Critic joining Trump coalition means loss of important Latino voice
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A former Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDems flip Wisconsin state Senate seat Sessions: 'We should be like Canada' in how we take in immigrants GOP rep: 'Sheet metal and garbage' everywhere in Haiti MORE critic has gone from adversary to adviser. Javier Palomarez, president and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC), has signed on as a member of President-elect Trump's national diversity coalition.

"Our association is going to respect the process and respect the will of the people. We're going to do everything we can to help the new administration move this country forward," Palomarez told BuzzFeed News. "I'm very enthused and encouraged by the progress thus far."

As a headline in Latina magazine put it, reporting on this development: Que?!

Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, Palomarez rightfully called out Trump's anti-Latino, anti-immigrant rhetoric. He criticized the president-elect in unusually personal terms. Nothing we've seen in the meantime indicates that Trump has changed, yet Palomarez is surrendering his dignity and signing on with him.

The USHCC describes itself as "America's largest Hispanic business organization," representing over 4.2 million Hispanic-owned businesses. 

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As head of the USHCC, Palomarez made it clear how he felt about Trump.

In September, he told two MSNBC hosts that Trump was a "payaso, a complete clown" and that his "movement of hatred" wouldn't solve any real problems.

When the USHCC made its first-ever presidential endorsement for Democratic nominee Clinton, Palomarez told Reuters that Trump was "dangerous" and "a buffoon." He noted that Trump's campaign had "devolved into something that is frankly scary." He called Trump's deportation plan "the argument of a child and fear-mongering at its worst."

That was then. Now Palomarez is apparently eager to work with Trump and members of his team like white nationalist champion Steve Bannon.

The president-elect's attorney and adviser, Michael Cohen, explained to BuzzFeed that the diversity coalition was put together "to dispel the notion that Mr. Trump is one of the many things that the liberal mainstream media tried to label him as — that he is anti-Hispanic."

But it was not the liberal mainstream media that forced Trump to label Mexican immigrants "criminals, drug dealers, rapists" or to defame a distinguished federal judge because of his Mexican-American heritage. Of all people, Palomarez knows this — he has spoken out against Trump's hate speech in the past — which is why his joining Trump's coalition is so disappointing.

Palomarez's new alignment with Trump is also unfortunate given Trump's well-documented history of not paying small-business owners who worked for him.

Is there a place for Latinos in a Trump administration? Absolutely. A Latino Cabinet member could give 55 million Hispanics, literally, a voice at the table when critical national decisions are made. Palomarez would have been an outstanding choice to head the Small Business Administration, a spot that went to World Wrestling Entertainment co-founder Linda McMahon.

Being part of a diversity coalition, in contrast, means that Palomarez will likely serve as window-dressing, designed to give Trump cover from charges of racism and bigotry. And how much impact will a "diversity coalition" have, anyway, in an administration that does not value diversity?

Now more than ever, Latinos are taking stock of who our allies are, and Palomarez seems to be putting his personal ambition above all else.

That's a shame, because Palomarez has been a thoughtful advocate for Latinos in general and Latino small-business owners in particular. Since taking over the USHCC, he helped turn the organization around.

While he has stated that he still disagrees with Trump on key issues, his opinions will probably be muted now that he is linked to the administration. Like most Trump associates and advisers, Palomarez can look forward to a future of explaining, clarifying and walking back The Donald's indiscreet, erratic comments.

What a sad waste of Palomarez's expertise, experience and abilities.

Palomarez's decision appears at best misguided and at worst opportunistic. His joining the Donald Trump diversity coalition means the loss of an influential, once-credible voice for the Latino community.

Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and columnist in New York City. He is also an NBCNews.com contributor.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.