Latino leaders around the country say they want to keep an open mind about Donald Trump’s presidency, but less than one month before Inauguration Day, many are disappointed he has not done more to reach out to them.
Since his election, Trump has sat down with the likes of tech industry tycoons, football heroes and even Kanye West.
But Latino leaders say there’s an urgent need for Trump to engage with the Hispanic community following a wrenching campaign in which he harshly singled out Mexican immigrants and called for tough immigration laws. The president-elect has not met with Latino organization leaders in any official capacity since winning the election, based on a review of his public meeting schedule.
It’s a conspicuous snub considering Trump’s campaign rhetoric. He opened his White House bid in June 2015 by infamously labeling some Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and accusing them of bringing drugs and crime into the U.S. He also pledged to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, end birthright citizenship and deport all of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country, though he has since backed away from several of those stances.
“It is unacceptable that he has yet to build a relationship with Latino and Muslim communities that he has targeted the most throughout his campaign,” said Hector Sanchez, the chairman of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda. “Communities that are now suffering because of the things he said.”
Brent Wilkes, the national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, the oldest Hispanic civil rights organization in the U.S., said that it is unprecedented that the organization has still not heard from the President-elect.
“We have always had Democratic and Republican presidents speak to us. Him not speaking to the Latino community is dividing this country,” Wilkes said.
Asked about whether Trump plans on reaching out to the Hispanic community, Hope Hicks, a transition spokeswoman, said Trump “will be a president for all Americans and will continue to reach out to specific groups and individuals as his Cabinet takes shape and he begins to execute plans for his first 100 days in office.”
But Wilkes said a lack of Latino representation in Trump’s Cabinet is another issue that concerns the Hispanic community. As it currently stands, with all but two of his Cabinet picks made, Trump could be the first president in more than 24 years to not have someone of Latino heritage serve in his Cabinet.
LULAC says the Trump transition team has not returned its phone calls. Michael Cohen, a top adviser to Trump though he is not a member of the transition team, told CNN that it’s possible LULAC didn’t reach the right people inside the transition, and were they to contact him, he would answer their calls.
Cohen also insisted that Trump’s transition team is making an effort to reach out to Hispanic groups, but he was unable to provide information on which groups the transition team has met with. He also said Trump has future plans to reach out to the Latino community, but he did not provide details.
“President-elect Trump doesn’t forget the groups that came out to support him,” Cohen said. “And he does have plans to speak to the Latino community once he officially becomes president.”
Javier Palomarez, the president and CEO of United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce — which endorsed Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, over the summer — said he speaks daily with Cohen. He acknowledged that the chamber “might not agree on everything” with Trump but has a shared stake in growing the U.S. economy.
And there were a handful of Latinos present for a Nov. 20 meeting in which Republican officials and what NBC News referred to as “Trump insiders” sat down in Washington with leaders from African-American, Latino, Asian and Native American organizations.
But Janet Murguía, the president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, the nation’s largest Latino advocacy organization, said at a news conference in late November that Trump “needs to reassure, or at the very least, address the fears of the communities of which he will now be president.”
She added: “President-elect Trump, we need you to protect and defend all Americans and condemn the violence and hate being committed in your name.”
Asked about racial tensions in the wake of his election, Trump told CBS News he was “so saddened” to hear about threats and slurs hurled by some of his supporters against minorities.
“If it helps, I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: Stop it,” Trump told CBS’ “60 Minutes.”
But there’s more the president-elect can do to heal the country and reassure anxious Latinos about their place in Trump’s America, Sanchez said.
“I am still hoping one day that we will have an open dialogue with the president-elect,” he said. “We need to make sure that our voices are still heard and not forgotten in this new administration.”