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Conservative Hispanics wait for a sign to support Trump

Conservative Hispanics wait for a sign to support Trump

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Alfonso Aguilar is willing to give Donald Trump a pass for attacking the judge in charge of the billionaire's Trump University case over his “Mexican heritage” — if Trump will just say that he sometimes misspeaks.

Aguilar, who was the chief of the U.S. Office of Citizenship under George W. Bush, wants to be able to vote for Trump — “No, no, no whatsoever,” he said when asked whether he’d ever back Hillary Clinton — but he needs some assurances from the presumptive Republican nominee.

Last fall, Aguilar and dozens of other conservative Hispanics announced that, as far as they were concerned, Trump was “excommunicated” from the Republican Party.

Here’s their dilemma: When they made the announcement, they thought that the man who had called illegal immigrants from Mexico “rapists” and criminals and made as his campaign centerpiece a proposed wall along the Southern border would eventually fall out of favor.

Now that Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee, conservative Hispanics who spoke out against him are struggling with what to do next.

Aguilar, the head of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, said he wants Trump to open up on immigration, specifically his plans for deportation, and support a path to citizenship. Additionally, Aguilar says, the billionaire has to own up to some of his more offensive statements.

He said he isn’t necessarily looking for an apology, just more of an acknowledgement that sometimes Trump says “things that come out the wrong way.”

Aguilar is waiting, hoping that Trump’s campaign will reach out and talk formally — so far, he says they have not.

Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks, when asked about the candidate's plans for Hispanic outreach, said in an email to USA TODAY: "Mr. Trump has received tremendous support from the Hispanic community throughout the primaries and we look forward to continuing to reach out to specific communities to share Mr. Trump’s vision to make America Great Again."

"Mr. Trump’s immigration policy proposal is available on our website and the specifics stand as is," she added, when asked about the possibility of accommodating requests to change his immigration plan.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll out Wednesday found Trump struggling greatly with Hispanics. Eighty-nine percent had an unfavorable view of the presumptive Republican nominee, and three out of four (76%) see him as “strongly unfavorable.” Clinton, on the other hand, has a 64% favorable view among Hispanics compared with a 34% unfavorable rating.

Mario Lopez, the head of the conservative-aligned Hispanic Leadership Fund, said that Trump seems as though he understands that he needs to do better with Hispanic voters in order to win, but it isn’t translating to his campaign.

“Anytime people are kind of, somewhat willing to entertain coming around or open to a conversation or dialogue, he does something like insult the judge for being Mexican, who is actually an American citizen,’” said Lopez, who was previously on the Hispanic Advisory Board for the Republican National Committee and a presidential appointee for George W. Bush

Trump’s attacks on U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel — the judge overseeing the Trump University court case — over his “Mexican heritage,” despite being born in Indiana, have been condemned by leaders in his own party. Trump hasn’t apologized but has said his comments were “misconstrued.”

“I think that him sort of fixing the mess he’s created for himself would require him to act in ways that he appears unwilling or incapable of acting — so that makes it hard,” Lopez said.

The Rev. Tony Suarez, executive vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, an organization of more than 40,000 Hispanic evangelical congregations, said "people of faith ...believe in redemption."

“Donald Trump’s best decision would be to say, 'I’m sorry, I was wrong I shouldn’t have insulted Hispanics,' ” he said.

In May, Suarez's group, which is nonpartisan but with beliefs that often align with traditional GOP views, hosted a conference in which Trump and Clinton sent in videos. Saurez said it would have been the perfect opportunity for Trump to appeal to Hispanics, but he didn't.

“I think there was some surprise at Mr. Trump’s video. Our people were anxious to watch both videos. And Secretary Clinton’s video was well-done. She quoted the Bible, she spoke directly to our people and the issues that they care about,” Suarez said.

As for Trump's video, which he described as "the more anticipated," Suarez said the real estate mogul “never addressed immigration reform as far as I’m concerned."

“This was his moment to make amends … he didn’t seize the moment," Suarez said.

Saurez, who is against abortion and gay marriage, said he had no idea who he’d be voting for, as of now.

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