Coalition of immigrant advocacy groups demands resignation of Congreso leader for applauding at Trump rally

Twenty immigrant and workers' advocacy organizations on Monday demanded the resignation of Carolina Cabrera DiGiorgio, president and CEO of Congreso de Latinos Unidos, citing her appearance at a rally for President Trump in Harrisburg last month.

Erika Almiron, executive director of Juntos, an immigrant human rights organization in South Philadelphia, said the “Letter of No Faith” in DiGiorgio was sent to Congreso’s board of directors.

It called DiGiorgio’s actions “a slap in the face to our communities, to those who support immigrants, religious minorities, and to those whose lives depend on access to  health care."

Attempts to reach DiGiorgio for comment were unsuccessful Monday.

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Carolina Cabrera DiGiorgio,  president and CEO of Congreso de Latinos Unidos.

The letter said the groups were especially concerned about "her visible support of a president whose divisive policies and rhetoric undermine our communities and decrease access to services our families so desperately need.”

The organizations said their members “want to express our astonishment and extreme discomfort” over DiGiorgio’s prominent place, seated near President Trump, at the April 29 rally, which marked his 100 days in office.

“We cannot understand how the executive director of the largest Latino social service agency in Philadelphia would not just participate, but be front row and center at a rally where chants of 'Build the Wall' were prominently featured,” the letter said.

“Even more unimaginable is an executive director of said social services organization visibly supporting a president whose goals are to slash social spending to agencies like itself, to destroy the Affordable Care Act, and to remove health-care access from at least 26 million people in our country, all while separating families and incarcerating people through cruel deportation and detention practices and policies.”

Sybille Damas, Congreso's chief operations officer, said in an email: "To my knowledge, our board has yet to receive the letter.  However, as per the board’s previous statements, they remain focused on the mission and supportive of Congreso leadership."  

 Congreso is based in the Fairhill section of North Philadelphia. 

DiGiorgio, who began her tenure as CEO in February 2017,  is married to Pennsylvania GOP Chairman Val DiGiorgio. She previously served on Congreso's board for seven years, including two years as chair.  

Founded in 1977,  the agency has a  mission “to strengthen Latino communities through social, economic, education and health services, leadership development and advocacy," its website said.      

DiGiorgio’s attendance  at the Harrisburg rally was first reported by Philadelphia Weekly.  In the article, DiGiorgio said she went to the rally to support her husband. It said she is a registered Republican in Chester County.

"I don't care what people are registered. I don't care what religion people are. I don't care if you're gay or straight, I don't care. Because at Congreso, everyone is free to come in and not be judged," DiGiorgio told Philadelphia Weekly.  She also accused the news outlet of "judging me  ... for being married to a Republican elected official."

According to the Congreso website, DiGiorgio is an immigrant from Honduras whose family came to the United States in the 1980s. She graduated from Rutgers-Camden School of Law.

"There is nothing wrong  about personal political involvement of this sort. It is really a judgment call that’s made by the leadership of an organization," said David Thornburgh, president and CEO of the  Committee of Seventy, a political watchdog group.   "The important thing to recognize is that [attending a rally]  does send a message. What that message is, and how it's received by the people in the community, is a matter for the board." 

While many of Congreso’s clients are from Puerto Rico, which automatically makes them citizens, Almiron said the organization also serves immigrants, who she said might now be worried about seeking help from Congreso.

In addition to Juntos, organizations signing the letter include 215 People’s Alliance; 15 Now; Black Brown Workers Collective; the Black Clergy of Philadelphia; POWER – Philadelphians Organized to Win, Empower and Rebuild; Philadelphia Student Union; SEIU 32BJ;  VietLead; and Voces del Barrio.


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