WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday promoted his border wall, tax cuts and the trade agreement with Mexico as policies that benefit the nation's Latinos at a meeting with a national Hispanic business group.
Trump addressed the issues he hopes will resonate with part of the Latino electorate in the election in November, including economic prosperity and border security.
"With the hard work, love and devotion of millions of incredible Hispanic Americans, our country is thriving, our people thrive, and our future has never looked brighter," Trump told the Latino Coalition, a nonpartisan group whose policies have usually aligned with Republican policies.
His speech, attended by over 350 business leaders, came at a time when both parties are actively courting the nation's 32 million eligible Latino voters.
Trump currently has the support of approximately 30 percent of the Latino electorate, but his campaign is confident that he will be able to expand that support this year. In Nevada, a key state in the contest, the campaign says that 27 percent of those who attend its political meetings are of Latin or African American origin.
A different speech than his regular rallies
Not surprisingly, in contrast to the political rallies Trump holds with his conservative base and supporters across the country, his 23-minute speech lacked any incendiary anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Instead, Trump highlighted the contributions of Hispanics and how his administration's policies have produced a historic 3.9 percent unemployment rate among Latinos as well as the creation of 3 million additional jobs.
Citing figures from the Council of Economic Advisers, Trump said about 40 million Hispanics live in homes that have benefited from the expansion of the tax credit for families with dependent children, which provides an additional $ 2,000 a year for a family of four.
Trump generally got lukewarm applause with the exception of when he reiterated his administration's support for the people of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, saying that "socialism and communism" only bring tragedy and misery.
In his bid for re-election, Trump is hoping to win Florida, a bastion of hundreds of thousands of exiles from those three countries, as he did in 2016.
Trump said 128 miles of his promised wall at the southern border have already been built, and argued that Latinos understand and support it "more than anyone," because "they want to feel safe."
The president will also need the support of voters in Texas, a border state where the construction of the wall has drawn controversy. According to a 2019 survey by the Texas Lyceum organization, 61 percent of residents in the state oppose the construction of the wall, 35 support it, and 4 percent did not respond.
Rafael Cuellar, chief executive of ShopRite Supermarkets, took to the stage to talk about his company's success and how he has benefited from the tax cuts enacted by the administration in December 2017.
Speaking to Noticias Telemundo before the meeting, Latino Coalition president Héctor Barreto said Trump's speech to the group “is a sign of the importance of the Latino community, especially its entrepreneurs, who are growing faster than any other group in the United States.”
Trump, said Barreto has "created an environment" that has allowed Latino businesses to grow.
There are just over 4.6 million companies owned by Latinos, about 14 percent of the country's 33 million businesses and they generate about $ 800,000 million in sales each year, according to Barreto.
The weight of the Latino vote
Several guests told Telemundo they support the president's economic policy, adding the road to the White House goes through the Hispanic electorate.
“We are 60 million Latinos, of which 80 percent have U.S. citizenship; we are Republicans, Democrats, rich, poor — we are not a monolithic community," said Ramiro Cavazos, president and chief executive of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "We are not a race, we are a culture. ”
“It's no surprise to me that many people in our community are voting for Republicans or Democrats; what we want is for more people to vote," he said. "We need our voice to be heard if we want to create change for the future."
José L. Pérez, president and chief executive of Hispanics in Energy, said that although Trump "does not speak very well about our community," his policies and programs "are very important for the Latino community."
According to Pérez, the new trade agreement between the U.S., Mexico and Canada will help strengthen the bilateral relationship with Mexico.
The meeting, which was held within the framework of the legislative “summit” of the Latino Coalition, was attended by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos; the Secretary of Housing, Ben Carson; the head of the Small Business Administration, Jovita Carranza, and the U.S. surgeon general, Vice Adm. Jerome M. Adams.
Also present was the governor of Puerto Rico, Wanda Vázquez Garced.
The White House said in a fact sheet that the administration has taken more than 600,000 Hispanics out of poverty and that the average income for Latino households exceeded $50,000 a year, the highest level recorded in the country's history, according to the document. The median income in 2016 was $48,700.
In a email statement on Wednesday, the Democratic National Committee said, "Trump has failed Latino communities," saying that Latino households received only about 7 percent of Trump's tax cuts though they represent 18 percent of the population, and that real weekly wages for Latinos have risen less than 4 percent under Trump compared to over 9 percent under the Obama administration at the end of the recession.
They also pointed out Trump's attempts to rescind DACA status for young immigrant adults would result in a loss of $460.3 billion over the next decade.