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Hispanics Urge Trump Staff to Add a Latino to Cabinet Nominees

Conservative and progressive Latino leaders who met with Trump transition staff Tuesday were largely unified in insisting that the new administration

Conservative and progressive Latino leaders who met with Trump transition staff Tuesday expressed concern about the lack of a nominee for the new Cabinet who is Latino, according to people who attended the meeting.

The invitation-only meeting was attended largely by conservative groups but included some non-profits that promote policies that fall on the liberal side of the political spectrum, participants told NBC Latino.

Several attendees said that the lack of a Latino Cabinet nominee was raised several times, even by Al Zapanta, the head of the U.S.-Mexico Chamber of Commerce. Zapanta, who is considered a potential nominee for ambassador to Mexico, said he was disappointed no nominees thus far have come from the Latino community, a participant said.

Two Cabinet slots remain open, Veterans Affairs and Agriculture. Former California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado is considered a potential nominee, but no choices had been announced as of Tuesday afternoon.

But even if he is nominated, Trump will have far fewer Latino nominees than Obama, who currently has four in his Cabinet.

Attendees spoke to NBC Latino under the agreement they not be identified because the meeting's organizers said the meeting was off the record.

A participant said there also was general consensus among the groups that the new administration needed to provide relief to immigrants who call themselves DREAMers and those who enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program authorized by President Barack Obama through executive action.

"Most of the Republicans in the room spoke of DACA and Dreamers and passing a comprehensive immigration bill," said one of the meeting attendees.

The gathering was one of several that the Trump team is holding with different segments of American society, including evangelicals and black leaders.

Dubbed a listening session, participants said the meeting was attended by some 40 or more group representatives. Trump officials who attended were largely transition staff who are part of the new administration's "landing teams" that are helping to set up each agency.

Among the meeting participants was a former contestant on reality TV show "The Apprentice," that once starred Trump, also participated in the meeting and spoke of her loyalty to Trump, participants said.

Meeting participants were each given two minutes to speak and many spoke about the missions of the group they represented.

A meeting participant said some of the most critical comments came from the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials and National Council of La Raza, who challenged Trump's campaign rhetoric, the resulting hate crimes and racial profiling and on his policies as detrimental to Latino families.

Related: After Prodding, Republicans Slowing Down Confirmation Process

Attendees said the meeting could be an effort to deflate complaints that the new administration is not reaching out to the community. Another participant said the meeting "reflects a bottom-up strategy."

"My question is how much of this information will bubble up to principals who are decision makers?" the participant said.

Tony Suarez, a vice president for the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, called the meeting positive, saying "it makes you hopeful, because we have a seat at the table we continue to have a seat at the table and all that means is we continue to have a voice at the table." He said his group has had several meetings with Trump and/or its transition staff.

Some key Latino groups were not invited, such as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, a civil rights group considered the law firm for the Latino community. And others who did attend may have to face backlash for participating.

Massey Villarreal, a Houston Republican who has criticized Trump but also supported him, said Latino groups needed to attend.

"As Latino leaders, we have to be optimistic and not pessimistic and say I’m going to take my marbles and go home," he said.

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