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IMPACTO Illinois! Latino Leaders Gather to Discuss the Trump White House

By Manuel Gonzales

A majority of Latinos in Illinois are worried about the incoming president's agenda. Relying on Trump's promises documented in major news media, Latinos in Illinois are bracing for sweeping changes in laws and Cabinet appointments that would threaten immigrants (documented and undocumented), Spanish-speaking students in public education and low-income families relying on public housing and affordable health care.

To shine a light on anticipated anti-Latino policies, the Latino Policy Forum has set out to inform and empower community leaders about decisions in Washington D.C. that threaten Illinois communities by creating Impacto Illinois, a webpage featuring news updates and key partner organizations to follow. In addition, Forum also recently assembled 110 Acuerdo leaders at PNC Bank in downtown Chicago to hear from a panel of experts in federal policy about what to look out for in Trump’s first 100 days.  Panel participants included:

  • Marty Castro, former Chair of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and CEO of Castro Synergies
  • Colleen K. Connell, Executive Director of the ACLU of Illinois
  • Washington lobbyist Larry Gonzalez, Principal of the Raven Group.

Through electronic polling of participants the Forum was able to produce a word cloud to illustrate what national issues are of greatest local concern. 

According to the panel, issues to keep a watchful eye on include how Trump will make changes to immigration policies -- including his proposed wall across the southern border that now Congress is expected to approve funding for, and the promise of mass deportations – health care with the repeal of Obamacare, repeal of civil rights and key Cabinet appointments to Attorney General and departments of housing and education.  

“A lot of people were a little bewildered by the results of the election, so we’ve gotten started a little slowly but the progressive community is now organizing on the issues,” Gonzalez told the audience. “We need to be careful because there’s risk that we’re spreading ourselves too thin and playing defense on everything that may be changed. We have to keep focused on the issues that matter the most, right now.”

Connell discussed how we should be looking at state legislative protections to address changes in federal law, “Indifference is the enemy…We need people to take 10 minutes a day to make a phone call or write an email to our federal elected officials,”

To which Gonzalez added, “I’ve found that the magic number of phone calls to get the attention of a member of the House of Representatives is 300.”

There are a number of Cabinet appointments coming up for Congressional confirmation that would undue decades of progress in civil rights, immigration and public education, Connell said, giving particular emphasis on Trump’s picks for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, and Department of Education, Betsy DeVos. . 

Castro noted that the front lines in the battle will no doubt fall squarely on the DREAMers and those under the temporary protections of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Currently, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin from Illinois is cosponsoring the Bridge Act, to shield young undocumented DREAMers from mass deportation by the Trump Administration. Castro also expects the new leadership to target and shut down the Office of Civil Rights at federal departments. 

There was consensus among panelists that proposed actions will undo decades of progress in civil rights.

“This could undo decades of progress in civil rights, Castro said. “Right now we need to have a concerted effort to find ways to fight for DACA, the DREAMers and preserving our civil rights”

As Americans continue to wait and wonder what Trump might do next, the Forum will continue working with partners in the Illinois Latino community to stay informed and empowered.