Donald Trump’s Hispanic surrogates in Colorado are standing by their candidate even as they didn’t love — or believe — every word of a fiery immigration speech Trump gave in Phoenix on Wednesday.
“It’s disappointing to hear some of those folks who are already bailing out,” said Floyd Trujillo, co-chair of Colorado’s Hispanics for Trump. “There are values behind what each of the parties represents, and the values of the Republican Party align more naturally with the Hispanic community.”
The speech has already led at least two members of Trump’s National Hispanic Advisory Council to resign and another prominent Hispanic conservative to say he was “disappointed and misled.”
“I was a strong supporter of Donald Trump when I believed he was going to address the immigration problem realistically and compassionately,” Jacob Monty, a Houston attorney who has aggressively made the Latino case for Trump, told Politico after the speech. “What I heard today was not realistic and not compassionate.”
“I am so sorry but I believe Mr. Trump lost the election tonight,” Ramiro Pena, a pastor at Waco’s Christ the King Church, wrote in an email to Republican and Trump campaign officials that was obtained by Politico. “The ‘National Hispanic Advisory Council’ seems to be simply for optics and I do not have the time or energy for a scam.”
And Alfonso Aguilar of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles had this to say to CNN: “For the last two months, he said he was not going to deport people without criminal records. And then we heard yesterday, and I was totally disappointed — not surprised, but disappointed — and slightly misled, because he gave the impression and the campaign gave the impression until yesterday morning that he was going to deal with the undocumented in a compassionate way.”
This speech turned out not to be the much-anticipated “pivot” on immigration.
Trump said that anyone who enters the country illegally is subject to deportation, promised ideological tests for immigrants and described not only illegal immigrants but also legal immigrants with the wrong values as security threats.
“Not everyone who seeks to join our country will be able to successfully assimilate,” he said.
David Duke tweeted favorably about the speech, and later Thursday (after these interviews were conducted) Latinos for Trump co-founder Marco Gutierrez told MSNBC’s Joy Reid that, “If you don’t do something about it, you’re gonna have taco trucks on every corner.”
If you missed it Wednesday, you can read a transcript of the speech here and watch it in its entirety here. Over at the Atlantic, David Frum wondered what was so shocking about the speech, and at Business Insider, Josh Barro argued that it was the fear that infused it.
The thrust of the Trump message on immigration is not so much that our current immigration policy fails cost-benefit analysis as it is that immigrants may kill you.
But Hugo Chavez-Rey, chairman of Colorado Hispanic Republicans, said that’s just not what he heard in the speech.
“What I heard personally is that we need to concentrate on border security, and I cannot find too many Hispanics who are here legally and who are citizens who don’t want to secure the border,” Chavez-Rey said in an interview with Denverite. “We have to identify and deport as quickly as possibly the criminal element. I don’t think any right-minded person would disagree with that.”
This question of mass deportation and what you think Trump’s statements mean marks a major point of disagreement among those who stand by Trump and those backing away.
“Being subject to deportation and actually being deported are two different things,” Chavez-Rey said. “I don’t believe for a minute that Mr. Trump has any sort of mass deportation in mind. What he’s trying to do is secure the border, identify who is here and then make some intelligent decisions.”
“In my opinion, he has no intention of breaking up families or deporting law-abiding citizens who entered illegally but have been here for years working and producing. But there has to be some consideration for the fact that they entered the country illegally,” he added.
A Washington Post analysis estimated that 6 million people would be considered a high priority for deportation under Trump’s plan because they had committed a crime or had overstayed a visa. That’s about half the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States. (Many of those are not, in fact, Hispanic, both Chavez-Rey and Trujillo pointed out, correctly.)
Chavez-Rey does not support mass deportation for illegal immigrants. It would be logistically impossible and “devastating” for our economy, he said. He also doesn’t support “amnesty” in the sense of having no penalties for illegal immigrants.
Neither does Trujillo.
“I truly believe there is no mass amnesty and no mass deportation with Trump,” he said.
Trujillo, who described himself as a 13th generation American, said he sympathizes with people who were brought here illegally as children and want to get legal status and with people who waited years and years for a visa who don’t want others to jump the line.
Trujillo said Trump needs to clarify his position more and in a way that allows for engagement with Latino voters.
“Right now, he’s appealing to his base,” he said of his candidate.
But Trujillo had no patience for the Hispanic conservatives turning their backs on the campaign.
“If you’re a conservative leader, you lead,” he said. “You don’t back away. You can’t call yourself a conservative leader if you bail because you don’t like 100 percent of what the candidate says. You engage.”
Trujillo said he stands with Trump because he thinks the Republican Party is better for the country as a whole.
“I’m not going to be like my Hispanic brothers who say, ‘Oh, I don’t like him 100 percent so I quit,'” Trujillo said. “It’s a disservice to this country if you truly believe the Republican values and policies are better.”
Both Trujillo and Chavez-Rey think Trump’s support among Latino voters is higher than it looks in the polls and that Colorado will be more competitive than it appears. But they do wish Trump would word things a little differently.
“I’m a Hispanic. I’m from Peru. I was never offended by anything he said because what he said was entirely true,” Chavez-Rey said. “Now, do I agree with the way he’s saying everything? No, not 100 percent.”
And it will take more than a speech to change his mind.
“I’m not jumping ship,” he said. “I’m on board with Donald Trump 100 percent. It would have to be a devastating development to shake me from that position.”
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