Editor’s Note: Originally published on the author’s Medium page.
The one thing that Javier Palomarez will not face disagreement over in his role as informal advisor to the President is the fact that “Donald Trump poses a dilemma for Latino leaders.” After that, the head of the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce who posed the challenge Thursday morning in the LA Times to engage, not just resist, the Trump Administration, will find little in common with the community he’s tasked to represent.
Mr. Palomarez: Do what you need to do, but know you are not doing us any favors.
It seems as though Mr. Palomarez seeks to give us all a lesson in politics. Palomarez would like this to be a simple conversation of agreeing to an inside/outside strategy. However, there’s no question about whether we’re capable of such an approach but rather whether we should give into the politics of this administration.
The reality is that President Trump has not taken back the statements of “fear, distrust and acrimony” that he made as a candidate as Palomarez states in his article. The same candidate Palomarez critiqued as a “buffoon” is now an elected official that should be seen as a threat. The only difference is now he has an invitation to participate in it.
The threats Trump poses to not only the Latino community but to many others are real and goes beyond the typical partisan battles of Republicans and Democrats. Palomarez reminds us of the fast-growing Latino business community (many of whom are immigrant) but conveniently forgets to mention that Trump ran claiming that immigrants are taking American jobs and need to be removed from the country. This includes many Latino small business owners and entrepreneurs in his direct constituency.
If his point is that in politics if you’re not at the table you’re on the menu, I think he forgot one thing — sometimes you’re there just to serve the food.
No one is asking the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to quit pursuing its mission or advocating for its members. But for the Chamber to do that effectively is to not do so narrowly but to recognize, as Palomarez suggests, that our community is not monolithic or homogenous and to advocate around the broader issues that affect us all . Some in our community are business owners, but millions are wage earners. Take for example, Latina women, who at an average of $521 per week, earn the lowest weekly earning of all demographic groups, male or female. Some in our community have targets on our backs, like the over 90% of the millions deported over the last decade who come from Latin America. Indeed, we are not monolithic. But that doesn’t mean that President Trump or his supporters see it that way.
I embrace that our tactics and approach will vary, but I will not confuse access to the Administration with power. As more schools close, more loved ones are locked up or deported and our democratic rights threatened, I doubt loyalty to the Administration will prove to be the winning tactic to prevent harm. And rest assured, many small business owners and entrepreneurs will be negatively affected by the actions of this Administration.
This administration thrives on scapegoating and division. Despite the fact that Mr. Palomarez claims his detractors’ will simply stir controversy and lack solutions, it’s the string of defensive essays he’s penned that are stirring controversy and division. Latinos are used to individuals getting close to power and then calling themselves leaders. But Palomarez isn’t just self-promoting his decision to serve this administration, he stirs controversy and mimics Trump by challenging others on what they have done for the community in the same breath as he takes credit for the President holding off on rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Inside the White House, it’s likely Trump’s son-in-law who will take credit for that. But outside, it was the immigrant community and allies who won and defend that victory.
If Mr. Palomarez wants to know what others have been doing to better the Latino community all he needs to do is take the blinders off. We have been challenging Democratic and Republican Presidents on their immigration policies, stopping thousands of deportations. We have ousted the greatest violator of Latino civil rights in Sheriff Joe Arpaio and we serve as leadership in multiple justice movements for workers, civil and LGBTQ rights and for an end to criminalization.
This moment does present a significant dilemma for Latino leaders. We do need to change who is in the White House. We must work towards that goal every day while at the same time preventing the great harm this Administration seeks to inflict upon us. The way to do this is not through division and grandstanding.
It’s also not through engaging in order to somehow convince Trump to change course (just as a meeting of businesswomen didn’t prevent the continued assault on health care or tax proposals that favor only the super-rich).
It absolutely is one that requires multiple approaches, including the movements that have always historically played the role of changing the balance of power in favor of the targeted. The correct path forward is unity with strong principles that includes all Latinos and a commitment to solidarity with others; because none of us can win this alone.