BROWNSVILLE, RGV – Two members of Congress from South Texas say they will boycott Friday’s presidential inauguration in protest at Donald Trump’s Cabinet selections.

U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela

Trump is the first president since Ronald Reagan in the 1980s not to select a Hispanic to serve in a White House Cabinet. Some exit polls suggest Trump’s general election opponent, Hillary Clinton, won as much as 79 percent of the Hispanic vote.

Soon after U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela of Brownsville announced he would not be attending Trump’s inauguration, freshman Congressman Vicente Gonzalez of McAllen followed suit.

Vela, a Democrat, issued this statement about his decision not to attend the presidential inauguration:

“I had hoped that this Friday’s Inauguration would be a moment of healing and outreach, but yesterday, two days before the Inauguration, two things occurred that leave me no choice but to boycott the event. While visiting Washington, DC, 40 migrant students from my district were subjected to comments of “beaners,” “burritos,” and “wetbacks” from Inauguration attendees. One student was even spit on. Then, Donald Trump made his final cabinet selection ensuring that there would be no Hispanic representation in the cabinet for the first time in 36 years.

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez

“Mr. Trump’s repeated acts of disrespect for the 33 million Americans of Hispanic descent are historic in modern times. The hope that his actions as President would not match his political rhetoric is becoming more and more of a distant dream. One would think that an American President in the 21st Century would be dedicated to eradicating racism once and for all. However, Mr. Trump has turned a blind eye to overt racism. Indeed, in many instances, Mr. Trump himself has stirred the seeds of bigotry. This is an ominous sign for the future of the American Presidency and the United States of America.”

Gonzalez, a Democrat, issued this statement about his decision not to attend the presidential inauguration:

“I wanted to give President-Elect Donald Trump a chance to serve all and help move us forward as a nation. It was my hope that the campaign rhetoric was over and that he would serve as a president for all. But for the first time in 36 years, our president will not have a single Latino in his cabinet.

“As one of more than 56 million Latinos in this country and as the representative for one of the most Hispanic districts in the country, I cannot condone the outright exclusion of our communities – or any community –  from the executive branch or any level of government. Two weeks ago, I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America and I came to Congress to expand opportunities for all people in the 15th District of Texas. I owe it to my family, friends, and constituents to uphold these promises and after careful thought and consideration, I have decided not attend the 58th Presidential Inauguration. I will serve my constituents, as I always do, by providing them with Inauguration tickets if they so wish to attend, but I will not participate.”

La Unión del Pueblo Entero, a community group based in Hidalgo County, Texas, that helps immigrant and low-income families, supports the actions of Vela and Gonzalez.

“La Unión del Pueblo Entero congratulates Congressmen Filemon Vela and Vicente Gonzalez for boycotting the inauguration of President-elect Trump. With this principled, nonviolent act of protest, they show that they stand with our community against prejudice and hate,” said Juanita Valdez-Cox, executive director of LUPE.

Juanita Valdez-Cox

“Our humble region has struggled to overcome barriers of prejudice and hate. We work hard everyday to create opportunities for our families and communities to thrive. President-elect Trump has shown, at best, indifference, and at worst, outright hostility to the struggles of our region.

“We hope this principled demonstration of nonviolent protest inspires more leaders of our region to stand up to the Trump administration in support of the needs of our communities. Because Congressman Henry Cuellar is from the same region and background as his colleagues Vela and Gonzalez, we fully expect him to announce that he, too, will join the boycott.”

Roger C. Rocha Jr., national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, told the Washington Post that the lack of a Latino Cabinet secretary “is a failure to ensure that the government is truly representative of the people it serves.” The group’s executive director, Brent Wilkes, added that Trump’s decision means he “has broken with the bipartisan precedent of past presidential administrations and has missed a major opportunity to shed the racial and ethnic divisiveness that were hallmarks of his presidential campaign.”

U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nevada, elected in November as the first Hispanic woman to serve in the U.S. Senate, told the Washington Post that it was “beyond disappointing” that Trump failed to include a Latino in his Cabinet.

“While we made some progress in 2016 building the ranks of Latino leadership in the halls of Congress, I am stunned by the lack of diversity of the White House’s nominees for these Cabinet positions,” she said in a statement. “Our government should mirror the people it serves, and the Trump administration has undoubtedly failed on that mark.”

Asked about the lack of Latino officials in the top ranks of the Trump administration, incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday that Trump “has continued to seek out the best and the brightest to fill his Cabinet, but I don’t think that that’s the total reflection. We’ve got 5,000 positions. I think you’re going to see a very, very strong presence of the Hispanic community in his administration.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story shows the presidential inauguration of President Barack Obama in January, 2013.