Trump would be well-served with Latino Cabinet members – The Hill (blog)

Not in my Cabinet. That’s the message that President Trump sent to Latinos on Thursday by choosing former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) as his secretary of Agriculture. With Trump’s Cabinet selections complete, it will be the first one in nearly 30 years without a Latino member.

The lack of Latinos in the Trump Cabinet is a step backwards for our government. It is a loss to Trump’s administration, to Latinos and to the country. Sadly, Trump’s exclusion of Latinos from top roles in his administration is no surprise.

Latinos have been serving in presidential Cabinets since 1988, when President Reagan chose Lauro Cavasos for secretary of Education. The first Latina in a Cabinet-level role was Aída Álvarez, whom President Clinton named as head of the Small Business Administration in 1997. Other Latino Cabinet alumni include Antonia Novello (surgeon general under President George H.W. Bush), Bill Richardson (secretary of Energy; Clinton), Rosario Marin (Treasury; George W. Bush), and Julián Castro (secretary of Housing and Urban Development; President Obama).

Their service in both Republican and Democratic administrations is evidence that qualified Latinos are available for such high-level jobs.

If Trump and his inner circle believe that their administration can thrive without meaningful Latino representation, they are mistaken. Consider that Latinos are the nation’s largest minority group, equal to about 17 percent of the population. Latino children are reshaping the face of America’s public schools, and Latinos are driving small business growth as well.

As the San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board put it, “There is strength and wisdom in the argument that decisions that affect all Americans are improved by having representatives of the groups that comprise America involved in the decision-making.” The president, apparently, sees things differently.

At a press conference on Thursday, Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, told reporters, “I think when you look at the totality of his administration … the people that he’s met with, the people he’s appointing, you see a president committed to uniting the country, who’s bringing the best and the brightest together.”

But Spicer’s words are belied by reality. Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pick hasn’t looked at the scientific research on lead poisoning. His secretary of Education nominee believes that it might be wise to allow guns in schools because of grizzly bears. Ben Carson, slated to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development, has zero experience in housing and urban development.

So let’s drop the pretense that Trump is filling his Cabinet with “the best people,” as he promised voters.

What’s more, Trump has missed a chance to make amends with a community that he antagonized throughout his campaign. By passing over Latinos for Cabinet roles, Trump is reinforcing the idea that he does not value the concerns of the Latino community.

As the website Latino Rebels has noted, this snub is just the latest in Trump’s long list of attacks on our community. Trump began his candidacy calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” and “drug dealers.” He has belittled Latino journalists. He has defamed a distinguished Latino judge. He made critical remarks toward a Latina Miss Universe.

And all this is in addition to his hostility towards undocumented immigrants and his commitment to walling off the U.S. from Mexico.

Trump’s disregard for the Latino community has been pretty obvious. No wonder that the Pew Center reports that a majority of Americans believe that Hispanics will lose influence during the Trump presidency. A greater danger here is that, as the public sees Trump disrespecting Latinos, it normalizes anti-Hispanic hate speech, racial discrimination and bullying.

Yes, most Latinos did not vote for Trump, and any Latino willing to join Trump’s team would have likely faced criticism from fellow Latinos. Yet the campaign is over, and it’s time to move on toward uniting the country. Trump could have elevated a capable member of his Hispanic advisory council, or a Latino governor like Brian Sandoval (R) of Nevada. Having a respected figure like Hispanic Chamber of Commerce CEO Javier Palomarez heading up the Small Business Administration, or former California Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado (R) as secretary of Agriculture, would have ensured that Latinos had a voice, literally, at the Trump table.

Instead, as critical decisions are made on immigration, education and health policy — issues that directly impact millions of Latinos — our communities will have no input with the new administration.

The absence of Latinos in the Trump Cabinet is indefensible. Unfortunately, it is now clear that President Trump’s vision of “the best people” does not include Latinos. 

Reyes is an attorney, columnist and television commentator in New York City. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Christian Science Monitor and numerous other publications.


The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

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