More than eight decades ago, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) was created to defend the basic rights of Hispanic people across the United States. The Latino community organized to defend working people, to fight for what's right, and to demand justice from political leaders who disregard the well-being of our people.
While the problems we face may have evolved over the years, we still organize to defend our rights and hold our leaders accountable. Today, we face a Trump Administration that has turned its back on basic health protections all Americans have fought for generations to obtain. In virtually every way, the Trump Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is trading the health of our people for polluter profits. And we find ourselves, as combined representatives of the Hispanic community, forced to deal with air and water pollution that afflicts our families at higher rates. When it comes to clean water, upstream contamination of our drinking water puts our families, especially our children, at a relatively higher health risk.
That’s why we are so troubled by the Trump EPA’s recent decision to repeal the Clean Water Rule. More than one-third of Americans source their drinking water from bodies of water protected under the rule. It was a rule written through collaboration between farmers and farmworkers, and between companies in the agriculture industry and the communities in which they operate. The repeal of the Clean Water Rule is not a decision backed by the people, it's a decision backed by politics. The Trump Administration clearly favors special interests and corporate polluters over its duty to protect our families.
But the repeal of the Clean Water Rule is not our only worry. The Republican budget intends to gut EPA by nearly a third, which will hobble the agency’s ability to hold polluters accountable, clean up toxic chemicals and pesticides, and invest in badly needed water infrastructure. The American Water Works Association, which represents 4,000 Public Water Utilities around the country, has stated that EPA funding directly supports the protection of public health and our public water systems. When our own Public Water Utilities are worried about EPA budget cuts, we should all be worried.
The Trump Administration continues to show their disregard for a transparent, fair, and democratic process. In fact, since Republican leaders in Congress know just how unpopular it is to dismantle protections for clean water, they are trying to change the rules to let Trump’s EPA weaken protections outside of the public process.
But we won’t let them. We’ve been here before; LULAC came together so many years ago to take a stand against unfair and undemocratic practices, and we will, again.
Dolores Huerta, an iconic civil rights leader and an inspiration and symbol for our organization, once said, “I couldn't tolerate seeing kids come to class hungry and needing shoes. I thought I could do more by organizing farm workers than by trying to teach their hungry children."
Today, we at LULAC will not tolerate seeing our families, our children, and our communities suffer from polluted water and an unclean environment. We will not tolerate being pushed out of the public process just because we can’t afford to play big-money corporate politics.
And when our leaders put polluter profits over public health, we will continue to speak up and hold them accountable, no matter what.
Brent A. Wilkes is the Chief Executive Officer for the League of United Latin American Citizens this country's largest and oldest Hispanic organization.