Latino Leaders Mourn Deaths; Demand Unequivocal Opposition to Hate-filled Rhetoric and Policies

Aug 6, 2019

Commentary:  The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) mourns the passing of so many innocent lives over the weekend in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.  The El Paso murders were apparently intended to target Latinos and immigrants by a white nationalist killer.  NHLA, a coalition of 45 of the nation’s preeminent Latino advocacy organizations, calls upon leaders in the nation and in the states to take action to prevent and deter any future racist incidents of extreme violence.  Now is the time to demonstrate unequivocal opposition to white nationalism and nativism, including statements by Donald Trump that have contributed to the rise in anti-Latino and anti-immigrant violence, and to dehumanizing policies that treat any immigrant or potential immigrant as somehow deserving of fewer rights and protections,  and less humane treatment, than citizens.


“Twenty innocent lives lost -- targeted because of race hatred -- due to a lack of genuine leadership in our nation,” said Thomas A. Saenz, NHLA Chair and President and General Counsel, MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund).  “Real leaders do not foment false fear in the weak-minded by demonizing the stranger and fabricating faux danger.   Authentic leaders do not incite actual fear in the vulnerable by employing their power to diminish and debase our common humanity.  True leaders do not feebly turn away and contrive their own ignorance of an ‘emperor’ who adorns himself in the dangerous garb of racist tropes and sophomoric epithets.  Now is the time:  manufactured emergency has yielded true urgency.  We demand leaders who will forge a secure and common path to harmony, and through it, to the abundant successes that all our nation's peoples deserve.”


“We stand in mourning and solidarity with our communities in El Paso, Ciudad Juárez and Dayton. Enough is enough,” said Jessica González-Rojas, NHLA Vice-Chair and Executive Director, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. “Years of abuse and hateful rhetoric against immigrants and people of color by this administration has allowed extremist domestic terrorism to flourish. We cannot allow for our communities and our families to continue to be demonized and dehumanized. We will stand united and recommit to dismantling white supremacist ideology.”


“From the time Donald Trump was elected, the danger to Latino communities was clear, and this moment was inevitable,” said Amy L. Hinojosa, President and CEO, MANA, A National Latina Organization and NHLA Treasurer.  “The racist hate speech, policies of intolerance and calls for violence have escalated ever since. But now we mourn the loss of life in El Paso, Texas, and in the sanctuary city of Dayton, Ohio, where Latinos have been safe to live their lives and raise families, regardless of draconian administration policies. These calls to violence from the highest level of our government must stop immediately. And the Latino community is united to ensure that the outcome of all future elections never allows this to happen again.”


“The dangerous ideology of white supremacy fueled these attacks and countless others across this nation,” Mark Magana, President and CEO, GreenLatinos. “More and more of these violent and vicious attacks target communities of color specifically because of their ethnicity, many of which are incited by the ugly rhetoric of racist elected officials. GreenLatinos strongly rejects the El Paso white supremacist's use of debunked racist ecological sustainability arguments to justify his heinous actions. We believe every person deserves to live in an environmentally just world safe from the impacts of violence.”


“The United States-Mexico Chamber of Commerce would like to express our heartfelt condolences and solidarity to the families who have lost a loved one during the unfortunate incidents that occurred in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas,” said Albert C. Zapanta, President and CEO, US-Mexico Chamber of Commerce. “Our prayers are with the Dayton and El Paso communities, particularly in the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.”


“Leaders must set a positive example and choose the words they say carefully. We cannot use inflammatory language as this provokes unstable individuals to harm innocent people,” said Larry Romo, National CommanderAmerican GI Forum.  “Words have consequences. We must respect one another, whatever race, religion, gender, sexual orientation.  We are a melting pot of people. We are a United States of America!  Let us pray for the individuals killed or injured in El Paso and Dayton and their families.  God Bless the USA!”


“It is hard to find the words anymore to describe the horror, the anger, the extreme sense of sadness and despair, about what happened to the beautiful community of El Paso,” said Patricia Tototzintle, CEO, Casa de Esperanza. “As the NHLA’s only national Latina organization focused on gender-based violence, we know violence must be addressed at all levels of society, and hatred sows violence. Casa de Esperanza takes inspiration from the El Paso community that has come together to support immigrants, first responders, victims, and the Latin@ community as a whole — we know that is who we really are, and no amount of hatred or violence will make us change.”  


“HACU joins the nation in mourning for the tragic loss of life caused by the mass shootings of this past weekend,” said Antonio R. Flores, President and CEO, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU). “These frequent and violent acts of hatred and domestic terrorism are becoming the main threat to America’s freedoms and way of life. Our national and local leaders must set a new course of action and create a dialogue of healing and acceptance for all Americans. As a nation, it is imperative that we embrace our diversity and reject racism and all other forms of discrimination. It is time for Congress to ban assault weapons for civilian use and to ensure that firearms remain away from unstable and otherwise dangerous individuals.”


“In response to the epidemic of mass shootings and hate devastating our nation, the President is now dangling the prospect of gun control measures,  coupled with completely unrelated anti-immigrant legislation, as if having fewer immigrants would somehow result in fewer shootings,” said Jose Calderon, President, Hispanic Federation. “In so doing, he continues to demonstrate that he is part of the problem. If President Trump truly wants to make sure that this weekend’s victims didn’t ‘die in vain,’ he should start by renouncing once and for all the racist rhetoric and politics he has long used to attack immigrants and people of color.” 


“We must also address white male supremacy and the role it plays in perpetuating violence against communities of color,” said Ana Marie Argilagos, President and CEO, Hispanics in Philanthropy. “The toxic masculinity that is exhibited from this current administration glorifies guns, rage, and harming others. We must continue to hold people accountable for the language they use, the narratives they create when describing people of color. Congress shares culpability for not instituting common-sense gun laws even after seeing people being slaughtered day after day, in one mass shooting after another. Gun control isn’t politics. Gun control is the prevention of more memorials and funerals.  As we witnessed in El Paso, words matter. Racism and xenophobia kill.”


  “Gun violence is a serious issue in America – the land of guns, rifles and automatic weaponry,” said Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel, LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “It happens every day in our barrios. But when it stems from hate and white supremacy, fueled by irresponsible and politically expedient messaging from the President, then it’s a danger that must be stopped. This President has called Mexicans rapists and murderers and described families coming to the border as an invasion. He smiled broadly in acquiescence when his base yelled out ‘shoot them’ in response to his prompt for suggestions about his next steps at the border Today, his words do not go beyond generalities. LatinoJustice awaits an appropriate official response from the President, one that does not show the equivocation that accompanied Charlottesville. But one that denounces white supremacy and hate against Latinx communities, people of color, and all immigrants.”


“We are shocked and saddened by this senseless and brutal attack to our community in El Paso,” said Domingo Garcia, President, LULAC. “Adhering to a belief that Hispanics were invading Texas, the shooter drove 10 hours to target innocent men, women and children shopping for school supplies. That inspiration came from the White House, who has promoted a xenophobic rhetoric that is motivating people who are not mentally stable to commit these types of hideous crimes. The blood that was spilled through this deadly attack lies in the hands of President Trump and the Administration.”


“Responsibility for the current violence like that which happened in El Paso - led by an individual espousing a white nationalist agenda - starts at the top,” saidGabriela D. Lemus, Ph.D., President of the Board, Mi Familia Vota Education Fund. “The pervasive, hateful rhetoric specifically demonizing and targeting immigrants and Latinos – labeling them criminal, accusing them of invasion -  has emboldened far-right extremists and white supremacists to become violent. Mi Familia Vota’s goal has been and continues to be to build resilience against that type of hate within the Latino community by deliberately reaching out to its members to build their own wall - one of civic participation. We will mobilize. Register Latinos to vote and help them get to the polls. In so doing, we send a message of inclusion and peaceful resistance.”


“The hatred and violence targeting the Latino community in El Paso are a direct influence of the white supremacist language expressed by Trump and his administration and condoned by the silence of his party and his supporters,” said Maria Lopez De Leon, President and CEO, National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC). “The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures is outraged by the attacks perpetrated against our communities.  We extend condolences to the victims’ families in El Paso and Dayton and commit to action on their behalf. As Latinos and as a nation, we must raise our voices in solidarity and demonstrate our opposition to the state-sponsored attacks to promote a political agenda. The time for wisdom and courage to prevail against racism and hatred is now.”


“Racist, hateful rhetoric leads to racist, hateful violence,” stated Arturo Vargas, Chief Executive Officer, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO). “As elected and appointed officials with constituents from coast-to-coast, we know firsthand how words have the power to harm and to heal. From questioning Judge Gonzalo Curiel’s ability to be impartial due to his Latino heritage to his comments telling four women of color and members of Congress to ‘go back’ to the ‘infested places from which they came,’ it is clear that the President’s use of inflammatory and racially targeted language is resonating with the worst of who we are as Americans. The time for our nation to come together in a show of unity and strength is now. We call on President Trump to acknowledge the damaging pattern of behavior he has modeled in recent years and apologize to the Latino community and other communities of color for the incendiary and hateful rhetoric he has spouted during his tenure in the White House.”


“There have been 251 mass shootings so far this year, with more mass shootings than days in 2019,” said Kenneth Romero, Executive Director, National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators. “There have been 33,028 total shooting incidents that have resulted in 8,734 deaths and 17,308 injuries so far this year. The latest tragedies are acts of terrorism and the latest victims were targeted because of their ethnicity. There's no excuse to not do something about it. If Hispanic state legislators were able to work bipartisanly on common sense gun safety policies to prevent terrorism and massacres, so can Congress.”


“The National Hispanic Council on Aging condemns the hateful act of terrorism carried out by White supremacists,” said Dr. Yanira Cruz, President and CEO, National Hispanic Council on Aging.  “We demand our elected leaders cease promoting racist and hateful language directed at immigrants and Latinos that encourage and give license to individuals to be destructive, violent and act in a hateful manner. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends directly impacted by this horrific act.”


“The National Hispanic Medical Association recognizes the extreme danger our nation faces with domestic terrorism and challenges the Senate and the White House to work with the House of Representatives to pass gun check legislation now!” said Elena Rios, President and CEO, National Hispanic Medical Association.


“Hate in all its forms must be eliminated,” said Manuel Paris, Senior Advisor on Public Policy, National Latinx Psychological Association. “It is a disease that is quickly spreading and consuming the lives of innocent people, and disproportionately impacting Latinx populations. The ever-increasing gun violence fueled by bigotry, ignorance, and a misguided false narrative about who belongs in this country has been met with a deafening silence by our duly elected officials, who appear frozen by fear, apathy, and self-interest. Their unwillingness to take a stand and protect all people is one of this country's darkest moments. These recent events have exacted a tremendous psychological and emotional toll on the Latinx communities that we represent and serve. It is up to us, as a community, to come together and effect the change that is needed with our voice, our vote, and our collective effort.”


“White supremacist violence has no place in our society and certainly no place in the White House,” said Matt Nelson, Executive Director, “The resurgence of white supremacist views, including those coming from the Trump Administration, correlates to a massive uptick in hate crimes and violence against Latinx people since 2016.  President Trump and his administration are dangerously scapegoating and attacking some of our most vulnerable communities and causing immense suffering for immigrant children and families. We offer our deepest condolences to the survivors of the families, friends, and loved ones lost. Immediate and determined action is required at all levels of government to hold accountable those who terrorize, intimidate, and kill our people. We face today what our families before us faced when they too fought back against racist violence and hate. Ultimately, only a social movement of people of all stripes and walks of life will turn the course for this country. We hope to support and help inspire a new generation of activists and organizers during these extremely difficult times. The problems that our nation faces are so immense that we have no choice but to build powerful social movements and take collective action.”


“SER Jobs for Progress National (SER National) stands with the community of El Paso as it responds to this tragedy,” said Ignacio Salazar, President and CEO, SER-National Inc. “We know El Paso is strong and will continue to be a place of peace and love, even in the face of those who hate and inflict violence on innocent people. SER National sees El Paso as a beacon of light in a nation plagued with racism and gun violence. We know there is a better way, as El Paso has shown us in the past and will continue to do so in the future: we can live together with understanding, respect, and kindness. El Paso tiene nuestro apoyo.”


“In the summer of 2015, Trump announced his candidacy by calling a whole people criminals,” said Maria Teresa Kumar, CEO, Voto Latino. “On Saturday, El Paso, the safest city in the country, where 85% of the population are of Mexican heritage, were victims of a massacre he inspired. The white supremacist jumped in his car and drove ten hours to maximize harm. It is the deadliest white supremacy attack second only to the Oklahoma City bombing.  He quoted Trump’s tweets in his manifesto and linked Hispanic power to voting. Our community must stand together and not only denounce the hate but self-organize. We have to register the 15 million Latinx who are unregistered to vote. Our goal from now until next November should be to close the registration gap. We must enfranchise our gente so they come out in November and demand justice and humane treatment in our democracy.”