The Speaker Race: Hopefuls Promise Latinos to Fight Trump

Council members aspiring to the City Council speaker’s seat held a debate in Queens. (Photo by Edwin Martínez via El Diario)

The election to fill the City Council speaker seat that Melissa Mark-Viverito will leave vacant is around the corner. As the 51 council members who will vote to elect the new leader of the legislative body consider whom to support, four of the eight candidates running for the position discussed their plans on Wednesday. During the debate, all made known that their focus will be on ramping up the council’s fight against the Trump administration.

Manhattan council members Mark Levine and Ydanis Rodríguez, Brooklyn’s Jumaane Williams, and Queens’ Jimmy Van Bramer reiterated that, as head of the City Council, they will persist in their commitment to protect immigrants in the Big Apple.

“I know that, in the time of Trump, many are facing a serious threat and, as leaders, we will defend them and make it clear that New York belongs to immigrants and that Trump will not dominate this city or kick families out of here, whether they have papers or not. That is my commitment as council speaker,” said Council member Levine, in perfect Spanish.

The political leader, whose wife is Puerto Rican and who said that the official language in his home is Spanish, added that, if he is elected to lead the council, he will fight even harder for undocumented people.

“Unfortunately, the government in Washington is managed by Republican right-wingers but here, in New York, it is us progressives who dominate the municipal government. Although Donald Trump has threatened to take away our funding if we continue to be a sanctuary city, my commitment is that we will not hand over our immigrant brothers and sisters to anyone, even if he wants to take resources away from us,” said the Manhattan council member.

Similarly, Ydanis Rodríguez, who alongside Council member Ritchie Torres is one of the only two Hispanics running for the top position in the local legislature, said that one way to tackle the Trump administration is to keep a Latino in the position currently occupied by Mark-Viverito.

“I came here when I was 18 to wash dishes, and I have waged a 33-year fight in favor of immigrants. I still have my accent, and I believe that, if my colleagues elect me, it would be a way to send Donald Trump a strong message of resistance,” said the Dominican-born politician. “If the same rule Trump wants to impose on us was applied back then, his grandfather would not have been able to come into this country. We will not allow him to continue with his anti-immigrant policies and we will assign more resources to defend our people.”

At the debate – which was carried out in a very friendly tone – Democratic majority leader Van Bramer shared the sentiment of his fellow party members, and promised the more than 100 people in attendance that he will intensify the fight against Washington’s policies.

The community asked questions to four of the council members competing to lead the council. (Photo via El Diario)

“We will continue to fight against Trump every single day. We will organize people and make sure that we continue protecting our DACA kids and all immigrants. I think it is time the council president came from Queens,” said the politician, pointing out that, being gay, he knows what being discriminated against feels like. “Donald Trump is crazy and he is very dangerous,” he said in Spanish.

For his part, Jumaane Williams – who also tried to speak Spanish a number of times – highlighted the fact that, since the day Trump took office as president, he has participated in demonstrations against the leader and will continue to do so.

“I am the right candidate to become City Council speaker at this time in order to fight against the madman in the White House, the orange man,” said the Brooklyn politician. “I have always fought for immigration, police and housing issues, and I will continue fighting for the people,” he added.

The debate was held at the headquarters of Make the Road in Queens, was sponsored by El Diario and Univisión 41 and was moderated by journalist Mariela Salgado. The council members also spoke about their willingness to increase the resources the city invests to benefit the LGBT community and workers and to provide free lawyers for immigrants.

The remaining four council members seeking to succeed City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito declined to take part in the forum. They are: Ritchie Torres, from the Bronx’s District 15 and chair of the Committee on Public Housing; Donovan Richards, who represents District 31 and is the chair of the Subcommittee on Rezoning and Franchises; Robert Cornegy, from District 36 and the chair of the Committee on Small Businesses; and Corey Johnson, from Manhattan’s District 3 and chair of the Committee on Health.

One Comment

  1. how different it is in hudson county, new jersey, specifically in west new york and union city, and, in miami-dade, where camaradery between blacks and hispanics in nonexistant.

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