It’s been one year since Donald Trump’s inauguration, but to many Latinos, the fear, frustration, and abhorrence incited by his administration has made it feel a lot longer than 365 days.
A year ago, Trump’s own contradictory comments on various issues, such as immigration and the fate of the Affordable Care Act, made many wonder whether he’d really be as bad we initially predicted. Alas, the past twelve months have proven our worst fears true.
When confronted with a choice of policy options, Trump has repeatedly chosen the path most detrimental to communities of color and working families. Consistent with the tone with which he launched his campaign, when he denigrated Latin American immigrants, Trump moved swiftly after his inauguration to advance a white supremacist agenda.
Trump’s opening salvo included executive orders to expand the grounds for deportation to every undocumented immigrant, enhance the role of local law enforcement agencies in immigration enforcement, punish sanctuary jurisdictions, and ban Muslims from entering the country. The deportation in February of an Arizona mother, Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, for nothing more than a decade-old minor offense of using a fake social security number so she could work to support her two children, signaled the ominous direction in which the new president was steering the federal government’s deportation apparatus.
In September, the Trump administration ended Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and since then has announced the termination of Temporary Protected Status for those from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan — all places that Trump offensively referred to last week as “s — hole” countries.” Trump has also cut refugee admissions in half and has endorsed legislation that would cut legal immigration.
The message is clear: the Trump administration will do nothing to help people who aren’t white. It’s no surprise that his response to Puerto Ricans struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria has been lackluster, to say the least.
Meanwhile, as outrageous tweets attracted popular attention and ire, the machinery of Trump’s administration quietly dismantled regulations across a broad swath of federal policy. These actions are putting our drinking water at risk of contamination, keeping overtime pay out of reach of millions of hard-working people, putting obstacles in the way of accessing quality health care, and increasing mass incarceration.
With the complicity of his allies in Congress, Trump is transforming the judiciary to serve the most powerful and be less diverse, and making the super rich even richer. While the tax bill he signed before Christmas is a gift to the wealthy, it will result in tax increases on 70 percent of Latino familiesby 2027.
In addition to all these public policy decisions, Trump has abused the bully pulpit of the presidency. From his refusal to rebuke the white supremacists that marched in Charlottesville, to his pardon of the virulently anti-immigrant former sheriff, Joe Arpaio, and his recent vulgarities about non-white immigrants, Trump has continuously sent dog whistles to the extreme fringe on the right of American society.
Despite these setbacks and insults, there are reasons for Latinos to be hopeful. While we endured an unprecedented assault on our community during the past year, we did not go unheard. Just as we stood with other communities when they were attacked, we did not stand alone, as exemplified by the rally that the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) held in front of the White House to launch Latino Heritage Month in September, where national Latino leaders were joined in solidarity by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, African Americans, women of all races, and representatives of the LGBTQ, labor, and environmental movements.
The Latino community is organizing and coalescing. NHLA, the coalition of the nation’s leading Latino advocacy organizations, has grown in the past year and is more united than ever. Young Latinos from across the country are bringing extraordinary determination and leadership to the front lines of the current struggle to pass the Dream Act. Latino attorneys are leading legal challenges to discriminatory policies, from our legal defense organizations like MALDEF and LatinoJustice, to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. Latinas are running for office and winning, epitomized by Hala Ayala and Elizabeth Guzman, who became the first Latinas ever elected to Virginia’s state legislature.
We look at the year ahead with trepidation, but thanks to the strength within our community, and the solidarity of our allies, Latinos are feeling less fearful. We know the tide will turn, not on its own, but by our making.