WASHINGTON — A coalition of 46 Latino organizations from across the country gave a dismal assessment of the Trump administration’s early impact on Latino issues at a press conference on Wednesday, saying it has “created an unprecedented level of anxiety and fear,” particularly in the immigrant community.
“The Latino community has been under very serious attack by this administration,” said members of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda.
In its report, “First 100 Days: Analysis of the Trump Administration’s early impact on Latino priorities,” the NHLA writes that “President Trump has pursued an extreme agenda of policies and federal spending aimed at reducing access to healthcare, targeting undocumented immigrants, exacerbating environmental harm in vulnerable communities and drastically slashing federal funding for domestic programs that help improve people’s quality of life.”
The report notes that Trump’s proposed budget eliminates a grant program for low-income students to attend college, “decimates” funding on job training, cuts dollars on after-school programs and services to seniors and eliminates a program to improve teaching effectiveness.
“It’s hard to identify an area where there would be any progress (for the Latino community) in the first 90 days of this administration,” said coalition member Thomas Sáenz, President and General Counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).
Sáenz adds that the White House has felt emboldened to “attack” the Latino community because Congress has largely stayed silent.
“A great disappointment has been the congressional leadership not putting constraints on the administration,” Sáenz said during the conference in the nation’s capital to discuss the report. “At some point Congress needs to step up and place some limits.”
According to NHLA chair Héctor Sánchez, executive director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, “the challenges that Latinos face have only grown in the last hundred days, with widespread violations of our rights, divisive anti-immigrant and anti-Latino policies, attacks on women’s health and our LGBTQ familia, rollbacks of environmental protections, and attempts to destroy the Affordable Care Act, which has helped millions of Americans access affordable healthcare, including more than four million Latinos.”
But Helen Aguirre Ferré, White House Director of Media Affairs says it’s unfair to characterize Trump’s early months as detrimental to the Latino community or to any other group.
“In these first 100 days in office, President Trump has been working on creating policies that will benefit all American families especially with regard to job creation, school choice, religious liberty and national security which is also of great concern to Hispanic Americans," said Aguirre Ferré to NBC Latino.
Consumer confidence is up and a growing number of companies are committed to keep their operations within the United States in support of the new direction the President is taking the country, said Aguirre Ferré.
“President Trump has invited many Hispanics to the White House, not for receptions, but to sit at the table to discuss policy which is more important,” she said.
Sánchez says that the NHLA is non-partisan and has met with previous administrations from both sides of the political aisle. That hasn’t been the case with the Trump White House, he said.
“We’re going to keep knocking on the door. Engaging is part of democracy,” said Sánchez.
Grace Flores Hughes, a member of the Trump Hispanic Advisory Council, tells NBC Latino that it’s not very productive to just complain.
“We seem to be very apart. There are policies that we can come together on and I wish that this group would identify them," she said. "I know that President Trump wants to hear from the Latino community there’s no question about it, but if all he’s going to hear is criticism, any human being is not going to put up with it. They’ll say c’mon guys, is there anything that we can work on?"
Instead of criticism, Flores Hughes said there should be room for cooperation.
But members of NHLA did not seem inclined to share Flores Hughes' view.
"This administration's backwards emphasis on criminalizing immigrant communities, targeting religious groups, militarizing border communities, gutting vital government programs, and undermining protections for our environment that have existed for a generation has led to widespread fear and instability across our nation," said NHLA member Amy Hinojosa, who is also CEO of MANA, a national Latina organization, in a statement.
"Now is the time to step up and utilize the voice and strength of our community to keep our agenda moving forward, rather than simply react to chaos.”