The installation of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States was a welcome relief from four years of Donald Trump’s constant demonization of Latinos, from separating immigrant children from their families to building his border wall to tossing paper towels at hurricane-ravaged Puerto Ricans. Inauguration Day featured the New York-bred Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, of Puerto Rican heritage, swearing in Vice President Kamala Harris, fellow Nuyorican Jennifer Lopez quoting the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish, and the revival of “La Casa Blanca,” the Spanish-language page on the White House website.
But it’s going to take more than just J-Lo’s remix of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” and some symbolic gestures of inclusion to address the needs of US Latinos, a sometimes united but often fragmented ethno-racial group which too often feels overlooked. The question for Latinos, whose role in electing the new President has been endlessly debated, is how much they really figure into the Biden agenda. The promise of the new administration’s planned executive actions, as well as hints of a legislative agenda, constitutes some hopeful signs for Latinos, although according to many activists, history has shown they must continue to press for their concerns.At least Biden won’t fall into the trap of pandering to Latinos by trying to speak to them in superficial Spanish phrases, like other candidates — he openly admitshe just plain mangles it. Just what his presidency can really do for Latinos begins with targeted actions that point directly to Latinos, like immigration reform, policy toward the Mexican border, Cuba, South America and the unincorporated territory of Puerto Rico.
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