Republican move to stop the new museum will backfire with a vital voting bloc

House Republicans are on a tear. There has been significant coverage of the legislative assault on LGBTQ community centers, but almost no one has covered the right’s move last month to defund the creation of the National Museum of the American Latino. For all the talk of supposed Republican outreach to the Latino community, this move shows us exactly how the right views America’s second largest population. Not only are they undermining the Latino community’s safety and security, they are also laying bare the contradiction of their surface-level efforts to woo Latino voters.

The campaign to build the Latino Museum has been more than two decades in the making, which has made this retreat all the more painful for those who have worked so hard to make it a reality. Three years ago, approval and funding for the museum passed Congress with an overwhelming bipartisan vote.


I remember celebrating that moment on Telemundo with Republican Sen. John Cornyn, who was one of a number of Republican senators who supported funding the museum. Just three months ago, I attended a meeting at the White House with fellow Latino leaders to discuss options for where to site the museum on the National Mall.

Pulling the plug on the museum is a slap in the face to every Latino American. Our community has earned its place on the Mall through generations of blood, sweat and tears. Our parents and grandparents fought in wars and lost lives defending this great nation and helped build this country, and the museum is meant to honor and celebrate those contributions.


It would be easy to view this as just a symbolic move, but it is much more than that. Over the past few years, we have seen heightened violence and discrimination against Latinos as a result of anti-Latino political rhetoric. The 2019 El Paso shooting was the deadliest massacre on Latinos in modern U.S. history, but there are thousands of other recent incidents that never make the headlines.

As the Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice noted last year, research shows that “hate crimes, harassment, threats, and other types of victimization, are wide-ranging across Latino populations,” and they are being driven by anti-immigrant sentiment that has increased substantially in recent years.

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The damage this is inflicting on the security and prosperity of Latino communities is massive. As researchers from Northeastern University’s Violence and Justice Research Laboratory note, “Latinx adults are increasingly avoiding formal authorities, local services, and community engagement out of fear of victimization and deportation. Increased distrust and fear of authorities threaten to erode individual and community feelings of safety.”

The National Museum of the American Latino is meant to combat the “otherness” that leads to discrimination and violence — and we know this works. If you stand near the entrance to the National Museum of African American History and Culture you might be surprised to see the never-ending stream of visitors, notable not just for their numbers but also their composition. People of all races and backgrounds, from all over the country and all over the world, come to the museum to learn and experience.

At a time when so many Americans are retrenching into like-minded communities that reinforce their views, museums like NMAAHC are one of the few places that give us the space to come together and see commonality instead of difference.

When the effort to create a national museum for Latino history first began, Latinos were less than 10% of the American population. Today, we are more than 20% and growing. Latinos are quite literally America’s future. The decisions we make today will determine what kind of future that will be. That future will be undeniably more culturally diverse. The question is whether Republicans embrace that diversity or continue their futile fight against it.

Republicans are acting purely out of fear. Their shrinking base may applaud the politics of demonization, but this is certain to be a pyrrhic victory. We know this because we’ve seen how these tactics play out before. Ever since California’s Proposition 187 in 1994 helped turn what was once a reliably Republican state deep blue, we’ve seen time and again that Americans ultimately reject the policies and politics of hate.

There are more than 62 million Latino citizens in America, a number that is growing faster than any other demographic. If Republicans think they can disrespect and endanger us for political gain and then ask for our votes, they are sorely mistaken. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy needs to stop letting the inmates run the asylum. We’ve waited long enough for the respect and recognition we’ve earned.


Kumar is the founding CEO of Voto Latino.

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