With Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz rising in the polls, Latino and immigrant advocates said the two Latino presidential candidates are similar to Donald Trump and in some cases worse when it comes to representing the community.
While Democrats have no Latinos in their field of candidates, Republicans have two who are now seeing their poll numbers improve. While they won't be the first Latinos to seek a party's nomination, they are among the few to be serious contenders.
In time for Tuesday's GOP debate, a group of Latino community and national leaders, whose views largely align with Democrats, discussed Rubio, R-Fla., and Cruz, R-Texas, and equated them with Donald Trump. They were participants in a roundtable on Monday that was organized by the Latino Victory Project, which gave the meeting the title: "Nevada Latinos: Sens. Rubio and Cruz are the Same as Donald Trump."
Cristobal Alex, Latino Victory Project president, said Rubio and Cruz haven't been examined with the same magnifying glass as been used on Donald Trump because they have not flooded the airwaves with hateful, anti-immigrant rhetoric.
"We want to ask the big questions: Do folks like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz reflect the Latino community? Do they stand with our community or do they reflect the values of Donald Trump?" asked Alex, whose group's mission is to get more Latinos in political office.
The pushback comes as a new NBC/Wall Street journal poll finds that Democrat Hillary Clinton would defeat Cruz and Trump in a hypothetical head-to-head contest, but she would lose to Marco Rubio or Ben Carson.
Participants were generally unanimous that there's little difference, although a couple pegged the two as worse than Trump.
"Donald Trump only talks about it. They have acted on it," said Astrid Silva, organizing director for the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada. "Marco Rubio was here in Nevada and told us to our faces he would take DACA away .. Cruz, Trump, Rubio, they are all the same."
Emily Zamora, iAmerica's Nevada coordinator, said what separates Cruz and Rubio from Trump is that the senators have had the chance to vote on issues regarding the community and their voting records show they don't agree with the policies that affect the community.
Yvanna Cancela, political director for Culinary Workers Union Local 226 said as leaders in the Latino community, their job is to open doors for other generations of other Latinos.
But Rubio and Cruz have "not only slammed the door shut" on other Latinos, but "bolt it, lock it, triple lock it, make it so its difficult for other Latinos can enter, not only through their policies but their rhetoric," Cancela said.
Silva acknowledged that Rubio and Cruz as frontrunners does make her job harder and people in the community do point to them and say "pero (but) Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz." But she said if they were in the Latino community and not "up there in those business suits," "all that hate they are spreading would be reflected on them."
Alex said although his group's focus is to increase the number of Latinos in office to build political power. "It puts me and the organization in a somewhat uncomfortable position when we have two candidates who are Latino, who are rising in the polls and have a great chance of really reflecting the communities values.
"However … they don't reflect our values and while it's uncomfortable, it's necessary for us to push back," he said.
A coalition of GOP Hispanics met before the Colorado Republican debate and denounced Trump because of his rhetoric regarding immigrants and its effect on the Latino community. But they stopped short of criticizing Cruz, even though some in the coalition wanted to do so.
The group held a closed door meeting again Monday in Las Vegas and invited candidates and campaigns to attend.
"The content of this meeting is critically important for the Republican Party - a party that desperately needs to improve its brand with Latino voters," Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, said in a statement released before the meeting.