President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday with the goal of expanding job and educational opportunities as he seeks Latino support, about 100 days before the November elections.
The executive order aims to help return Latinos to the economic levels prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, when unemployment nationwide, and for Latinos in particular, was among the lowest on record. Since the growing coronavirus pandemic began in March, both the economy and Trump's approval have plummeted.
The Administration created the so-called "White House Hispanic Prosperity Initiative" that includes promoting "private sector initiatives and public-private partnerships to improve access to educational and economic opportunities for Hispanic Americans.
But the president's opponents viewed the order as an "empty gesture."
"“I look at what he does, not at what he says,”" Lourdes Diaz, president of the Hispanic Democratic caucus in Broward County, South Florida, told Telemundo News. "I can't forget that he says 'Build the wall and that Mexicans pay for it'—I used to feel American and now I don't, now it's 'Get back to where you came from.'"
Díaz mentions her frustration with how the president has handled the pandemic, his friendly treatment toward Russia's authoritarian president, Vladimir Putin and how he broke his promise with the Dreamers over DACA.
“What about the unemployment stimulus money? Nice of him to sign that piece of paper, but people are lining up," said Diaz, who called Trump "the worst president we've ever had."
Among Latinos, Trump has a disapproval rate of 69 percent, according to the Pew Research Center, and two-thirds of them say they support his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. About one-third of Latinos (32 percent) say they support the President.
Boycott backlash over Goya's Trump support
Some Latino businessmen who support Trump met with him at the White House on Thursday as he signed the executive order. Among these was Goya President Robert Unanue, whose lavish praise of Trump drew fierce backlash and became a Twitter trend on Thursday.
"We are truly blessed to have a leader like President Donald Trump, who is a builder. And that's what my grandfather did, he came to this country to build, to grow, to prosper," said Unanue. "So, we have an amazing builder (points to the president) and we pray for our leaders, for our president, and we pray for our country, that it continues to prosper. "
Voto Latino, the largest Latino voter mobilization group targeting young Latinos, was among the groups that swiftly condemned Unanue's comments. "Yo Goya, tell your man to stop praising a racist. Latinos made him and his family rich by buying Goya products for decades," they said on Twitter.
Many called for a boycott of the brand's products, which are mostly aimed at Latino consumers.
"And just like that, my family will never buy Goya products ever again," activist Santiago Mayer, who is dedicated to encouraging Latinos to vote, told his 58,000 followers on Twitter.
Over thirteen percent of eligible voters are Latino, a record-breaking percentage, according to a report by the Pew Research Center. In Arizona, 24 percent of eligible voters this year also belong to this minority, according to the Center, 2 percentage points more than in 2016. In Florida, Latinos are projected to be 20 percent of eligible voters.
Part of the diversity among Latinos is the diversity of ideologies, and "President Trump has a strong group of Latinos who support him," Adryana Aldeen, a Republican analyst of Mexican descent, told Telemundo News.
"This executive order will help Hispanics receive training, educational opportunities, and promote school choice, free school choice. I think that can be positive for all families," said Aldeen.
The Hispanic White House initiative even lives under the Department of Education, led by the controversial Betsy DeVos, who has made it a priority to expand school choice.
“Could it be a strategy? Yes, it could be, because we see polls show him (Trump) much lower than four years ago against Hillary Clinton,” said Aldeen, a resident of Texas. “It can also be a genuine gesture to help middle-income families.”
“I can imagine that behind this moment there was an aide who said to him, ‘This is the moment that can help you,’ before the election,” Aldeen said. That way, while they had the attention of millions of Hispanics in the country thanks to AMLO’s visit, they could announce a new initiative that would be beneficial to them, and to the government’s image, she said. Most Latinos in the country are of Mexican descent.
The issue is whether the newly announced initiative to help Latinos can be reconciled with the administration's recent announcement that they will cancel visas for foreign students who take online classes or with Trump’s efforts to end DACA.
For Aldeen, who considers herself a center-right Republican, ending visas for foreign students "would be very harmful to the United States," she said. "I don't believe in nationalism. I think diversity is important. For the president, it's 'America First'".
Going back to Thursday's executive order, Aldeen said that "if this had been signed by (former Democratic President) Barack Obama, the Democrats would have applauded it. It’s not a bad order. It’s about who’s signing it.”