William Sanchez, a Republican who served in former President George W. Bush’s administration, is grateful Barack Obama and not Donald Trump was in office when Arizona passed its toughest in the nation immigration enforcement bill in 2010.
Sanchez, an immigration attorney for 30 years, said that legislation hurt all Hispanics and anyone who looks Hispanic. Luckily, Obama was willing to muster resources to fight the law in court, he said, adding that that he fears under Trump, the kind of discrimination Arizona tried to codify could become the norm in other states.
“One of the reasons that bill caused such an uproar is they were allowing, generally, state police to arrest people who looked like they could be immigrants … it was focused toward anybody who may not look white American,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez, who served as special counsel for the U.S. Department of Justice from 2004-05, is on the growing list of Latino Republicans who are publicly opposing Trump and endorsing Hillary Clinton.
He is part of “Together for America,” a group of Republicans and Independents who are recruiting others like them to join in voicing support for the Democratic nominee. The group was created by the Clinton campaign for Republicans wanting to voice support for Clinton.
The group includes a handful of Latinos, such as Carlos Gutierrez, former Commerce secretary in the Bush administration. Most have ties to former president Bush and/or former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who built up the ranks of Latino leaders in their party during their years in office. Other Latinos on the list are Ruben Alvarez, former policy advisor to Gov. Jane Dee Hull, R-Ariz. and Alberto Mora, former general counsel of the U.S. Navy.
Sanchez comes from the state of Florida, a critical swing state that, once reliably Republican, is considered a toss-up in the latest NBC News Battleground map.
An NBC poll showed Clinton leading in the state with 44 percent of registered voters to Trump’s 39 percent, up from 37 percent. But even without Florida, NBC News’ battleground map shows her with 288 electoral votes, more than the 270 needed to win the election. That then pushes the state's importance to races lower on the ballot, such as for its Senate seat.
While for some, deciding to openly oppose the GOP's nominee is a tough choice, Sanchez said his decision was easy. He considered what was best for his clients, and his party, his role as a former Republican official but above all else “what’s best for the country.”
He went further to think about what Trump would be like as a president and couldn’t help but go back to the message Trump sent when he declared his presidential bid, that Mexicans “sent here” by Mexico are rapists and that the U.S. is going to build a wall.
“When he makes those comments he sends a message to Americans and people around the world that discrimination is allowed,” said Sanchez, a Cuban American living in Miami but but born in New York City.
He said he’s tried to consider his Trump-supporting friends’ points of view, but finds it difficult to have rational discussions with them. Their arguments are often based less on evidence than on Trump’s statements, he said.
Even within the Cuban community, his backing of Clinton stands out. Many of the older Cuban Americans are staunch Republicans, who at least lean towards Trump.
“I’m hoping that if someone like me comes out and has the opportunity to have discussions with them — present reasonable arguments — I’ll be able to convince some Latinos that Hillary makes a lot more sense,” he said. “I’m actually talking to my mom all the time.”
Even when the Supreme Court argument comes up - that if elected, Clinton may have the chance to nominate more liberal justices - Sanchez responds: "I kind of had to deal with that ... I think she would be better at appointing a new Supreme Court justice than Trump. She would look at it rationally, who is a good person for this country. Trump would rely on some irrational (criteria)," he said.
Trump, too, has a list of Hispanics who are backing him. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., whom Trump belittled as “little Marco” in the primaries, is among his supporters. Rubio is up for re-election and is in a tough race.
In an meeting with the Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald's editorial board, Rubio told the newspaper that Trump is a con man, but that he is still backing him.
“We’re in a different place now. Now we have a binary choice — not a choice between 15 people or 12 people. There are two people in the world that are going to be the next president, either Donald or Hillary” the Miami Herald reported. “In our republic, while the presidency is powerful, there is a balance of power in this country, and a significant amount of it resides in the United States Senate. It’s one of the reasons why I seek to run again.”
Two weeks ago, George P. Bush, son of Jeb Bush, also called for swallowing the bitter pill of getting up, helping the man who won the Republican primary and "make sure that we stop Hillary Clinton." Bush has been considered an up and comer in the party and someone who could help boost the Latino numbers in it. His rallying cry for Trump came despite attacks Trump has made on the Bush family.
Ralph Alvarado, the first Hispanic ever elected to the Kentucky General Assembly, spoke in English and Spanish at the Republican convention in Cleveland. Addressing Latinos in Spanish, he urged them to vote with him for Donald Trump and to vote Republican, saying "Our families escaped countries full of corruption and political lies. Please don't let this misery occur in this country too."
Cynthia Guerra, a former deputy attorney general under two Florida governors, though not Jeb Bush, chose not to back Trump and to give full and vocal support to Clinton. That choice has meant dealing with some blowback.
“I’ve had a lot of criticism, criticism about how dare (I) go on the record and say I’m going to vote for Hillary Clinton. I think it’s irresponsible not to,” said Guerra, former chairman of the Republican Party in Broward County, Florida.
Guerra said she was open-minded after the primaries, even though she never backed Trump. But she said he has continually given her reason not to back him, not with what he says, or what the media reports he says, but with what he does.
As she sees it, week after week, Trump has shown her he is someone with lack of control, lack of empathy, lack of discipline and lack of knowledge.
Being a realist, she’s adamant against writing in a Republican or voting for a third party candidate, neither of whom can win.
“These Republicans sitting by concerned and afraid for the future of the party — they are sitting back and sticking to party politics and they refuse to vote for her or be vocal about it," said Guerra. "I say, shame on them, because they are putting party over country and I will not do that.”
Like others in the GOP, Guerra said she will vote for Republicans for other offices on the ballot this election.
Control of Congress is at stake in this election. Democrats need four seats to win a majority in the Senate, should Clinton win. The vice president, who would be Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., would give them the majority. They also could, at the least, make some gains in the House, where Republicans hold a majority by 30 seats. Some are arguing that in this year of Trump, Democrats could win the House.
There are plenty of efforts in the Latino community to keep Congress in Republican control, from the LIBRE Initiative to the party to campaigns. The Palm Beach Post reported that Republican voter registration in Florida has increased, from 2012, closing in on the state’s Democrats.
But Hispanic registrations also have jumped 14.6 percent since October 2012 more than a third have registered with no party affiliation or with minor parties. Nearly half of those added by the Democratic Party are Hispanic.
“I can’t think what Donald Trump is doing is going to help anybody down ballot,” Guerra said. “I just don’t think he’s done anything positive for the party.”