USA

Biden campaign accuses Trump of an 'assault on Latino dignity'

Democrat Joe Biden's presidential campaign unveiled an agenda for the Latino community Tuesday, blasting what it called an "assault on Latino dignity" by President Donald Trump.

The campaign said the "assault" has gone beyond immigration restrictions and Trump's pardoning of former Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio to underfunding schools, undercutting labor rights and workers' wages and mistreating Puerto Ricans.

"Trump's strategy is to sow division — to cast out Latinos as being less than fully American," the campaign said in a news release. Campaign officials discussed the agenda in a conference call with reporters, who agreed not to identify them.

Biden's campaign is on a quest to step up Latino enthusiasm for the former vice president.

Larger shares of Latino voters have said in polls that they support Biden than Trump, but polling also shows that Biden is not pulling the same support from Latinos that Hillary Clinton did and that Trump is doing better among Latino voters than he did four years ago.

Latinos tend to vote for Democrats more often, but Republicans can grab a smaller share of the Latino vote and still win the race — as Trump did in 2016.

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The agenda was released on the day of state primaries in Arizona, where Arpaio is in a race for the Senate. The state is a major battleground for the November election, and turnout is being closely monitored as an indicator of what to expect in the fall.

Biden's 19-page Latino agenda covers a wide range of issues, some of them refined from or built on proposals he made in the primaries. Some of the agenda had already been covered in Biden's speech on the economy and his proposals on racial equity.

In introducing the plan, a Biden campaign official noted the anniversary this week of the attack in El Paso, Texas, where a gunman killed 23 people and injured about two dozen others in a massacre at a Walmart. Authorities called the attack a domestic terrorist incident, saying the gunman targeted Latinos.

"It's a tragedy that's part of a long line of hate crimes and assaults that accelerated during this administration," the campaign staffer said. "The policies of this administration amount to an onslaught of violence against our community. That ends when Joe Biden is president."

Biden's plan centers on five main goals: to invest in Latino economic mobility, to make "far-reaching" investments in ending health disparities by race, to expand access to high-quality education and tackle racial inequity in education, to combat hate crimes and gun violence and to "secure our values as a nation of immigrants," the campaign said.

"He will ensure everyone has a chance to join the middle class, including Latinos and other individuals never given a fair shot in decades past," a campaign official said.

Sandra Benitez, executive director of Latinos for Trump, said Biden's campaign released a Latino plan now because "like other white liberals, he only pretends to care about Hispanics and minorities when he wants our vote."

"Unlike Joe Biden's empty promises, President Trump has delivered real results for Hispanic families, including record low unemployment and millions of new jobs for our communities before the coronavirus interrupted our economy," she said.

Trump early last month signed the White House Hispanic Prosperity Initiative, an executive order aimed at returning Latinos to pre-pandemic economic levels. But the move was seen as an empty gesture, and it was buried in the controversy over Goya Foods President Robert Unanue's praise for Trump.

Biden's campaign said his political appointees, including his Cabinet member is representative of the nation's population. Only two Latinos hold positions in Trump's Cabinet — Alex Azar, the secretary of health and human services, and Jovita Carranza, the head of the Small Business Administration. The nation's population is about 17 percent Hispanic.

Biden's campaign said that in addition to proposals around the five goals, it will work to advance the effort to create a Smithsonian National American Latino Museum, which the House approved in a recent vote.

Vanessa Cárdenas, a Democratic consultant who left the Biden campaign early in the primary season in frustration over its Latino hiring and outreach, said the policy is solid, and she praised its addressing of issues that are core concerns of the community beyond immigration, including COVID-19-related challenges.

"If you are able to implement all of this, that's what our community needs. We don't just need immigration reform or just education access. We need all of it," said Cárdenas, who was a senior adviser to Biden. "Closing the gap on pay equity or health care, you need to do all these things."

She said she was surprised that the plan would not do more to promote climate change proposals, also a key issue in the community, particularly among young Latinos.

"That's something I'd like to see more of," she said. "It's a huge motivator for young people and because the campaign needs to do more work on Latino outreach, particularly in energizing and mobilizing younger Latinos."

Cárdenas said she has seen improvements in hiring and outreach by the campaign since she left in November.

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