salinas said the best way for them to counter President Trump's rhetoric is to use their voices.

"There seems to be a perception that Latinos are immigrants or they don't belong here, and that couldn't be farther from the truth. 60% are American citizens born in the U.S. and another 30% are naturalized citizens," Salinas said. "They have just as much right as anyone else that became a naturalized citizen like Melania Trump, for example. They need to be seen as Americans, and they need to stop feeling threatened or and feeling like they are foreigners in their own country."

She also urged Latinos to recognize and exercise their political power, as 18% of the U.S. population.

 "The turnout is very low among Latinos but that has been changing in the last election and it's changing – not on a national level – but you see it in Arizona, you see it in Nevada, and in Florida, in California. During the midterm elections we saw a tremendous increase in voter registration and people going out to vote. Voter turnout especially among young Latinos, who are the ones that are really driving now the political force in the community."