Mayra Joli, the Miami lawyer who gained renown as the “nodding lady” sitting behind President Trump during a nationally televised town hall, said her employees began receiving hate messages urging them to quit after the Oct. 15 event.
The digital onslaught isn’t enough to change her mind, however. An immigration lawyer and mother from the Dominican Republic, Joli came to the U.S. with her family in the 1990s and donated to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign before becoming a Trump supporter.
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“The more they trashed him, the more I wanted to find out more about him, and I’ve been supporting him since. The rest is history,” Joli told Fox News. “Donald Trump taught me that I cannot just be silent, and I have to think for myself.”
Her support caught the nation’s attention when television cameras trained on Trump at the NBC town hall in Florida showed her nodding her head in agreement as the president responded to questions from moderator Savannah Guthrie. The clips soon went viral, and social media dubbed Joli the “nodding lady.”
While some journalists and pundits were quick to point out that Joli is a Trump supporter rather than the “undecided voter” whom town halls often showcase, Guthrie pointed out at the start that the audience was “divided.”
Members included a range of people, some of whom voted for Trump in 2016 and others who backed then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Since the event, Joli said, her employees have received phone calls from friends and family asking if they work for the “nodding woman” as well as venomous e-mail and social media messages urging them to quit because of their employer’s political views.
“Nobody can call an employer to fire me,” she said. “What they’re doing is calling my employees so they quit.”
Initial inquiries to Joli’s staff are typically followed up with more forceful comments.
“They start sending other [messages] saying, ‘I can’t believe you’re working for that person. I thought you were better,’” Joli said. “I am a fighter, but [my employees] have a private life. They aren’t used to this commotion.”
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Strangers are targeting her business in online reviews, too, she said, but it doesn’t bother her.
“Somebody’s going to see that review, then see the career I’ve led helping people, so I don’t need that client,” Joli said, adding that she would support Trump even without the backing of others.
There are several one-star reviews for the Joli Law Firm on Google that were submitted without comment, and a few were posted within the past few days; there are other five-star reviews, however, ranging from lauding her practice to simply defending her political beliefs. The law firm has a 3.5-star rating based on 47 Google reviews posted.
Joli said she’s also been “inundated” with messages of support on her various social media pages.
As an immigrant herself, Joli has a deep, personal interest in the issues facing her clients. She recalls studying law by candlelight in the Dominican Republic before arriving in the U.S. because she had no electricity — or running water — at times.
“This country gave me everything my country couldn’t give me, but I didn’t escape my country,” said Joli, who worked at Hooters before completing her law degree. “I left my country because the corruption was larger than the island itself.”
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Joli’s support for the president, who has made cutting off illegal immigration into the U.S. a campaign platform, is a difficult subject for some clients.
Since Trump’s election, Joli has noticed more undocumented immigrants trying to become naturalized citizens.
“They were coming to me, telling me, ‘I want to fix my situation because of Donald Trump.’ I told them, ‘No, you want to fix your situation because of you.’ The fact that Donald Trump is the president means nothing because with or without Donald Trump … nothing will change. It just prolongs your agony. You have to find a way to fix it, and that’s why attorneys are there,” she said.
Joli believes that the Obama administration also deported large numbers of undocumented immigrants even as it touted progressive policies, and she predicts an administration led by Democratic nominee Joe Biden, who was vice president under Obama, would do the same.
“With Donald Trump, he showed people they have to carry their own weight; they have to make themselves responsible for their pasts, their presents and their futures,” she said. “The clientele, now, is more proactive.”
Biden, if elected, has said he plans to roll back Trump-era immigration restrictions and stop construction of a southern border wall that the president promised voters during his 2016 campaign.
An interactive map on the Customs and Border Patrol website shows 371 miles of new border wall have been constructed since Trump took office in 2017, though the page has not been updated for a year. The boundary line between the U.S. and Mexico stretches more than 1,900 miles.