Source: Editorial from La Opinión
Latino farmers expected that the Obama administration would remedy the discrimination they have suffered for decades at the hands of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Instead, the White House is an obstacle to closing a shameful chapter in racism.
There is no question that the agency long discriminated against African American and Latino farmers in how it issued loans. Rural aid programs regularly provide support to farmers in times of need during the agricultural cycle. This could mean, for example, situations where the lack of liquidity for purchasing seeds can lead to a farmer’s bankruptcy. Yet, the USDA systematically denied these critical loans to Black and Latino farmers.
The USDA eventually acknowledged its past discriminatory practices. To this point, the federal government has negotiated out-of-court agreements of more than $2 billion in compensation to African American victims of the USDA's discrimination.
And Latino farmers?
They are still awaiting justice.
For nine years and facing many obstacles, Hispanic farmers have waged a legal battle in the courts to seek justice for the undeniable discrimination they experienced. We believe the precedent set with the African-American farmers should be used to negotiate a similar settlement with Latinos.
The groundwork is already laid for this outcome: The USDA's public acknowledgment of its discriminatory practices, a letter from seven Republican and Democratic senators to Obama demanding a resolution, the compensation provided to African American farmers and the statements made by the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack.
Despite all of this, the USDA stands in the way of what should be a resolution to years of injustice that excluded 85,000 Latino farmers from the benefits and opportunities given to others. The strategy of the federal government is to divide the demands of various cases in order to diminish the strength of this case and to delay overdue reparations.
After offering $1.25 billion , the final payment to settle discrimination claims by African American farmers, President Obama said he was pleased "to close this chapter" in the USDA's history.
Mr. President: The chapter has not yet closed. Thousands of Hispanic farmers expect the same treatment and justice that the federal government has extended to others, but has denied to them. An entire community now awaits a response.