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By Patricia Guadalupe

WASHINGTON — At a ceremony to usher in a record number of Latino Democrats in Congress, lawmakers exuded more outrage than delight as they recognized their legislative ambitions are contending for now with a standoff over a border wall with Mexico that has partially shut down the government.

“It’s because of Trump’s obsession with stirring up anti-immigrant sentiment that we’re in this predicament and it is quickly affecting the most vulnerable,” said newly minted Democratic Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García, D-Illinois, the first Mexican American to represent the state in Congress.

“It is very unfortunate that he chose this fight, he brought this closure on. We’ve offered solutions and I hope common sense prevails,” García told NBC News.

García was one of the members of Congress who participated in a ceremonial swearing-in Wednesday night at the U.S. Capitol for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), a bipartisan organization whose members are all Democrat. According to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), there are thirty-three Latino Democrats in the current Congress and five Republicans who have their own caucus known as the Congressional Hispanic Conference.

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus at the swearing-in ceremony in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 9, 2019.Patricia Guadalupe

Speaking to a packed crowd, newly elected CHC Chair Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-Texas, told a packed auditorium that the highest number of Hispanics in Congress represents a greater focus on the community at large and a greater opportunity to counter negative perceptions about Latinos, which some decry as a reason for the elevated attention of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“It’s no secret that the last few years the Latino community has been a target of a lot of disinformation and in many ways a lot of slander, and I want to thank each and every one for standing up against that and telling the truth about our community, a community that is sincere, that is hard working, and that most of all is not going anywhere,” said Castro.

The shutdown has dampened new legislators’ hopes of hitting the ground running. Rep. Sylvia García, D-Texas is one of two women — the other is Rep. Verónica Escobar — making history as the first Latinas representing Texas in the Congress.



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