Americans don’t — or shouldn’t — believe in guilt by association. In the 1950s, Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s actions gave us a new word for accusations without proof, innuendo, and guilt by association: McCarthyism.
It seemed like a touch of McCarthyism when 20 advocacy organizations representing workers and undocumented immigrants demanded the resignation of Carolina Cabrera DiGiorgio, president and CEO of Congreso de Latinos Unidos, the largest Latino social service agency in Philadelphia. The reason for the demand: She appeared last month at a rally in Harrisburg for President Trump.
As reporter Valerie Russ explained in Tuesday’s editions, the CEO is married to attorney Val DiGiorgio, chairman of Pennsylvania’s Republican Party, who also spoke at the rally.
Should that disqualify her from leading Congreso?
Yes, according Erika Almiron, executive director of Juntos, a South Philly-based nonprofit that works primarily with the undocumented.
She told Russ that a “Letter of No Faith” had been sent to the Congreso board, demanding the resignation of DiGiorgio, who has been CEO since February and who had served on the board for seven years.
I read the “letter of no faith.” It made no claim that DiGiorgio had failed in her duties. Most of it was a rant that Trump doesn't want what they want.
Late Tuesday afternoon, the Congreso board met. "While we do not support any administration's policies that could negatively impact the Latino community we serve, we do remain supportive of and confident in Carolina's leadership," said Board Chair Esperanza Martinez Neu in a statement.
The majority of Congreso’s members are Puerto Rican, who are Americans by birth and perhaps less involved with immigration issues than are other Latinos. DiGiorgio is a Republican whose family immigrated from Honduras in the 1980s.
For the record, the way Donald Trump expresses his maladroit opinions of illegal immigration is offensive to a majority of Latinos and probably to a majority of the rest of America.
I asked Almiron why the demand for DiGiorgio’s resignation isn’t guilt by association, meaning association with Trump.
“It’s an issue of morality, an issue of ethics,” she said. “How can you say you stand for the Latino communities and at the same time be cheering a man who has criminalized Latinos?”
Here I put my head on the chopping block to say Trump has not done that. He has criminalized those Latinos — specifically Mexicans — who arrive here undocumented.
The way Almiron sees it, “She was standing next to Trump and clapping the whole time he was criminalizing Latinos.” I noted that DiGiorgio was there supporting her husband.
“As a woman, that’s insulting,” said Almiron, who is not married. As someone who has been, I know that sometimes you gotta do things to keep peace.
I asked Almiron if being a Republican is a disqualification.
“It’s not a political issue,” Almiron said, but I, uh, persisted and asked again if being a Republican is a disqualification.
She declined to answer.
Is voting for Trump a disqualification?
She asked if I voted for Trump.
I did not, I wrote several columns condemning him, I voted for Hillary, and said so. Almiron suspects that I am a Trumpster because I oppose illegal immigration and am a critic of those, like her, who support people who break our laws.
“He has repeatedly said he hates people that look like me,” said Almiron, incorrectly. “If she agrees with Trump,” it’s all right “to question her ability to lead the largest Latino institution," said Almiron.
I question Almiron’s ability to lead because she misrepresents the position of everyone who disagrees with her. She questions my ability to write a fair column because I am “racist.”
I couldn't get Carolina Cabrera DiGiorgio on the phone and had to settle for a quote she gave Philadelphia Weekly. She said she was at the event to support her husband and that she is being judged “for being married to a Republican elected official.”
I think she is being judged more for being at the rally and applauding, God forbid.
The board seems to agree.
While it acknowledged "the concerns expressed by some community groups," the board put more stock in the CEO's actual performance and her "demonstrable record of dedicated community service in a number of nonprofit organizations" than in her attendance at a rally, on her own time.
Although perception is important, in this case the board didn't allow itself to be stampeded by guilt by association and focused on the facts — the CEO's performance.
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