In the News

Source: Houston Chronicle; By Ileana Najarro; January 10, 2017; Updated: January 10, 2017 10:01PM

When national Latino leaders met privately with the presidential transition team on Tuesday, the head of the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce was there to make sure local concerns were addressed.

President and CEO Laura Murillo, who has led the Houston chamber group for a decade, said those topics included trade and the future of NAFTA in addition to the broader concerns over tax and health care reform, immigration and small-business development.

"The campaign is over. We need to work together," Murillo said in a phone interview afterward.

She was invited to Washington to join the meeting with President-elect Donald Trump's representatives and officials from such national groups as the National Council of La Raza, the National Association of Latino Elected Officials, the League of United Latin American Citizens and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Murillo characterized the meeting as a step in the right direction toward mending some of the rifts from Trump's campaign stances that included mass deportations and forcing Mexico to pay for a border wall with the U.S.

Murillo also confirmed that she will attend Trump's Jan. 20 inauguration. Yet she and others expressed disappointment that no Latino has been nominated for a Cabinet position or senior adviser role in Trump's administration. If none is appointed, it would the first time since Ronald Reagan's second term.

Murillo, who has been critical of the president-elect in the past and has called for him to add Latinos to his inner circle, said the community must be "part of this country's fabric and not just a thread."

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa, who did not attend the meeting, said finding a good match for a senior position in the Trump administration could prove difficult because not many prominent Latino leaders share the extremely conservative politics of many appointees thus far.

At the same, Hinojosa said he is not surprised the transition team is reaching out - even if it's just for appearance's sake.

Murillo, a daughter of Mexican immigrants, took aim at Trump during last year's Hispanic Chamber awards ceremony, with a rebuke of Trump's rhetoric regarding immigrants.

"Never let it be said we are criminals or rapists," she told the mostly Hispanic audience.

Murillo reiterated Tuesday that the local chamber will increase its public advocacy efforts this year.

Hinojosa said that many Houston Latinos will be looking to local officials for guidance under the Trump administration on issues such as health care, education and immigration.

"Hispanics, just like other Americans, want a fair shot," he said.