'He used us as props': Conservative Hispanics deplore Donald Trump's speech

Donald Trump faced a backlash Thursday from some of his top conservative Hispanic supporters who said their hopes that he was softening his immigration policy were dashed by his fiery speech Wednesday night, which they said was anti-immigrant.

Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, had shown signs in recent weeks that he was prepared to take a more conciliatory approach to immigrants who had entered the country illegally, dropping talk of a deportation force and instead speaking of treating those immigrants in a fair and humane fashion.

Less than two weeks ago, he held a meeting with his Hispanic advisory council in Trump Tower, leaving attendees with the impression that he was working on a new plan that included a path to citizenship.

That impression faded Wednesday night in Phoenix.

"There was so much hope," said Jacob Monty, a member of the Hispanic advisory council who was at the meeting with Trump. "He used us as props."

[More than 6 million immigrants could be deported under latest Trump plan]

Monty, a longtime Republican, said that Trump appeared humble during the meeting, listened to their proposals, acknowledged the difficulty of deporting 11 million unauthorized immigrants and suggested that he was working on a new policy that included a path to legalization. Monty resigned from the council after Trump's speech.


"That was not a Republican speech, that was populist propaganda," Monty said. "He must listen to whoever speaks to him last."

Ramiro Pena, a pastor from Texas who was on Trump's advisory council, also abandoned the campaign. According to an email to the Trump campaign, obtained by Politico, Pena — who could not be reached for comment — said the group that Trump had formed was a "scam."

Other conservative Hispanic leaders were also disappointed.

Alfonso Aguilar, director of American Principles Project's Latino Partnership, who backed Trump and offered advice on immigration policy to his campaign, withdrew his support Thursday morning. Aguilar said that he and other conservative Hispanic leaders got behind Trump because they thought he would be able to work with Congress to get something done on immigration reform.

"A couple of weeks ago it sounded as if there was going to be a pivot," said Aguilar, who predicted that other Republican Latinos would soon renounce their support for Trump. "If you heard the speech last night, it was either self-deport or be deported."

Some advisers who expressed concern said they still planned to stick with Trump, hopeful that their input might make a difference in the future.

Alberto Delgado, a Florida pastor who was at the meeting with Trump, was aware of his plans to build a wall and remove criminals who are in the country illegally. But he was disappointed to hear that all undocumented people would have to leave the country and go through an application process to return.

"That gets me a little bit," said Delgado, who was expecting to hear about a quick administrative fix that would keep families together. "If you apply, you don't always get what you apply for."

Still, Delgado said that he was not ready quit the advisory group.

Trump has been trying to improve his Hispanic outreach efforts as he has continued to lag behind Hillary Clinton in most national and state polls. Recently he adjusted his pitch to minority voters to argue that his plans to restore law and order would be in their best interests and that Democrats were taking them for granted.

The Trump campaign shrugged off any dissension among conservative Hispanics on Thursday.

"Mr. Trump has been consistent in advocating for an end to illegal immigration, and he will continue to reach out and work with voters from all communities to defeat Crooked Hillary Clinton this fall," said Jason Miller, a spokesman for the campaign.

Trump continued to talk tough on immigration Thursday at a midday rally in Wilmington, Ohio.

"Last night I outlined a bold new immigration reform to create prosperity and opportunity for all of our people, especially those who have the least," he told the crowd. "We will treat everyone with dignity, respect and compassion, but our greatest compassion will be for the American citizen."

Some of Trump's most ardent conservative boosters, such as commentators Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, had expressed concern in the past week that Trump was preparing to reverse himself on immigration. Coulter's fears were assuaged by the speech, which she called "the most magnificent" ever given.

Trump, for his part, continued to spar with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto over who would pay for a border wall, vowing in a tweet that Mexico would bear the cost.

Peña Nieto fired back in a tweet of his own to say that, as they discussed in person, his country would do no such thing.


[Fact Checker: Fact-checking Donald Trump's immigration speech]

For Hispanic leaders who have been critical of Trump from the beginning, his speech in Arizona was more evidence that he has not changed and likely will not.

Javier Palomarez, president of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said Trump had proved to be a "clown" and that it was a sad moment for the Republican Party.

"I think he's done for with the Hispanic community," Palomarez told MSNBC on Thursday. "He's never going to see the White House if he doesn't get a significant portion of the Hispanic vote."

For their part, Democrats sought to press their advantage with Hispanics on Thursday, describing Trump's remarks as offensive and racist.

"This was a dark and disturbing speech," Sen. Tim Kaine, Clinton's running mate, said on CBS. "This is the kind of anti-immigrant language that's always had a tiny fringe support in this country, but it was a speech that's not worthy of a president."