President Donald Trump’s speech to Congress was consternating to say the least. The new president delivered a message to the American people mostly at odds with his actions since taking office. The lofty rhetoric, which harkened back to his less divisive predecessors, fell flat with anyone who’s had a hard-working family member deported, faces the prospect of losing affording health care, or has watched the president appoint individuals with uncompromising anti-immigrant and xenophobic views to key policy positions that will impact our daily lives.
The Trump administration poses a clear challenge for Latino advocacy organizations that have a long history of engaging policymakers, on both sides of the political aisle, to advance the best interests of our community and the nation as a whole. The president campaigned on the most anti-immigrant platform of any successful presidential candidate in over five decades and, throughout his campaign, refused to engage in a dialogue with the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), the coalition of the nation’s 40 leading Latino advocacy organizations.
If the president was at all sincere when he called for unity and cooperation in his address to Congress, then his administration will need to boldly move beyond the timid conversations it has had with selected Latino leaders, or the hints dropped to news anchors, and move toward a broader, earnest two-way discussion directly with our community about how to address Latino priorities. This was the type of dialogue NHLA repeatedly invited then-candidate Trump to engage in during last year’s campaign, but which he refused to do.
Some have asked if we need to change our priorities to appeal to the new president. Our answer to that is clearly no. Latino priorities do not change based on who is in power. Our priorities reflect our community’s understanding of the challenges we face and how to build a better future for ourselves and America as a whole.
Those of us who believe in constructive dialogue will continue to make an effort, in whatever way we can, to minimize the negative impact of policies such as moves to repeal the Affordable Care Act or increase deportations. We know that any effort to have a dialogue cannot succeed if done in isolation. The energy and vigor of our community, speaking out across the country in rallies and at town halls, will be critically important.
We will continue to fight against any policies which marginalize and adversely target Latinos. In the coming weeks, months, and years, you will see us:
– Advocate for expanded job training opportunities, increased retirement security, and advocate against rolling back labor protections, worker rights and workplace health and safety regulations and enforcement. For Latinos, who are more likely to work in high-fatality industries, this can literally be a matter of life or death.
– Oppose any effort to weaken the enforcement of rules that protect consumers from getting ripped off by predatory lenders, fraud, or other unfair practices.
– On education, we will continue to demand the best for our kids by holding government accountable for improving the academic progress of all students in our public schools, especially those who are learning English, the children of migrant workers, and others who are too often overlooked.
– On immigration, NHLA has repeatedly expressed its opposition to the anti-immigrant and anti-Latino views expressed by this president, which have already resulted in increased hate crimes and harassment. We oppose the president’s policies to tear families apart and expand the use of for-profit detention facilities. Instead, we will continue our push for immigration reform.
– Knowing that government works best when it draws on the strength of our nation’s diversity, we will continue to push for greater representation of Latinos and especially Latinas, at all levels of government.
– We will not waver from advocating for everyone’s civil rights, including those at the intersection of being Latino and LGBTQ, and we will vigorously defend our voting rights.
– We will continue to oppose efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which has provided affordable health insurance to 4.2 million Latinos. We will defend Medicaid and the right of Latinas to obtain comprehensive quality reproductive healthcare and exercise their reproductive freedom.
– We will resist efforts to weaken enforcement of our environmental laws or protection of our public lands.
The road ahead may be headed uphill, but the strength and energy of our community should not be discounted. Our work continues to make America a better place for all and our active civic participation is at the center of these efforts.