NiLP Note: In the op-ed below, Hector Sanchez, Chair of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda )NHLA), a coalition of over 40 of the largest national Latino civil rights organizations in the U.S., outlines what he sees as Latino priorities under a Trump Administration. While the title refers to what is next for these Latino priorities, it is clear that with the current vagueness and controversies of so many Trump policy priorities it is nearly impossible to project what is coming up next. It seems, at this point, almost impossible to figure out what to expect.
Sanchez argues the following: "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."
While regarding core values this position is correct, but it is not when we are talking about how to tactically approach Latino priorities under a Trump Administration. This is most obvious when it comes to immigration reform. It is evident from Trump's statements and the Republican control of Congress that any humane comprehensive immigration reform is dead for years. In such a situation, is it rational for Latinos to continue to press for comprehensive immigration reform or do we need to consider alternative reforms that are more realistic in the current political environment?
For example, the Trump Administration has indicated a willingness to consider legalization (not a path to citizenship) for the DACA Dreamers. Should Latino leaders be focusing on this as a priority instead of an unattainable comprehensive immigration reform? There is also the issue that the notion of comprehensive reform is also off the table, meaning that it may be more practical to view immigration reform as a more piecemeal process. If so, what would be Latino priorities in such an approach? What would Latino priorities be regarding border patrol issues, regarding types of crimes that the criminal undocumented should be deported for, and regarding so-called "merit-based" immigration legislation? Sanchez' position that "We will continue to push for immigration reform" does not address any of these tactical questions and appears, quite frankly, a bit Pollyannaishy.
It is also interesting that Sanchez does not address Latino positions on major Trump and other agenda items of importance to Latinos. These include the infrastructure plan, tax reform, significantly expanding the military budget, the debt crisis in Puerto Rico, the protection of Medicare benefits, the future of NAFTA, Internet access/net neutrality, the need to support Hispanic-serving colleges and Latino businesses, the extreme underrepresentation of Latinos in federal government employment, to name but a few.
By addressing these critical issues, in addition to those more general ones he outlines in the article below, one would need to alter Latino priorities beyond what was expected from an Obama Administration.
It is evident from Sanchez' outline below that the Latino leadership needs to more critically and comprehensively review and reframe its current policy agenda to make it more relevant under a Trump Administration.
What's next for Latinos' priorities
under a Trump administration?
By Hector E. Sánchez
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 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.
Hector E. Sánchez is chair of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda and Executive Director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. He c an e reached at