WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday that creates an advisory commission tasked with improving Hispanic Americans' access to economic and educational opportunities, a push that comes as the president hopes to win a bigger share of the Latino vote than he did four years ago.
The commission has broad marching orders to foster school choice efforts and promote public-private partnerships in Hispanic-American communities.
“You are a treasure,” Trump told a friendly crowd of current and former Hispanic elected officials, business leaders and others who were on hand for the Rose Garden signing of the order. “The Hispanic Americans and the Hispanic American community is a treasure.”
Trump is walking a tightrope in his attempt to court Latino voters ahead of the November election while also courting his base supporters by underscoring his administration's efforts to stem illegal immigration on the southern border.
In recent days, Trump has showcased progress his administration has made in building more wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and vowed to renew his effort to end legal protections for hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the United States as children. The Supreme Court last month ruled that the administration improperly ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2017.
But at the same time, White House officials and campaign surrogates are making a pitch to Hispanic voters that Trump built a strong economy prior to the economic collapse caused by the coronavirus pandemic, one that saw the unemployment rate for Hispanics reach all-time lows.
In 2016, Trump won the votes of about 3 in 10 Latino voters, and he faces strong economic headwinds as he tries to improve his standing.
Overall, 66% of Hispanic Americans and 53% of Black Americans say they’ve experienced some form of household income loss, including layoffs, unpaid time off and cuts in hours or pay, according to a recent survey conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.. Forty-two percent of white Americans say the same. Thirty-four percent of Hispanics, 29% of African Americans and 20% of white Americans said someone in their household has been laid off.
Just 26% of Latino Americans say they approve of Trump, according to recent Gallup polling. Latinos’ support for Trump has been steady over the course of his presidency, much like Trump’s approval rating overall.
Trump, in his Rose Garden remarks, emphasized his support for charter schools;, noting that one in three students who attend U.S. charters are Hispanic. Charters are publicly funded but privately run, and have grown in popularity around the country since their inception more than 25 years ago. Advocates say their relative independence –- they face fewer instructional and bureaucratic regulations, and are largely free from collective bargaining -– allows educators to innovate.
But teacher unions around the country have been pressing for local and federal lawmakers to stem the proliferation of charters, which they say are siphoning funding from traditional public schools.
“As long as I’m president I will never let your charter schools be taken away from you,” Trump said.
Associated Press writer Hannah Fingerhut contributed to this report.