“Crushed.” ”Disappointed.” ”Confused.”
Some Hispanic leaders who have been advising Donald Trump say they feel betrayed after his long-awaited immigration speech that definitively ruled out a pathway to legal status for people living in the country illegally.
Trump stopped short of calling for the mass deportation of millions of people who have not committed crimes beyond their immigration offenses. But he also ruled out what he dismissed as “amnesty,” saying those who want to live legally in the U.S. will need to leave and head to the back of the line in their home countries.
“People will know that you can’t just smuggle in, hunker down and wait to be legalized,” Trump declared in his hard-line speech Wednesday night. “Those days are over.”
The language caught off guard a group of Hispanic faith and business leaders who have been advising him, often in the face of criticism from their own communities. In closed-door meetings and phone calls, Trump had given many the impression that he was prepared to soften his stance on immigration as he tries to court more moderate, general election voters and boost his standing with Hispanics and other minorities.
Now, some feel Trump misled them.
“There’s several of us who have gone out on a limb, if you will, to try to at least be at the table of reason with him, and that’s left us confused and disappointed,” said Tony Suarez, the executive vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. He’s been among those pushing Trump to moderate his stance.
As recently as Monday, he said, the GOP presidential nominee had signaled on a conference call with faith leaders that they could expect to see a gentler, more compassionate Trump in the speech. Trump, Suarez said, was asked explicitly whether they would see a softening or any “hope” for at least some of the people currently living in the shadows.
“He said, ‘Yes,’ and he thought we would be very pleased on Wednesday,” said Suarez. “The impression given on the call was not what we heard last night.”
Alfonso Aguilar, president of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, had prominently endorsed Trump after initially opposing his candidacy. He, too, said Trump had signaled a willingness to moderate some of his immigration plans, including limiting his call for deportations to those convicted of crimes.
“At this point, I just don’t see how I can support him. So I’m withdrawing my support,” Aguilar said. “I was expecting something very different last night. I’m not naive, I knew who I was dealing with. I knew this could happen. It was a risk.”
“From a political perspective, this is the end of Donald Trump. I really think now he’s definitely going to lose.”