Donald Trump poses a dilemma for Latino leaders. As a candidate, his statements sowed fear, distrust and acrimony in our community. Now that he is president, many feel he should be denounced and obstructed at every turn, along with anyone perceived to be collaborating with him.
Recently, the Los Angeles Times published a six-part editorial on the Trump presidency. Reading through that series, one might ask: “How could any Latino vote for Trump?” Yet a significant percentage did exactly that.
The U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce did not support Trump during his campaign, but now that he is in the White House, my organization believes that for the sake of the work we do, we must have a seat at the table, we must continue to engage the White House and advocate for our community.
The USHCC works diligently to promote the economic interests of 4.2 million Latino-owned businesses in the United States. We provide scholarships and training to educate local leaders and entrepreneurs. We also connect small businesses with the large corporations that provide them with the contracts — and opportunities — to grow. The needs of these businesses remain the same, regardless of who is in the White House.
So we at the USHCC had a choice: Work with the current administration to promote the economic well-being of our constituency, or cut off communication and stand in protest on the outside, letting the entrepreneurial Latino community struggle without doing all we could to help.
Despite our disagreements with the president, it was an easy choice to make. We refuse to stand on the sidelines and let others dictate the terms for Latino businesses.
Some have labeled our decision a betrayal, but we believe such divisiveness does real damage to the Latino community by promoting disunity.
These are challenging times, and yet Latinos can tell many success stories. We believe our members are America’s business future. We are the most entrepreneurial group in the nation. Latinos start new businesses at three times the rate of the general populace. We should be united in promoting our needs and accomplishments in Washington.
A few weeks ago, the USHCC secured a meeting at the White House among four prominent Latina entrepreneurs and Trump. This was an important win for our group — discussing the concerns of business ownership directly with the president of the United States. The women got a chance to make their voices heard and their needs clear, and the president got a chance to see our community’s true face.
Trump’s speeches and social media postings have prompted many to label him anti-Latino, and yet we discovered that he, members of his Cabinet, and members of his family have been nothing but supportive. Don’t forget, Trump was elected in part because he is a businessman and entrepreneur who understands the challenges faced by small businesses, including Latino business owners. We believe this is why he is receptive to our concerns and our agenda.
The Latino community is not monolithic or homogeneous, and a diversity of opinions and vigorous debate are natural and healthy. But those who sow dissent have a choice: Promote new ideas and real solutions for the issues that affect us directly, or stir controversy to gain a few more Internet clicks. The attacks appear to be made without thought to the broader consequences. I ask those who wish to throw stones: What are you doing to make things better? What have you done to improve the lives of fellow Latinos and fellow Americans?
For the moment, we can’t change who’s in the White House, but we can support each other as we struggle to create opportunities for our membership, for all Latinos and the nation.
Javier Palomarez is president and chief executive of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, headquartered in Washington. He is a member of the president’s National Diversity Coalition.