Letter from HF President: The Fight Has Just Begun
The 2016 election season may be over, but we continue to share the unease and anxiety of millions of Americans who despair that the divisive language and dangerous policy proposals President-elect Trump offered during the campaign threaten some of the core values we believe in: empathy, inclusion, justice and diversity. Some of the extreme voices Mr. Trump has since elevated to be part of his inner circle, have given greater weight to our concerns.
It is clear that the coming years will bring about great challenges, and that we need to plan and be ready to protect our values and our accomplishments. It won’t be easy but here are some suggestions of where to start:
Support Civic Engagement: The result of the election may not have been what we imagined but the truth is that this election season demonstrated that Latinos can wield significant political power if we invest in civic education, voter registration and GOTV mobilization. That’s exactly what happened in Nevada where our community came together to elect the first Latina to the U.S. Senate, Catherine Cortez Masto. It's also what happened in Florida, where an important coalition of community organizations, including Hispanic Federation, increased Latino voter turnout in the vital, vote-rich counties of Orange, Seminole, and Osceola. We need to double down on this work in the weeks and months to come and create greater voter consciousness in Latino communities across the United States.
Build and Strengthen Coalitions: If ever there was a time to build and strengthen our alliances, now is that time. We need to bring our leadership together and have a united front to protect the basic rights and dignity of our people…of all people. While we work to increase Latino political power, we can’t forget that other Americans also are targets for hate, vitriol, and violence. We know from historical experiences in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, that coalitions work and can win valuable space in the political landscape. We must apply those lessons to the national stage.
Help Immigrants Integrate: We know that the anti-immigrant rhetoric that characterized the Trump campaign and has energized hate groups is dangerous. But our defense of immigrants has to go beyond outrage. We must rewrite the script about immigrants in America. Working with partners in the media, we must continue to highlight the important contributions that immigrants make to our economy, our culture, and our communities. We must also expand our work in immigrant integration. There are nearly 10 million legal permanent residents in the United States who are eligible to become citizens. But many potential citizens don’t understand the benefits of citizenship or the process for becoming citizens. We must increase our outreach to these persons through citizenship drives, offers of legal counsel and ESL and civics classes.
Fight Back Against Hate: Hate crimes are on the rise and, if the last several weeks are any indication, that trend won’t change anytime soon. Our community must make it clear to elected officials and law enforcement that there must be zero tolerance for hate crimes. We must pro-actively educate our community about civil rights and how the criminal justice system can protect individuals and families subjected to hate-driven violence and harassment. We must also work with federal and state officials to expand and strengthen hate crimes legislation. No matter who is in the White House, everyone is entitled to live in safety and dignity.
Defend our values locally: If the incoming administration’s nominees for Cabinet and White House leadership roles are a harbinger of things to come, we must work with municipal and state officials to fight back against any potential negative legislation coming out of Washington. Whether its voting rights, housing discrimination, health insurance or environmental justice; states and municipalities have significant legislative leeway in rejecting federal directives that contradict the values we hold. They must use it.
Support our Latino CBOs: If you want to know what is at stake in our communities over the next four years, just go visit our member agencies. That’s where you’ll see the impact of ESL classes, the life-saving work of community health centers, the value of afterschool mentoring programs. Community-based organizations are our frontline service providers and the champions of local communities and families. Corporations, philanthropies, and local and state governments have a responsibility to increase their support for these groups in the face of potential federal cutbacks. And we at Hispanic Federation will be increasing our efforts at capacity building so that our organizations are able to continue serving, even if Washington has other ideas.
There is little question that given the rhetoric and policy proposals advanced by President-elect Trump during the campaign, and the troubling series of cabinet nominations he has made in the weeks since Election Day, that we must be especially vigilant in protecting what we value most. The time for shock and fear is over, now is the time to act!