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Two Reminders of Why Donald Trump Matters to Latino Voters in 2016

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The ongoing controversy and fallout over Donald Trump’s anti-Latino comments is showing no signs of abating and is poised to matter for the 2016 election cycle.  Below are two key points to remember.

The GOP Response to Trump Exposes the Party’s Weakness on Immigration: A Lack of Will and Leadership 

Appearing at the annual NCLR conference yesterday, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Julian Castro connected the Trump’s comments to his fellow Republican contenders’ claims that they would pass immigration reform through Congress.  Castro said, “How is Jeb Bush going to stand up to the Republicans in Congress for comprehensive immigration reform if he won’t even stand up to a clown like Donald Trump?  How is Marco Rubio going to do that if he won’t stand up to Donald Trump? That ought to teach folks a lot about their approach going into 2016.”

For candidates such as Jeb Bush, who pledge to enact a permanent immigration reform solution (including as justification for their pledge to end DACA and DAPA executive action programs), this is an essential question.  While Bush and other candidates were initially silent on the subject of Trump, they eventually weighed in to criticize the remarks.  However, there is a sense that no Republican official has gone beyond the “check the box” statement to clearly and consistently denounce Trump at a level commiserate with the outrage felt in the Latino community over Trump.

Immigration is the GOP’s Kryptonite, Putting the White House Further and Further Out of Reach 

In reference to the 2016 Republican presidential nominee’s appeal to Latino voters, Castro also noted, “Do I believe it’s possible for them to outperform 27%? [Romney’s 2012 performance]  Yes.  Does that look probable right now? No.”  A new Washington Post piece by Mary Jordan helps underscore why Castro’s prediction is worth taking seriously.  In a story filed from Kansas City, MO titled, “The Mainstream Response to Donald Trump Affirms Latino Political Power,” Jordan captures how the Latino community is following the Trump storyline closely and how the controversy is helping to solidify Latino unity and awareness of the community’s growing power:

“Trump’s disparaging comments about Mexicans have been a morale boost to Latinos who consider the sharp public rebuke of the billionaire Republican presidential candidate evidence that they are a rising force in the United States.

‘At first I was upset.  I felt insulted’ when Trump called Mexicans ‘criminals’ and ‘rapists,’ said Galicia, a graphic designer and business leader in Kansas who is from Mexico.  ‘Now I see this as the wake-up moment, the time when our eyes were opened to our power.’

‘It’s an ‘aha!’ moment,’ agreed CiCi Rojas, chief executive of Central Exchange, a large women’s business group in the Midwest.  ‘This has ignited the ordinary person, those of Hispanic heritage.  It’s motivating and mobilizing.’

…In many parts of the Midwest, Latinos are driving population growth, such as in this city in Kansas where Latinos account for more than 30 percent of its 150,000 residents.

In the past 15 years, a swell of Latino immigrants moved here and reversed a steady decline in population, said Mayor Mark Holland, a fourth-generation Kansan.

…The mayor says his city is richer for its diversity.

‘What Trump has done is pull back the thin veil of racism underlying the immigration debate’ and arguments against a path to citizenship for law-abiding, hardworking Latinos, he said.

Holland said Trump’s unapologetic bashing of Mexicans has started ‘a great coming-out party’ for Latinos, who are saying, ‘We are here.  We don’t have to pretend we are not.’

Even Latinos who haven’t paid much attention to politics are tuning in — Trump’s remarks are featured prominently on Spanish-language television, Facebook and Twitter, and anti-Trump chants have become wildly popular at televised soccer matches.

‘People who normally don’t talk about politics are’ now doing so, said Cris Medina, chief executive of Guadalupe Centers, which provide social services in the Kansas City metro area.  ‘This has focused them on the candidates.’

Medina said he went from being ‘mad at Trump’ to being ‘mobilized by Trump’ when he realized that the negative comments were uniting Latinos from Puerto Rico, Guatemala and many other countries and causing them to pay attention to the presidential campaign.

Medina said he has heard only ‘disappointing’ or ‘lukewarm responses’ from most Republican candidates — although he thinks Jeb Bush ‘gets it more, understands more,’ noting that Bush’s wife was born in Mexico.  But he said he thinks Democrats have been more forcefully repudiating Trump and embracing immigration reform.”