Span­ish for­eign to White House

Use of sec­ond lan­guage on so­cial me­dia, of­fi­cial web­site re­duced since Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Jill Colvin and Luis Alonso Lugo

WASH­ING­TON» The Trump White House no habla es­pañol. Well, un po­quito.

After a suc­ces­sion of ad­min­is­tra­tions that em­braced Span­ish-lan­guage con­tent, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s White House is all but ig­nor­ing Span­ish speak­ers even though he has a ro­bust on­line pres­ence in English.

His ad­min­is­tra­tion has yet to of­fer a Span­ish White House web­site. It has elim­i­nated the po­si­tion of di­rec­tor of His­panic me­dia out­reach. And its Span­ish-lan­guage Twit­ter ac­count is heavy with English text and fea­tures sloppy trans­la­tions.

White House press sec­re­tary Sean Spicer said in Jan­uary that the ad­min­is­tra­tion had its “IT folks work­ing over­time” to roll out a new Span­ish lan­guage site after White­ es­panol went dark in the hours after Trump took of­fice.

“Trust me, it’s go­ing to take a lit­tle bit more time, but we’re work­ing piece by piece to get that done,” Spicer said at the time. More than five months later, the site still urges read­ers to “STAY TUNED.”

The White House’s Span­ish twit­ter ac­count, @LaCasaBlanca, is also far less ac­tive in the Trump era.

The ac­count has tweeted just 41 times since Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion; more than one-third of those posts came on the day of his ad­dress to a joint ses­sion of Congress on Feb. 28. Of the 41 tweets, about half were writ­ten in English. The Span­ish tweets are sprin­kled with ty­pos — 11 in all. While most mis­takes are mi­nor flubs such as miss­ing ac­cents, those ac­cents of­ten change the mean­ing of words sig­nif­i­cantly. For in­stance, they turn “med­i­cal” into “med­i­cate” or “is” into “this.”

No­tably, one of the first agen­cies to ex­pand Span­ish-lan­guage con­tent dur­ing the Trump era has been U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment. The agency bet­ter known as ICE is re­spon­si­ble for car­ry­ing out de­por­ta­tions. Last month, it an­nounced that it was ex­pand­ing the Span­ish sec­tion of its web­site and started a new Span­ish twit­ter feed, @ICEes­panol.

The White House di­rec­tor of me­dia af­fairs, He­len Aguirre Ferre, said she ex­pects a Span­ish web­site to launch later this year. She noted the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion took nine months to launch its ver­sion, adding that “the pri­or­ity re­mains to im­prove the English lan­guage web­site.”

She said there was no plan to hire a press of­fi­cer solely ded­i­cated to Span­ish-lan­guage me­dia at this time. She said she and an­other staffer in the com­mu­ni­ca­tions op­er­a­tion are bilin­gual and con­duct in­ter­views in Span­ish. Span­ish-lan­guage me­dia are also in­vited to par­tic­i­pate in press brief­ings, back­ground brief­ings and other events, along with their English-lan­guage col­leagues, she said.

Former Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush be­gan the tra­di­tion of a Span­ish-lan­guage web­site. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion fol­lowed suit.

Luis Mi­randa, di­rec­tor of His­panic me­dia at the White House dur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, said the Obama-era Span­ish-lan­guage web­site was not just a trans­la­tion of the English site, but in­cluded in­for­ma­tion geared to Lati­nos on top­ics such as im­mi­gra­tion, health is­sues, bank­ing and vet­er­ans af­fairs.

“For us it was im­por­tant that all of our con­stituents across the board were get­ting as much in­for­ma­tion as pos­si­ble about what we were do­ing,” he said.

Still, the Obama White House re­ceived some crit­i­cism for us­ing Span­glish in its ini­tial web­site on his health over­haul.

Ac­tivists see the lack of Span­ish con­tent as part of a larger pat­tern by Trump and the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“I be­lieve they have writ­ten off the Latino vote as, ‘I’m never go­ing to get it, so why should I even bother?’ ” said Luis A. Mi­randa Jr., a Demo­cratic strate­gist who has worked for Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton as well as Repub­li­can Rudy Gi­u­liani, the former mayor of New York. (The two Mi­ran­das are not re­lated.)

Dur­ing his cam­paign, Trump turned off many Lati­nos with his harsh an­ti­im­mi­gra­tion rhetoric. He crit­i­cized ri­val Jeb Bush for an­swer­ing a reporter’s ques­tion in Span­ish, say­ing the former Florida gov­er­nor “should re­ally set the ex­am­ple by speak­ing English while in the United States.”

“We have a coun­try, where, to as­sim­i­late, you have to speak English. And I think that where he was, and the way it came out didn’t sound right to me,” Trump said dur­ing one Repub­li­can pri­mary de­bate.

Trump still won about 28 per­cent of the Latino vote.

Roberto Izuri­eta, di­rec­tor of Latin Amer­i­can Projects at Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity, said that since Trump be­gan his cam­paign, his rhetoric has been “very ag­gres­sive and very anti-His­panic.”

“The pres­i­dent de­cided on Day One to stay with his elec­toral base. It means he will keep his di­vi­sive rhetoric and stay with his base, which is anti-im­mi­grant,” he said.

Javier Palo­marez, pres­i­dent of the U.S. His­panic Cham­ber of Com­merce, was a vo­cal critic of Trump dur­ing the cam­paign. But he said he has been pleas­antly sur­prised by the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s other His­panic out­reach ef­forts.

While Span­ish-lan­guage com­mu­ni­ca­tion is “im­por­tant in terms of optics,” he said, “at the end of the day, where the rub­ber meets the road for us and what mat­ters to us is what kind of pol­icy are you en­act­ing, are you en­gaged with us.”

He said his mem­bers’ con­ver­sa­tions with the White House have been “con­stant, con­sis­tent and on­go­ing.”

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