For Hispanic Conservatives, Alarm over Immigration Debate

Aaron Zitner, Wall Street Journal, August 19, 2015

When Donald Trump used the word “criminals” to describe illegal immigrants from Mexico, the Republican National Hispanic Assembly called his comments “extremely counterproductive.”

Now, listen to the more personal language that Gonzalo Ferrer, the national chairman of the group, uses to describes Mr. Trump’s most recent contributions to the immigration debate: “Extremely bigoted, offensive to all Hispanic-Americans, unconstitutional . . . and self-defeating.”

Mr. Trump, he said, shows “reckless disregard for the harm he is causing to Republican Hispanic-American families and to the Republican cause.”

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More than anything so far, some conservative Hispanic leaders say, these ideas cause Hispanic voters to question whether they have a home in the GOP. “Basically, they are saying, ‘We don’t want you. Get out,’ ” said Mr. Ferrer, a San Francisco attorney and certified public accountant, referring to Mr. Trump’s most recent proposals.

Many in the GOP disagree with Mr. Trump, but his ideas also have a base of support. “His immigration plan will resonate with a broad cross-section of grassroots voters, particularly tea-party and conservative voters,” said Mark Meckler, a nationally known tea-party-aligned activist, in a written statement this week.

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But Hispanic conservatives say these ideas are toxic.

“It’s making our effort to advance free-market, conservative principles to Latinos more difficult,” said Daniel Garza, executive director of the Libre Intiative, a nonpartisan group that advances “the principles of economic freedom” to Hispanics and is partly funded by conservative donors Charles and David Koch.

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“This is not what America does. We don’t pick on children. And we don’t break families up. That’s not the solution,” said Javier Palomarez, president of the nonpartisan U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which says it represents 3.2 million Hispanic-owned firms.

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