Hispanic Heritage Month starts Saturday, and the White House will have to kick off the celebration without the presence of some Latino lawmakers. And according to them, it is President Trump’s own doing.
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, sent the president a letter, writing:
I write to inform you that I decline your invitation to attend a reception for Hispanic Heritage Month at the White House because your administration’s policies, actions and rhetoric betray the values on which it was founded. Let me explain.
Fundamentally, I have opposed your policies, actions, and rhetoric based on the values I believe define us as Americans—the same values that are reflected in President Ronald Reagan’s words. We are not a nation of fear, cruelty, division, or prejudice. We are a nation of dignity, humanity, tolerance, and hope, and those shared, essential values transcend our political differences.
Trump’s most recent slight against the Hispanic community came Thursday when he disputed the number of deaths in Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria and the aftermath of the storm, as estimated in a George Washington University study. Critics — and some supporters — said he needlessly politicized the natural disaster by accusing Democrats of trying to make his presidency look bad.
The president tweeted Thursday:
But to many of the Hispanic lawmakers who have repeatedly criticized the Trump administration, the president doesn’t need the Democrats to make his presidency look bad, especially not in the eyes of Hispanics. The president launched his campaign calling Mexican immigrants rapists and other kinds of criminals and has repeatedly advocated for policies that Hispanic voters have found troublesome. As a result, nearly 8 in 10 Hispanics voted against him in the 2016 election, and his approval rating with Hispanics is at 22 percent, according to Gallup.
In March, Trump aimed to build faith in his administration among Hispanic Americans hoping for a resolution to the unresolved citizenship issue facing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients. He said:
“I do want the Hispanic community to know and DACA recipients to know that Republicans are much more on your side than the Democrats, who are using you for their own purposes.”
But he has yet to offer Hispanic voters much to convince them that the GOP, a party that implemented a plan to make inroads with minority voters after losing them in the 2012 election, has much more to offer Hispanic Americans than Democrats.
And Lujan Grisham held Trump accountable for his lack of action on DACA.
Your administration chose to abruptly eliminate the program that these young people can continue to live, work hard and contribute to the country that they love.
Inexplicably, your administration has undermined every bipartisan, bicameral effort we have pursued to help our nation’s Dreamers by making hyper-partisan and radical demands.
Trump defenders would point to the current low unemployment rate among Hispanics — 4.7 percent, among the lowest in history, as proof that he has made America great for Hispanics, as well. Context reveals that the Hispanic unemployment rate remains higher than the national unemployment rate and more than a point higher than that of white Americans, leading some to ask what Trump’s administration is doing to close the gap.
And many Hispanic lawmakers argue that the declining unemployment rate (which began before Trump entered the White House) does not excuse or justify the neglect or intentionally harmful approach Trump has taken to the addressing the issues Hispanics care about most.
Lujan Grisham wrote:
You have ignored and recently tweeted lies about the devastation and loss of life in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria, compared immigration to an infestation, and attacked a judge because of his Hispanic heritage. That rhetoric is not only unbecoming of the President of the United States; it has no place in American political discourse.
If the majority of Hispanic voters see Trump and his administration the way Hispanic lawmakers do — and there is reason to believe that they do — the GOP should be worried about the midterm elections and its future relationship with the country’s largest minority group.