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Trump Administration’s Policies, Actions, And Rhetoric Betray Values of Hispanic Heritage Month

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Chair Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-01) sent a letter to President Donald J. Trump rejecting his invitation to attend a reception honoring Hispanic Heritage Month and detailing the ways this administration’s rhetoric and actions have stood in stark contrast to the history and values of Hispanic Heritage Month.

The letter opens, “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 upon which it was founded. Let me explain.”

“Your policies harming the Hispanic community evolved from your rhetoric. During your presidential campaign and as president, you demonized and dehumanized the Hispanic community and spread fear and untruths,” the Chairwoman 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.”

“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,” the letter concludes. “Those values are the foundation on which Hispanic Heritage Month rests; those values are the basis of each Hispanic Heritage Month proclamation issued since President Lyndon B. Johnson; and those are the values that I will honor this month as I celebrate the contributions, culture, deep roots, and legacy of the Hispanic community in the United States. As a Hispanic American and Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, I hope you understand why I am unable to do that at your reception.”

Dear President Trump,

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 upon which it was founded. Let me explain.

President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring Hispanic heritage and culture following passage of a joint resolution from Congress in 1968. This was the start of a bipartisan tradition of presidents celebrating the lasting contributions that immigrants from Spanish, Mexican, Caribbean, and Central and South American descent have made to the United States.

President Ronald Reagan was one of those leaders, and in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty in 1980, he said immigrants, “brought with them courage, ambition and the values of family, neighborhood, work, peace, and freedom. They came from different lands but they shared the same values, the same dream.” In no place does that dream burn brighter than in the hearts of over 800,000 young people who were brought to the United States as children. His speech almost four decades ago describes the Dreamers we know today—students, neighbors, coworkers, business owners, and members of the armed forces working hard for a brighter future. They are undoubtedly an essential part of the fabric of our nation and are Americans in every way except on paper.

Your administration chose to abruptly eliminate the program that ensured that these young people can continue to live, work hard, and contribute to the country that they love. They have a diverse heritage from many of the countries we honor this month, and they share our common values and dreams. Protecting and nurturing those dreams has been the primary focus of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus since you rescinded DACA two weeks before Hispanic Heritage Month last year. 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.

Every Hispanic Heritage Month proclamation specifically included September 15 in order to celebrate the independence of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Tragically, many of these same Latin American countries have been experiencing unprecedented levels of violence, human rights abuses, corruption, and crime which have resulted in many women, LGBTQ individuals, journalists, children, and young people being persecuted, thrown in jail, and murdered.

Your administration purposefully ignored these conditions and terminated Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for immigrants from several countries, including El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. TPS has allowed immigrants from those countries to live safely and productively in the United States while their home countries suffer from instability and some of the highest rates of violence in the world. This politically-motivated decision has put thousands of immigrants and their families in danger. Many have lived in the United States for decades, are well-established in our country, and positively benefit the communities they live and work in. The hypocrisy of attending a reception that is supposed to honor their contributions and heritage after your administration has threatened their safety and uprooted their lives is glaring.

No other policy that your administration has pursued was more heinous than tearing children away from their parents as they fled extreme violence from Central American countries. Using your power to intentionally inflict trauma and fear on children violated common decency, betrayed our nation’s deepest held beliefs, and led to a national outcry condemning your actions. Months after a court-ordered deadline to reunify families passed, your administration still keeps hundreds of children separated from their families, prolonging their ordeal and suffering. Cherishing our loved-ones and family is not just the beating-heart of the Hispanic community, it’s a hallowed value of America’s identity, and your effort to rip apart those most sacred bonds is unconscionable.

Your policies harming the Hispanic community evolved from your rhetoric. During your presidential campaign and as president, you demonized and dehumanized the Hispanic community and spread fear and untruths. 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.

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.

Those values are the foundation on which Hispanic Heritage Month rests; those values are the basis of each Hispanic Heritage Month proclamation issued since President Lyndon B. Johnson; and those are the values that I will honor this month as I celebrate the contributions, culture, deep roots, and legacy of the Hispanic community in the United States. As a Hispanic American and Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, I hope you understand why I am unable to do that at your reception.

Sincerely,

Michelle Lujan Grisham
Member of Congress

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