BOULDER, Colo. — Declaring Donald Trump anathema to the Latino community, Hispanic conservative leaders issued a stern warning Tuesday to other Republican presidential candidates who adopt the billionaire's hardline immigration views.
"Don’t embrace the language of Mr. Trump. Stay away from those proposals that are bad policy," said Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the American Principles Project's Latino Partnership.
Yet after huddling here ahead of the third GOP presidential primary debate, the group stopped short of extending its criticism to Ted Cruz, the U.S. senator from Texas who has allied himself more closely with Trump than any other White House hopeful in the GOP field.
"At this point, I think we've been very clear that we're not going to endorse or attack any candidate beside Donald Trump," said Aguilar. "If we don't see a course correction, then I think we may start naming other names."
The coalition of about a dozen Latino Republican groups plans to meet again before the fifth Republican debate, scheduled for Dec. 15 in Las Vegas. In an interview before speaking he to reporters, Aguilar said that could be when the leaders single out other hopefuls if they have not noticed a change in how the GOP field is appealing to Latino voters.
Cruz has struck somewhat of an alliance with Trump, praising him for drawing attention to the issue of illegal immigration and backing his call to end birthright citizenship. That proposal was among several the leaders said Tuesday would put Republican candidates at a severe disadvantage with Hispanic voters in the primary and especially the general election.
Reports leading up the news conference had indicated the leaders were holding it because they were alarmed by both Cruz and Trump. On Tuesday, however, Aguilar said the group "never said in any moment that we would attack Ted Cruz or any other candidate."
The confusion led at least one group, the LIBRE Initiative, to decide against sending representatives to the event. The head of the organization, however, said Tuesday he would have gone if he did not have a prior commitment.
"I understand Sen. Cruz has come out in support of repealing the 14th Amendment," said LIBRE Initiative executive director Daniel Garza, referring to the amendment that guarantees birthright citizenship. "We may disagree. That doesn’t mean that we are not going to work together on the issues where we absolutely align,” such as reducing government spending and protecting religious freedom.
Another prominent Latino Republican, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, made clear in a statement first issued Thursday that he did not view Cruz and Trump in the same category. Rodriguez is the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which was represented Tuesday by executive vice president Tony Suarez.
"Our recent meetings with Senator Ted Cruz speak to a leader who we admire and appreciate," Rodriguez said. "His commitment to country, faith and family reflect Latino conservative values indeed. He has been nothing less than a gracious and accommodating as it pertains to listening to our concerns regarding the 2016 election. Sen. Ted Cruz is not Donald Trump."