NiLP Guest Commentary
Trump, the Nation's Most Anti-Latino President
By Janet Murguía
The NiLP Report
As our country enters its second year with Donald Trump as president, there have been many surprises, most notably Trump's complete disinterest in broadening his appeal beyond his base. But for the Latino community, the biggest surprise is that we have not been surprised at all. Trump campaigned as the most anti-Latino presidential candidate in U.S. history. Now he is governing as the most anti-Latino president in our history.
This is not an opinion, it is fact. Trump began his campaign by calling Mexicans "criminals" and "rapists." He said that a California judge of Mexican descent born in Indiana could not be objective because of his ethnicity. He repeatedly and erroneously painted Latinos as criminals and residents of poverty and crime-ridden hellholes. He pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio even though he was convicted of racially profiling Latinos in Arizona. And Trump has yet to say one truly positive or redeeming thing about nearly 60 million of his constituents who contribute every day to this country in profound and significant ways.
Trump's anti-Latino stance has been most obvious, of course, on the issue of immigration. From day one, he has never deviated from disparaging Hispanic immigrants every chance he gets or giving credence to baseless and inflammatory falsehoods about both Latinos and immigrants. Unfortunately, those falsehoods are now being used as the rationale for the draconian and senseless immigration policies being conjured up by the anti-immigrant, anti-Latino extremists he has empowered like Stephen Miller and Jeff Sessions.
Miller has made the most of his opportunity to fulfill his toxic and White supremacist-friendly vision for America. He is the center of the administration's calculated effort to take a legitimate policy aim-removing those who pose a threat to our national security and public safety-and use it to try and implement policy that smears and targets every single immigrant in this country.
So instead of focusing on gang members and violent criminals, the majority of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deportations in the last year have been of non-violent mothers and fathers who pose no threat to our society. ICE has picked up fathers dropping off their kids at school, parents taking care of their cancer-stricken children, and even a little girl in an ambulance on her way to a hospital for a life-saving operation. I am sure Americans are resting easier at night with these people off our streets.
And despite years of saying that their issue was with "illegal," not "legal" immigration, these extremists are now going after "chain migration." For those who don't know, "chain migration" is a disgusting term invented by anti-immigrant extremists to disparage our family-based immigration system as if there is something sinister about U.S. citizens wanting to reunite with their parents or adult children.
And even though 90% of Americans support giving relief to DREAMers, and DACA has been a smashing success, this administration has made the DREAMers' lives a living hell. First, by needlessly and abruptly ending DACA. Second, by the president giving false hope that he would help DREAMers get permanent relief. And most disgracefully, Trump surrogates demonized DREAMers as violent criminals and threats to our country in a series of television ads to thwart Senate bipartisan relief proposals.
What is happening under the guise of addressing immigration and supposedly making Americans safer is cruel. It is inhumane. It is grotesque. But the cruel and grotesque policy-making from the Trump administration is not limited to immigration. We have seen a year's worth of such policies from trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without providing a real alternative to giving massive tax cuts to corporations and the very wealthy to the neglectful and disgraceful treatment of Puerto Rico and its 3.5 million American citizens as they coped in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
Through these policies, President Trump has made his disinterest and contempt for Latinos crystal clear. But as grim as the last year has been for our community, we have to remember that we are far from powerless.
It was 50 years ago this February when our organization, then known as the Southwest Council of La Raza (SWCLR), was founded in Phoenix, Arizona. Our three founders-Ernesto Galarza, Herman Gallegos, and Julian Samora-spent years studying the Hispanic community. What they concluded is that there was a need for an organization that could connect and unite the handful of Hispanic community-based organizations that existed at that time. It was based on a simple premise that holds true for us today-in unity there is strength, and in strength there is power.
In the last fifty years, what became the National Council of La Raza and our original seven Affiliates in the Mexican American community blossomed into the pan-Latino UnidosUS and our nearly 300 Affiliates across the country serving millions of Hispanic families every single day. The progress UnidosUS has made-whether it was helping millions of undocumented immigrants get legal status under the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act or helping to lift millions of Latino families out of poverty through the Earned Income and Child Tax Credits-has come about because we worked together and because we were stronger when we united. It is that truth that we must return to as a community to battle this administration and this political climate.
And even in this climate, we have seen the benefits of unity. In the last year, we saw our community deeply involved in the successful effort to prevent the repeal of the ACA. And while a solution still awaits us, it was the DREAMers in our community and their allies who put the issue of DACA at the top of Congress' agenda. And in the last few weeks, we are seeing a new voice emerge with the remarkable campaign of the young people-including Emma Gonzalez and Alejandro Calderon-who survived the horrific mass shooting in Parkland, Florida to pressure elected officials to finally do something about gun violence. These emerging leaders have not only captured the imagination of the nation, they may represent a real turning point in this long-time debate.
It is now up to all of us as a community to make it crystal clear to President Trump and other elected officials that the Trump administration's policies are not only unacceptable to our community but an affront to the values this country holds dear.
And we do that using our voice and our vote. We will push back by pushing those eligible in our community to register to vote, including the 500,000 new voters UnidosUS has registered since 2008 as the largest Latino voter registration organization in the country. This election year, we are making a concerted effort to engage young people-those who are often the most affected by draconian policies-to get engaged in the political process. And we will educate all voters that all elections-including off-year and mid-term elections-matter. Then we will be in the position we need to be in to hold elected officials-on both sides of the aisle-accountable. Only then will we able to make the economic, social, and political progress we need to move our community and our country forward.
Janet Murguia is President and CEO of UnidosUS (formerly the National Council of La Raza). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.