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Hispanic Republicans who tried to sway Trump on immigration left disappointed

Several prominent Latino Republicans expressed their frustration after hearing the Republican candidate's speech in Phoenix Wednesday.
1 Sep 2016 – 02:17 PM EDT
Donald Trump. Crédito: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Donald Trump's speech in Arizona Wednesday night ended nearly two weeks of speculation about the candidate's potential flip-flop on immigration, confirming that Trump would indeed push for a number of hardline proposals if elected, especially more deportations. The speech appeased conservatives who had not wanted Trump to soften his approach.

But many Republican voters were not happy about Trump's immigration speech.

Latino conservatives like Jacob Monty and Alfonso Aguilar, who had tried to convince Trump to take a softer approach, expressed deep frustration with Trump's immigration plan.

Monty, a Houston-based immigration lawyer, has donated thousands of dollars to various Republican campaigns and supports immigration reform for millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States who contribute to its economy and lack a criminal record.

Monty first backed Jeb Bush, and then Marco Rubio. Initially, he opposed Trump but in June he wrote an op-ed in the Houston Chronicle making the case for the Republican candidate.

"A President Trump would be a lot more likely to steer a compromise [on immigration] reform through a Republican-controlled House of Representatives than a President Hillary Clinton, even if she were inclined to do so," he wrote.

Monty, a member of Trump's National Hispanic Advisory Council, joined businessmen, evangelical pastors and state representatives in a meeting with the Republican candidate at Trump Tower on August 20. That day, Monty told Univision News that he was pleased, since Trump showed an openness to legalizing millions of undocumented immigrants and had mentioned the possibility of allowing them to do so without returning to their home countries.

Since then, Trump gave contradictory statements on immigration and Monty stopped taking press calls, waiting for the candidate to clarify his position in Phoenix.

But Monty broke his silence several hours after the speech Wednesday, on Facebook:

He decided to quit Trump's Hispanic council.

He wasn't the only one to leave. Another member of the council, Texas pastor Ramiro Peña, wrote an email to Hispanic leaders at the Republican National Committee excoriating Trump. Politico published part of it:

"I am so sorry but I believe Mr. Trump lost the election tonight. The 'National Hispanic Advisory Council' seems to be simply for optics and I do not have the time or energy for a scam," he wrote.

In fact, half of the Hispanic advisory board could quit today, conservative pundit Leslie Sanchez wrote on Twitter. "They feel misled. Really 'hot' crowd. Extremely upset," she tweeted.

Other Latino Republicans expressed their frustration, including Alfonso Aguilar, an official in the George W. Bush administration that runs the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles.

For years, Aguilar has supported immigration reform and at first opposed Trump. But a few months ago he decided to back the candidate, thinking he could change his mind on immigration.

“It’s so disappointing because we feel we took a chance, a very risky chance,” Aguilar said Wednesday. “We decided to make a big U-turn to see if we could make him change. We thought we were moving in the right direction … we’re disappointed. We feel misled.”

Daniel Garza, executive director of the LIBRE Initiative, a Koch brothers-funded group aimed at promoting libertarian values among Hispanics, was also disappointed.

Several days before the speech, Garza told Univision News he wouldn't support just any plan. "Any status given [to immigrants] must recognize their right to change jobs or to start a business," he said. "Also the right to visit their country of origin when and how they want and the right to bring their immediate family here. If Trump's plan doesn't include those conditions, I would not support him."

In his Phoenix speech, Trump ignored advice from his Hispanic council members to distinguish between undocumented immigrants who commit serious crimes and those who have a traffic violation. He also decided against keeping the Obama administration's deportation priorities, which aims to give relief to immigrants without criminal records. Instead, he said he'd prioritize deporting those who overstay their visas, which could affect 6 million people, according to the Washington Post.