Democrats Abroad Hispanic Caucus Steering Committee Statement in Response to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen’s Resignation
In response to Kirstjen Nielsen’s April 8th resignation announcement, the Democrats Abroad Hispanic Caucus Steering Committee present the following statement:
There is no way to sugarcoat it – former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was a dreadful public servant who implemented brutal and inhumane policies.
Two years after the devastating hurricanes in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the catastrophically incompetent DHS is still struggling with how to respond to the more than 3,000 lives lost and billions of dollars worth of broken infrastructure. As U.S. citizens, Puerto Ricans and Virgin Islanders have every right to wonder when their federal government will address their critical needs. And while Nielsen may claim that under her leadership, DHS has “responded decisively to record-breaking natural disasters and helped Americans rebuild,” the facts tell a completely different story.
Furthermore, as the top Trump official in charge of the administration’s tragic and failed “large scale family separation” policy to control the fake “emergency” declaration of the border “crisis,” Kirstjen Nielsen is directly complicit in forcibly ripping children away from their refugee and asylum-seeker parents and put into camps. Nielsen’s unfortunate anti-immigrant legacy will be remembered long after the separated refugee families reunite, if DHS is able to reunite them at all. With the vacancy created by Nielsen, we also reject the appointment of Kevin McAleenan as Acting Secretary because of his own woeful record as Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner.
Regardless of whoever next oversees DHS, we continue to believe that the only sure remedy to halt this administration’s reckless actions and heinous activities is to vote out Donald Trump and all of his Republican allies in Congress, in addition to Congress continuing with strong oversight of the executive branch’s never-ending controversies.
As American citizens living in all parts of the globe, we in the Democrats Abroad Hispanic Caucus have witnessed first-hand the value of diplomacy, and investment in people and communities compared to the inhumane – and often illegal – Trump agenda. Instead of trying to justify anti-immigration policies as an “emergency,” the next DHS secretary would do well to listen to the unique perspective of Americans living in Mexico who truly understand the issues on both sides of the border.
For more than a year, the U.S. embassy in México City has been without an ambassador. On March 18, 2019, the White House eventually nominated Christopher Landau for the important role of United States ambassador to México, praising his law experience such as arguing before the Supreme Court.
Upon review of his overall qualifications, however, the Democrats Abroad Hispanic Caucus can conclude that this nominee is far from suitable for fulfilling America’s top diplomat posting to our southern neighbor. Although Mr. Landau does indeed have significant experience practicing law within our nation’s judicial system in addition to working on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, he possesses absolutely no diplomatic experience whatsoever.
Considering the role of U.S. ambassador to México will be a critical role in working with a variety of stakeholders for the next major international trade deal in addition to working for the well-being of American citizens abroad, Mr. Landau plainly lacks the critical diplomatic expertise needed for negotiating on behalf of U.S. interests. For this reason and several others, the Democrats Abroad Hispanic Caucus urges all Americans to contact their U.S. senators to strongly oppose the nomination of Christopher Landau as U.S. ambassador to México.
“This is not a serious nomination. Even the State Department’s newest intern has more diplomatic experience than Christopher Landau. Sure, he’s proven himself in court with legal arguments, but I wouldn’t want someone to fly the plane I’m on simply because he or she has professionally driven a race car, so why should the American people trust someone with no diplomatic experience to be their ambassador?
Donald Trump has managed to repeatedly insult Americans of every color; after the protests in Charlottesville he insulted every American veteran who ever fought off Nazis; and now, unsurprisingly, he’s managed to insult Americans residing in México by nominating someone realistically unqualified to fill an ambassadorship to our nation’s third-largest trading partner.” -- Michael Ramos, current chair of the Hispanic Caucus
Earlier this week in the U.S. House of Representatives, a joint resolution was passed expressly opposing President Trump’s so-called “emergency” declaration on the southern border. Thirteen Republicans joined a united Democratic majority in supporting H.J.Res. 46, which now heads to the Senate which is expected to consider the legislation in the coming days. The Democrats Abroad Hispanic Caucus applauds Congressman Joaquín Castro, chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, for sponsoring the joint resolution and congratulates the House for passing it.
Several leaders within the Democrats Abroad Hispanic Caucus offered their thoughts on last night’s historic vote:
“This is yet another completely fabricated claim coming out of the White House. Let’s be clear: persons seeking asylum in the U.S. are not ‘bad hombres,’ but rather human beings deserving to be heard and having to state their case in federal court. Mexico even agreed to host migrants during the asylum process and has offered temporary work permits and public services to them – because they do not represent a security crisis.”
– Lori Smith (DA-México)
“I’ve lived in Mexico for nearly a dozen years. That doesn’t make me an expert on border issues, but the numbers are clear for anyone paying attention. The total number of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. has decreased since 2006. Mexicans constitute about half of the total undocumented population and most of the decline is due to the decreasing number of immigrants arriving annually. According to the U.S. Border Patrol, apprehensions every year have declined from a high of 1.6 million in 1986 to a current rate of about 300,000 per year – for the border from California to Texas. If there ever was an emergency, it started to end over twenty years ago.”
– Will Prescott (DA-México)
“There is no crisis. Even by looking at the number of people involved in these caravans, it’s actually pretty small compared to the total number of people who enter the US every year – legally, illegally, or both. And despite the atrocities that many Central American migrants experience, such as rapes or beatings, Mexico is actually doing a lot to help them deal with the situation while they wait to present themselves to the U.S. And despite Republican claims that Mexico is a ‘safe’ alternative for asylum seekers – which is not a realistic option for them – the bottom line is that they must be allowed to seek asylum in the U.S.—as U.S. federal law requires.”
– Sam Stone (DA-México)
“Trump is leading us to an authoritarian regime by using the emergency declaration to circumvent Congress and increase the power of the Executive Branch. Virtually every American in my country of residence believes that the constitutional checks and balances among the Executive Branch, Congress, and the Courts must be respected. While Trump and his right-wing extremist base have chosen to try and force the U.S. Constitution down a paper shredder to build his useless wall, Democrats are proudly fighting back in nullifying Trump’s non-existent ‘emergency’ declaration.”
– Nelleke Bruyn (DA-Costa Rica)
“Yet again, we have witnessed more falsehoods from both the president and congressional Republicans regarding the border ‘crisis.’ Democrats believe in utilizing technology that’s proven effective such as drones, tightening the rules at ports of entry, and many other sensible measures. Fortunately, the House-passed bill clearly shows that this isn’t really about protecting Americans. Even after looking at the administration’s own data, I have yet to see anything of the magnitude of an ‘emergency’ in which the president could justify yanking federal funds from other important resources and using it to instead build his ‘vanity’ wall. Even Republican Congressman Hurd, who represents an enormous Texas border district, strongly disagrees with the president on this issue. Once the president knew that there was no way another country was going to pay for his wall despite his repeated campaign pledge to do so, the American people, unsurprisingly, saw right through it.”
– Michael Ramos (DA-Australia)
The Democrats Abroad Hispanic Caucus urges the United States Senate to immediately bring up this important, filibuster-proof resolution to a vote so that all members of Congress can be on record as to whether they respect and honor the Legislative Branch as a constitutional co-equal branch of the federal government, or if they choose to believe that Congress should be subservient to Donald Trump.
In light of recent findings about his past behavior, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam must immediately step down for the good of his constituents and for the greater society. The discovery of an old yearbook photograph depicting someone, possibly a younger Mr. Northam, in “black face” while posing next to a person in a Klansman costume has shocked his constituents both at home and abroad. Voters of the Commonwealth living in all parts of the world – regardless of political preferences – deserve to have elected officials in 2019 who reject hatred, racial inequality, and social situations where degrading someone because of his or her skin color is somehow considered “jokingly” acceptable.
For this reason, the Democrats Abroad Hispanic Caucus believes there has been an indisputable breach of the public’s trust, and therefore stands with our brothers and sisters in the Virginia Democrats’ Latino Caucus in demanding the governor’s resignation. While not as widely known, Hispanic-Americans have also for over a century faced hate crimes and racism from white supremacist groups.
Furthermore, the state’s Attorney General, Mark Herring, who also faces a questionable past of racial indiscretions, should also immediately vacate office for the same reason. While these revelations about the governor and attorney general have made it impossible for them to lead effectively both as public servants and role models of the values that the Democratic Party strives to project, we will closely monitor the latest news stemming from the lieutenant governor’s situation.
Both Latinx Virginians living overseas and the global Democrats Abroad Hispanic Caucus strongly believe there must be a consistent high standard of behavior expected from our elected officials. If we are to make progress as a society on the deep and sensitive issue of race, there can be no exception.
The Democrats Abroad Hispanic Caucus would like to thank everyone who completed the 2019 Non-Resident Taxation Survey. The information collected will be used to advocate for congressional reforms to relieve the burden of taxes, banking, financial account reporting, securities and other laws that discriminate specifically against Americans living abroad.
It is clear that Congress needs to better understand the Americans abroad community. In order to bring legislators to an understanding of citizenship-based taxation, we need to educate them about who we are and how we are affected by discriminatory tax policy.
Next month, Democrats Abroad will visit Capitol Hill to relay the survey data to Congress, offering evidence of how the current tax system restricts Americans living abroad in regards to tax filing costs, banking, and investing in our countries of residence. We will do the same in May to ensure they hear our voices from abroad.
If you have any questions about the survey, please email: 2019ExpatTaxResearch@gmail.com. Your support for this research and for Democrats Abroad's tax reform efforts is deeply appreciated.
Democrats Abroad Hispanic Caucus
Agradecimiento a todas las personas que han contribuido a completar la Encuesta de Impuestos de No Residentes
El Caucus Hispano de Democrats Abroad desea expresar su agradecimiento a todas las personas que completaron la Encuesta de Impuestos de No Residentes de 2019. La información recopilada se utilizará para abogar por reformas en el Congreso con el objeto de aliviar la carga de las obligaciones impositivas, bancarias y de información relativas a cuentas financieras y de valores, así como de otras leyes que discriminan específicamente a los estadounidenses que viven en el extranjero.
From the 1960s to the elections of the 115th Congress, a pro-Latino voice was missing from the Democratic Party’s overseas constituency. Nearly two years ago, the Democrats Abroad Hispanic Caucus was finally born, a group which focuses on advocating for policies in the U.S. Hispanic community’s best interests.
From the beginning of the caucus’ existence, Ana Hernández Blackstad, of DA-Czech Republic, made history by stepping up to lead this new group of volunteers with committed activism into the 2018 mid-term elections by becoming the first Hispanic Caucus chairperson. In early 2019 after several accomplishments under her belt, Ana passed the baton to another member to fill the caucus leadership role while she joined the caucus steering committee.
During her tenure as chair, caucus membership increased by almost 2,000%, from 27 members to nearly 500. In early 2018, Ana assisted in translating English-to-Spanish voter registration materials for Spanish-speaking U.S. voters living abroad. Also under her leadership, the caucus sponsored a resolution amending the Democrats Abroad Platform section on trade, which passed the Democratic voting body unanimously. In the run up to Election Day, she began an online podcast for caucus members that included discussions with guests from Hispanic-American activists and politicians to bring their message, and ours, to a broader audience.
Ana embodies the values of the Hispanic Caucus and is exemplary of what we can achieve through dedication and commitment. We thank Ana for all of her hard work as the former chair and look forward to achieving even more together with her continuing involvement with caucus leadership. ¡Adelante!
By Nick Buffie (DA-Colombia & USA)
A little over a year ago, Luis Gutiérrez (D-Illinois) announced his retirement from the United States Congress. Known affectionately as “El Gallito” to many of his supporters, Gutiérrez has stepped aside after 34 years of public service, 26 of which were spent in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The now-retired congressman was born on December 10, 1953, in the working-class neighborhood of Chicago known as Lincoln Park. The son of an assembly-line worker and a taxi cab driver, Gutiérrez grew up around the same people whose interests he would later serve as a member of the U.S. Congress.
Since winning a U.S. House seat in 1992 and becoming the first Hispanic-American from the Midwest elected to Congress, Gutiérrez has been the House of Representatives’ most visible champion on the issue of immigration. Having been directly involved with immigration reform advocates on the ground, Gutiérrez has been arrested multiple times for peaceful protesting, clearly never afraid of voicing his opinion on an issue considered a priority by Hispanic-Americans.
Because of his fierce passion for passing comprehensive immigration reform, he voluntarily vacated his seat on the powerful Financial Services Committee to instead focus on addressing immigration full-time on the Judiciary Committee.
However, despite Gutiérrez’s dedication to the immigration fight, much of his success as a legislator has come from tackling other issues. Gutiérrez has had four bills signed into law by presidents of both parties. He addressed head-on the issues of: the Trump administration’s hurricane response to Puerto Rico, the future political status of Puerto Rico, consumer protections such as legislation he previously sponsored, and much more. As a true friend to Puerto Ricans and indeed all U.S. Latinos, it is not surprising that he was often endorsed by immigrant groups, veterans, organized labor, and LGBT organizations.
Although he is now retired from Congress, Gutiérrez has stated that he plans on moving to Puerto Rico in the coming months and assisting any way he can with the recovery of the still-heavily-damaged U.S. territory.
Given his decades of remarkable public service advocating for immigration reform, working to resolve the legal status of “Dreamers,” and ensuring that the millions of Puerto Rican voices are heard by policymakers, the Democrats Abroad Hispanic Caucus wishes Mr. Gutiérrez and his wife, Soraida, the best in all their future endeavors. As the Trump administration continues to ramp up its mistreatment and abuse of immigrant families, Congress will miss his passionate and humane voice.
With the close of the November 2018 elections, Gutiérrez’s seat in Congress has been filled by a fellow ally in the fight for immigration reform. Representative Jesús “Chuy” García, a progressive Hispanic-American Democrat, has pledged to continue the fight for working families in Illinois’ 4th Congressional District.
Additional reading: Former Congressman Luis Gutiérrez authored a 2013 memoir titled, Still Dreaming: My Journey from the Barrio to Capitol Hill.
Michael Ramos (DA-Australia) contributed to this article.
Ana Blackstad, Chair of the Democrats Abroad Hispanic Caucus, today stated her thoughts on the General Election:
“La Ola Azul (“The Blue Wave”) made landfall on Tuesday night in a big way! Although Democrats didn’t win every race, the number of Latinx people in office across our nation as a result of this election should make us all proud. Some of the highlights from Tuesday for me:
- “Donde votar,” Spanish for “Where to vote,” was Google's top search on election morning
- According to early exit polls, the overall number of voters in yesterday’s election was 12 percent Hispanic. The previous high in midterm elections was 8 percent for Hispanics, in 2006, 2012 and 2014 alike.
- The number of Hispanic eligible voters totaled 29.1 million for this election, the highest on record
- Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia will be the first Texas Latinas in Congress
- Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico will be the first Latina Democratic Governor in US History
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will represent New York as one of the two youngest women ever elected to Congress
I want to thank the members of the Hispanic Caucus of Democrats Abroad for all their efforts in getting out the vote this year. Together, we can achieve great things. ¡Adelante!”
The caucus Vice Chair, Michael Ramos, also offered his post-election night reflections:
“There is so much for our members to be proud of after witnessing historic gains in places previously thought to be districts where Democrats had no business being in. Despite subtle attempts of voter suppression, Latinos voted early in large numbers and on Election Day. For too long, too few Latinos have had access at the decision-making table of elected officials. That’s now changed.
I’m encouraged about having representation at all levels of government more reflective of the American people. In looking at Congress, our party successfully flipped more than enough seats to take back control of the House of Representatives which means that at least one chamber will finally do its constitutional duty of serious oversight on the scandal-plagued Executive Branch. It also wasn’t surprising that sensational Latinx representative-elects like Chuy García from Illinois, Veronica Escobar from Texas, Anthony Delgado and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York, and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell from Florida all did amazingly well. Moreover, Democratic members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus will be returning in January as well, ensuring that the voices of America’s Hispanic minorities will keep fighting on the issues impacting their families and communities.
On the state and local levels, there were also tremendous victories for Latinx candidates. For example, we have Michelle Lujan Grisham in New Mexico – a fantastic Latina governor-elect with a proven track record of representing her constituents well. We have Catalina Cruz, a young Latina and former “DREAMer” who won big in a seat for New York’s General Assembly. The list goes on and on. From governors’ mansions to school boards, Democrats and Latinos fared pretty well.
It’s no secret that we would have loved to have seen a Senator-Elect O’Rourke in Texas, or a Congresswoman Matta in California, but unfortunately not every race swung the way we had hoped. I am especially disappointed in the successful re-election of some individuals such as a widely-known racist congressman in Iowa, a body-slamming congressman from Montana, and a California congressman currently under indictment, among others. Nevertheless, I expect most of us to take a few days to reflect on the election and be thankful for our gains, and then roll up our sleeves and restart our momentum in preparing to support quality candidates to oust more Republicans and the current occupant in the White House.
Overall, I hope our caucus members are also pleased with the results of this election given the hard work our activist brothers and sisters have put in to ensure that as many Americans as possible had voted. Whether it’s encouraging American expats to vote, doing voter registration for our fellow citizens abroad who speak only Spanish, or working with our Democratic colleagues back in the home district, I look forward to continue organizing and working to get out the vote.”
By: Michael Ramos, DA-Australia
No recognition of notable Latinos and Latinas during Hispanic Heritage Month should go unnoticed without mentioning the incredible congresswoman who represents New York’s 7thCongressional District, Nydia M. Velázquez. The 7thDistrict has large Hispanic, Polish and Jewish populations and encompasses the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the northwest side of Brooklyn, and a sliver of Queens, making it among the most diverse constituencies in the nation.
Born in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, Velázquez earned her way through college in both Puerto Rico and New York and eventually became a congressional staffer for former U.S. Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY). In 1992, she became the first Puerto Rican woman elected to Congress and she has impressively earned re-election twelve times since.
As a member of Congress, Velásquez’s legislative accomplishments are numerous. She has had nine bills signed into law by four different presidents, both Democratic and Republican. Over the years she has served on several committees, caucuses and task forces within the U.S. House of Representatives. Her colleagues on both sides of the aisle greatly respect her encyclopedic knowledge on financial and business issues.Read more
I am a DREAMer.
My memories of Mexico form a valuable base for my identity and childhood; I'm proudly Latina. Despite this, over half of my life was spent in another country - the U.S. There is no comparison to me between my Mexican self and my raised-in-the-U.S. self. I consider both to be parts of a whole, a reason for which the politics of both countries are so important to me. I sing both anthems proudly, and have spent all of my life playing the "prove-it” game.
"I love the U.S." - "Prove it."
"I can speak Spanish." - "Prove it."
"I know all the states and presidents." - "Prove it."
Part of the reason why I identify as both American and Mexican, despite not having legal American documents, is that while a child, seemingly overnight I found myself in the U.S. Though jarring, the differences to me came at a time during which I was so young and adaptable that I simply accepted and embraced them. This was the beginning of a lifelong juxtaposition between my adoption of American identity and everyday remembrance of my Mexican culture.
As I became an adult I became more and more involved in U.S. politics. I knew I wanted to do my part to help bring progress to this new country. So I joined Democratic groups and volunteered to raise money for the community, from art programs to LGBTQ advocacy, to assisting people in translation work from the age of 10. I fell in love with the country and I learned to balance the two worlds that I lived in. Before I knew it, however, the word "home" brought to mind not Mexico, but my place of residence in the U.S.
I was limited in what I could do compared to U.S citizens. The biggest difficulty, and also my biggest dream, was to get into college. I had done well in high school, and as graduation neared I confidently told my friends that I had college all figured out. They had all been accepted, I was in all of their classes, and I was a notorious know-it-all. So there was no reason for them to doubt me. Despite my confident remarks, I knew all along I was undocumented in a state that did not allow anyone without documents to attend college. After graduation I hid from my friends and waited for a miracle.
Then came the DACA program.
I got a Social Security card and stepped outside, for once not afraid to see an ICE vehicle. For the first time I could get a driver’s license and a job, just like everyone else. Nonetheless, because I did not qualify for student aid or in-state tuition, I still could not go to college. When I found this out it was certainly a major setback, but one I decided I would overcome. I would save up for as long as it took by taking on several jobs. I was determined that nothing would stop me.
While I worked two jobs for several years I began to see my savings grow. I had optimism that I would, though slowly, accumulate what I needed. During my free time I passionately devoted my efforts to encouraging civil action for the progress of healthcare, sexual assault awareness, and immigrant rights. It was well known that I was left-leaning and politically active, for which the people around me began coming to me for insight and advice on current issues.
Elections came, and with it changes to the community I had known for so long. In 2016, an overnight proliferation of prejudice against me left me stunned. I'd encountered racism before, even as a child, and knew how to brush it off. Yet this was more frequent and closer to home. Close friends, their families, coworkers, customers, complete strangers, people I had grown up with abruptly took offense to my existence. I was told to show my visa, questioned about my legal status, slurs were directed toward my sister, and one older man even became angry when I wouldn't provide him with my birth certificate at a bookstore, to name a few incidents.
I hoped that this would be over once the election was passed. I was nervously watching the election that night. To my friends who could vote, I had voiced the importance of their choice. Unfortunately a large number of my friends did not vote, as they did not feel there was anything to worry about. They did not believe me when I explained that my own safety was at stake. Having not experienced first-hand what I had for the past few months, perhaps they believed my perspective to be melodramatic.
Either way, we all know how the election turned out. I didn't feel safe, and neither did my family. We agreed to stop telling people we are from Mexico. Still, I couldn't hide my hair, my eyes, or my color, and the aggressions got worse. I would go home every day tired and angry, dreading having to answer the question, "But where are you really from?", and the subsequent haranguing.
One night I received a message from someone I had gone to school with:
"I hope you get deported."
I was furious, and determined once more.
My goal was to get to school and it didn't matter how many racists I encountered, nothing would stop me.
But I did encounter some more bumps along the way. When the announcement came that DACA was going to be scrapped, a part of me panicked, while another part shut down and carried me through the double shift I had that day. When I got home I stayed up all night researching, trying to figure out a way in which I could guarantee that I would be okay. By this point I was exhausted, frustrated, terrified, and heartbroken. The thought of four more years of this was overwhelming.
My health took a dive as I felt my grasp on my world, my community, my safety and my future slipping. There was no way I would be capable of surviving in the U.S. without DACA. Without the ability to work, my savings would only carry me so far.
A year ago I left my home and over 15 years of familiarity. I dream every day of going home and hugging my family and seeing my friends, and driving to my favorite spot by the ocean. Yet it was a choice that I was forced to make due to the DACA’s existence in doubt. Today I continue to be involved in U.S.-related events, and working on helping from where I am. According to my research, because I applied for DACA after I was 18, I now have a 10-year ban from the U.S. I find this devastating, yet, encouraging. I am determined to go back, this time a more capable and knowledgeable individual. Meanwhile I hope to continue raising awareness of the problems faced by minorities - problems that can be solved by ensuring to choose candidates for elected office who have the best interest of everyone in mind. Though I am not American, I deeply care for the U.S. and its people, a feeling I know I share with over 800,000 other DREAMers. I hope to see better developments in education, healthcare, social issues and infrastructure as the years go by.
I hope that the other thousands of DREAMers will be given the chance to become citizens of the nation they call home. I know from experience the amount of passion and dedication that one invests in the community one cares about. Without a doubt DREAMers are an invaluable, irreplaceable asset to American society, and giving them the opportunity to become official citizens would profoundly benefit their lives and the nation as a whole. I know it can be done, and have full faith in the people of the U.S. and those abroad to vote to make it happen. I can't wait to be back once more to fight for equity and change with my family by my side.
First things first: go to college. Nothing can stop me.