Latino leaders give Trump's first 90 days poor reviews

Latino leaders give Trump's first 90 days poor reviews
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The country's largest coalition of Hispanic advocacy groups rebuked the Trump administration's actions in its first 90 days, particularly its increased focus on immigration enforcement. 
 
The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), a bipartisan coalition of more than 40 Latino groups, compared President Trump's policy initiatives with its own Hispanic Public Policy Agenda, last released in spring 2016.
 
Immigration policy was a top focus, but the NHLA also criticized the administration's moves on healthcare, environmental, economic and diversity issues. 
 
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Thomas A. Saenz, general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, said the Trump administration has been "terrorizing" immigrants. 
 
"What we have for 90 days of this administration is basically terrorizing the children of immigrant families to an unprecedented level," said Saenz.
 
And he said Trump's vow to enforce immigration laws and his executive orders have upended the way Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are perceived in the Hispanic community.
 
"All of that rhetoric has led ICE agents, ICE offices around the country to believe they can test the limits of enforcement," Saenz said.
 
Through executive orders, Trump has bolstered the mission of immigration enforcement agencies. Critically, the administration expanded the definition of "deportable criminal aliens," essentially making any undocumented immigrant under suspicion of committing a crime a priority for deportation.
 
While Saenz condemned Trump's actions on immigration, he said the "sound and fury" around Trump's executive orders has not come with a substantial change to immigration law.
 
Trump made tougher immigration enforcement a central part of his campaign but has met heavy resistance from Capitol Hill and advocacy groups in trying to implement his promises.
 
His signature pledge, to build a border wall paid for by Mexico, is stuck in congressional discussions over its cost, with one recent Democratic estimate calculating it at above $70 billion.
 
"Formal policy change has not yet been made at the federal level," said Saenz.
 
While Trump has been content to change immigration policy through executive orders, his biggest legislative push so far has been the attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
 
Eric Rodriguez, vice president of the National Council of La Raza and co-chairman of the NHLA's economic and labor committee, said Trump failed to push a healthcare bill through Congress because the proposed legislation "didn't do enough damage."
 
"There is one place where the administration has been true to form: that's in the suggestion that the president would not allow Social Security and Medicare to be touched," said Rodriguez.
 
Rodriguez said 3 million Latinos would have lost coverage under the initial Republican ObamaCare replacement proposal, which was pulled from a planned vote after failing to gain enough support.
 
Some of the organizations within the NHLA — notably the member chambers of commerce — have regularly engaged the administration, but the group's leaders said Trump has broken with presidential tradition in not engaging it as a whole.
 
"In 25 years we have always engaged and met with all the different presidents to constantly engage in policy recommendations," said NHLA President Hector Sanchez Barba. 
 
"It hasn't been the case with this administration."
 
For the NHLA's leaders, the lack of contact is indicative of a larger strategy.
 
"The theme for the first 90 days with regard to the Latino community has unfortunately been one of disintegration," said Saenz.
 
"That is an attempt to take the progress of integrating the Latino community and the immigrant community into the fabric of the United States and reverse it."