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Latino leaders demand apology from Trump

The leaders of the main U.S. Latino organizations responded on Wednesday to Trump's comments about a Hispanic judge, voicing their concerns about the impact on Latinos and the U.S. legal system.
8 Jun 2016 – 03:46 PM EDT
Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza. Crédito: Getty Images

Prominent Latino leaders spoke out about Donald Trump's racist attacks on U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel in a conference call on Wednesday, calling his comments "unfounded" and "un-American" and demanding an apology to both the judge and the Latino community.

Janet Murguía, national president and CEO of National Council of La Raza (NCLR) said the organizations on the call were united in "strong condemnation of Donald Trump's unconscionable attack" on Curiel. "It's repugnant, un-American and a slap in the face of our increasingly diverse judiciary and all of us who participate in this democracy," she said.

Murguía added that Latino elected officials she's in contact with are "doing a lot of soul searching" and "are really trying to figure out if they can stay true to the Republican party."

In May, the U.S.-born judge presiding over a fraud suit against Trump University ordered the release of internal company documents, leading the presumptive Republican presidential nominee to accuse Curiel of a conflict of interest because he is "Mexican."

Trump called Curiel, who was born in Indiana to Mexican immigrant parents, “ an enemy of Donald Trump” and “a very hostile judge.”

Despite an outcry from both sides of the aisle, including leaders from his own party, Trump continued bashing the judge in the media saying he belonged to a legal group that supported undocumented immigrants. On June 5, he told Face the Nation: "He is a member of a club or society, very strongly pro-Mexican, which is all fine. But I say, he's got bias. I want to build a wall."

Trump was referring to the California La Raza Lawyers Association, a moderate group that has largely stayed out of the immigration debate and mostly deals with challenges Latino stereotypes, according to PolitiFact, the fact-checking website.

The group is often confused with Murguia's advocacy group, NCLR, which is often a target of conservatives," PolitiFact reported.

On Tuesday , Trump issued a statement defending his remarks, saying "I am friends with and employ thousands of people of Mexican and Hispanic descent." He added that he felt "justified in questioning whether I am receiving a fair trial."

Representatives from Hispanic organizations on the call shared their concerns about the impact of Trump's words on Latinos and the U.S. legal system.

"This kind of rhetoric is having a direct impact on our quality of life on our community," said Hector Sanchez, chair of National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) and executive director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), citing reports of bullying in schools, hate crimes, and racism in the workplace.

"Judge Curiel is no less American than Donald Trump," said Sanchez. "He deserves the respect that comes with the public office he holds."

Maria Teresa Kumar, president and CEO of Voto Latino, added that Trump's remarks are "his latest attempt at making Latinos feel less than American."

Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Foundation (MALDEF) pointed out that if Trump really wanted to disqualify Curiel, his lawyers could have already filed a legal motion to do so. He also noted that Trump's preference for a judiciary that permitted "judge shopping" would make the legal system "come to a grinding halt."

Trump's statement on Tuesday was "too little, too late," said Robert Maldonado, national president of the Hispanic Bar Association

"Trump's candidacy is a very real threat to the fabric of America and the diversity and freedoms we enjoy," said Cesar Blanco, interim director of the Latino Victory Project, warning that Republicans' support of the presumptive nominee could hurt their chances with the Latino electorate.