Sunday, April 21, 2024

At ceremony, Latino legislators vow to overcome government shutdown

At a ceremony to usher in a record number of Latino Democrats in Congress, lawmakers exuded more outrage than delight as they recognized their legislative ambitions are contending for now with a standoff over a border wall with Mexico that has partially shut down the government.

“It’s because of Trump’s obsession with stirring up anti-immigrant sentiment that we’re in this predicament and it is quickly affecting the most vulnerable,” said newly minted Democratic Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García, D-Illinois, the first Mexican American to represent the state in Congress.

García was one of the members of Congress who participated in a ceremonial swearing-in Wednesday night at the U.S. Capitol for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), a bipartisan organization whose members are all Democrat. According to NALEO, there are thirty-three Latino Democrats in the current Congress and five Republicans who have their own caucus known as the Congressional Hispanic Conference.

Speaking to a packed crowd, newly elected CHC Chair Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-Texas said that the highest number of Latinos in Congress represents a greater focus on the community at large and a greater opportunity to counter negative perceptions about Latinos. “It’s no secret that the last few years the Latino community has been a target of a lot of disinformation and in many ways a lot of slander, and I want to thank each and every one for standing up against that and telling the truth about our community, a community that is sincere, that is hard working, and that most of all is not going anywhere,” said Castro.

While the shutdown is front and center, Latino legislators say they are looking at working on a number of key issues this year. One of them is fighting against the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census, fearing it will dampen participation.

Other issues that are high on the CHC’s agenda include the ongoing push for healthcare access, as well accountability on the post-hurricane response in Puerto Rico. At the ceremony, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told the group that immigration will be a priority in the new congressional session, including keeping DACA alive, which is currently tied up in courts as supporters battle the Trump administration’s attempts to end it.