Latino Leaders Demand Trump Apologize for Judge 'Mexican' Comments

Image: Donald Trump and Judge Gonzalo Curiel
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, left, and Judge Gonzalo CurielReuters; US District Court Southern District of California

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By Brian Latimer

A group of Latino leaders are demanding Donald Trump apologize for saying District Judge Gonzalo Curiel cannot preside over the Trump University case on the basis that he is of “Mexican” heritage.

In a press call led by Janet Murguía, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, leading members of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, Voto Latino and the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA) condemned Trump for repeating “racist remarks” against the judge in multiple interviews.

"The attack of Curiel is yet another attempt to demonize an entire community," Murguía said. "While Trump said yesterday that he would no longer comment on the judge or the case, nowhere in his statement did he explain, disavow or apologize for what he said, and this is unacceptable."

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In several speeches and interviews, Trump has said that Curiel cannot make fair decisions because of his Mexican-American background.

Robert Maldonado, the president of the HNBA, said on the call that Trump’s comments and his lack of an apology have struck at the heart of the judicial system. He said Trump has been implying that the members of the judiciary cannot fulfill their duties if they’re from a certain background or race.

"Trump's attack on just Curiel is an attack on all of the honorable, diverse judges that serve our nation," Maldonado said. "Trump's statements about our judicial system will have a lasting impact on public opinion and confidence in that system. We face a dismal future if we are led to believe that judges who do not look like us cannot be impartial."

Trump's comments have drawn fire from Democrats as well as Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, who called the remarks "textbook definition of racism," though he has publicly endorsed Trump. On Tuesday, Trump received his first un-endorsement from Illinois Senator Mark Kirk, and Nevada Republican Governor Brian Sandoval said Tuesday that supporting Trump "was not a sure thing."

Following the furor over his remarks, Trump issued a statement.

“It is unfortunate that my comments have been misconstrued as a categorical attack against people of Mexican heritage,” Trump stated. “I am friends with and employ thousands of people of Mexican and Hispanic descent.”

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César Blanco, the Interim Director of the Latino Victory Project, listed Mexicans, Muslims, women and immigrants as some of the many groups Trump has offended. Blanco said Curiel has proven himself as an objective, strong judicial record, especially when considering Curiel’s history of prosecuting people tied to Mexican drug cartels.

“Judge Curiel is an accomplished Mexican-American with an impressive career that includes 17 years as a federal prosecutor in Southern California,” Blanco said. “In the 1990’s he led a task force seeking to apprehend a Mexican drug cartel. Because of his work, he received threats and had to be placed under protection.”

He said Trump’s repetitive mentioning of Curiel’s ethnic background attacks on Curiel an attempt to overshadow the allegations against Trump University.

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