Latino Republicans are mounting a pushback against the more conservative wing of their party with a message that they’ve had enough with the demonizing of their community.
Several Republican and conservative Hispanic leaders and their groups plan to denounce GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump in a news conference before Wednesday’s GOP debate, said Massey Villarreal, one of the organizers.
But beyond that, the Hispanic GOP group plans to claim their place in the party and to warn other candidates against mimicking the language of Trump, though they don’t plan to name any other names beyond Trump.
“We are very concerned that some of the candidates have gone so far to the right, that it will be impossible in the general election to come to the center,” said Rosario Marín, former U.S. Treasurer under then-President George W. Bush and a member of Jeb Bush's National Hispanic Leadership Commitee. “As Latinos, later on, we have to go to our communities and stand by our nominee and it would be impossible to defend the indefensible.”
When he declared his bid for the presidency, Trump said Mexico is sending people with lots of problems to the U.S. He said the people sent are bringing drugs and crime and are rapists. He has used the term anchor baby and has made Mexicans and immigrants the butt of his jokes.
“It’s not one camp. It’s not campaign driven," Marín said of the effort. "It’s Latino Republicans saying enough is enough with demonizing the Latino community. That’s the bottom line. The bottom, bottom line."
The uniting of the Republican Hispanics, first reported in the Washington Post, in a meeting before next week’s debate in Boulder, Colorado, is a first for GOP Latinos. It reflects the growth of the Latino electorate and the increased focus on the community that is the nation’s largest minority group.
It comes after several Hispanic Republicans signed an open letter to Trump this past summer denouncing his rhetoric and after the conservative LIBRE Initiative wrote its own open letter disavowing calls for an end to birthright citizenship and for mass deportation of people without legal status.
“Mr. Trump needs to find something else to do” than run for president, said Villarreal, who has headed several national Hispanic organizations including the Republican National Hispanic Assembly and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
"I grew up in Corpus Christie in a poor neighborhood. I feel I can go back," said Villarreal, a son of a Mexican immigrant father.
"We are not going to have our pass back to the 'hood revoked," said Villareal.
While the focus is on Trump, who is being named, Marin said they want other candidates to heed their message. She used an idiom in Spanish: "Sobre aviso no hay engaño!" An equivalent saying in English would be "Forewarned is forearmed."
"We are going on a very perilous route here. If they continue to go down this path, it is going to be virtually impossible for us Latinos to defend their stand," Marin said.
Villarreal said no others would be named.
However, Alfonso Aguilar, head of American Principles in Action Latino Partnership, told the Washington Post that the group would also focus on rhetoric and proposals of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, also a 2016 GOP presidential candidate, who has defended Trump. The Post ran a headline saying the group was "angered by Trump and Cruz."
Reached by NBC News, Aguilar declined further comment until the meeting is held.
But Daniel Garza, LIBRE’s executive director, said he would not participate in a meeting knocking Cruz.
“There seems to be some confusion over the intent of the meeting,” Garza said. He said his understanding is its purpose is to encourage candidates to get behind immigration reform and to drive a positive narrative “and then I read in the Washington Post this is some bashing session on Ted Cruz and others. No way I’d participate in that.”
Beyond candidates, Villarreal said Hispanic Republicans also want to help set the GOP agenda.
“We always follow the conservative agenda. We are going to draw the line and we are going to write the Latino conservative agenda,” Villarreal said. “We want a solution on immigration reform. We’eve got to have it. We can’t continue to have them bash the Latino community.