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Trump’s Bizarre Strategy To Win Back Latino Supporters Is Definitely Not Working

CREDIT: AP PHOTO/JAE C. HONG
CREDIT: AP PHOTO/JAE C. HONG

If there was any doubt before, Trump probably won’t win over Latino voters now.

On Saturday, thousands of supporters and other gawkers are expected to join Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a “Join Donald J. Trump & Stand Up To Illegal Immigration” event at the Phoenix Convention center in Arizona. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, an anti-immigrant official embroiled in countless racial-profiling incidents against Latinos and immigrants, is set to speak before Trump at the event.

Ticket for Donald Trump event in Phoenix, AZ CREDIT: Screengrab
Ticket for Donald Trump event in Phoenix, AZ CREDIT: Screengrab

Though Trump claims that he “loves the Mexican people,” his appearance with Arpaio is seemingly at odds with that defense.

For decades, Arpaio has made it his mission to dehumanize undocumented immigrants and put them in deportation proceedings. He’s set up an outdoor “Tent City” where at least 2,000 immigrant detainees picked up for non-violent offenses suffer sweltering conditions. He’s also paraded detainees through the streets of Phoenix and forced them to wear pink underwear. And his staff allegedly refused to unshackle an immigrant woman giving birth from her bed at a local hospital.

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In 2013, a U.S. District judge ruled that Arpaio racially profiled Latinos during traffic stops and immigration sweeps. He was ordered a court-appointed monitor for his unconstitutional racial profiling tactics. Since then, his office has made insincere efforts to address racial biases, even reportedly spying on the judge’s wife then asking the judge to recuse himself because his decisions may be biased.

“It’s a slap in the face to hear that Donald Trump was … going to be joined by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, given that Arpaio is the symbol of racism and anti-immigrant bigotry in the entire nation,” Francisca Porchas, the organizing director for the immigrant rights group Puente Arizona, told ThinkProgress.

And Trump likely can’t afford to stoke more feelings of anti-immigrant bigotry. Since his presidential campaign announcement last month, Trump has come under fire for characterizing Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers. He’s lost numerous business partnerships as a result, each time insulting those businesses or threatening them with lawsuits. Even RNC Chairman Reince Priebus reportedly told Donald Trump to soften his immigration rhetoric, fearing that the controversial comments could hurt the Republican Party’s image.

CREDIT: Courtesy of Puente Arizona
CREDIT: Courtesy of Puente Arizona

Members from Puente Arizona and at least three other major immigrant rights organizations are planning to protest Saturday’s event. Some are expected to bring banners with Arpaio and Trump’s faces, reading, “Arizona rejects your racism. Dump Arpaio. Dump Trump.” Others will likely tell their personal stories of run-ins with Arpaio and other Maricopa County officials.

For undocumented immigrants like Maria Belen, a 21-year-old from Argentina, attending the protest is “a personal issue.” She says Trump’s comments were “very offensive, very racist.”

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“I’m undocumented and my family is undocumented. He put us all in one category, saying really racist and xenophobic comments,” Belen told ThinkProgress. “We were angry that someone could go up on national television and spew such hate and untrue supposed facts about our community and what we do. He’s so out of touch with the community. If only if he came to a worksite or to see his workers, he would not be saying these things. Or maybe he would. It’s very hurtful.”

Belen was also offended that Trump has chosen to partner with Arpaio, who she says has gotten rich off the back of immigrants without “appreciating their work or their contributions to society.” It has lately been reported that undocumented immigrants were working onsite at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

He’s so out of touch with the community.

Trump’s appearance in Phoenix has received mixed reviews from local lawmakers. Arizona Republican Sen. John Jeff Flake, a supporter of the comprehensive immigration overhaul proposed in 2013, told the Washington Post that he was “not excited” about Trump’s appearance, stating that it would damage the Republican Party’s image. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) similarly echoed those sentiments.

But Trump’s supporters include A.J. LaFaro, former head of the Maricopa County Republican Party, who said that Trump “is saying what a lot of people here in the United States, I would like to think a majority of the people here in the Unites States, are thinking.” Former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) has also chimed in, telling CNN that Trump is just “telling it like it really, truly is.

Brewer has her own history of controversial positions on immigration. She signed S.B. 1070, an anti-immigrant state law created to make life as difficult as possible for undocumented immigrants five years ago. A federal court struck down one of the remaining key components of the law last year, invalidating a provision that criminalizes smuggling. But the most controversial part of the law that still remains is the “show me your papers” provision, which allows local officials to check the immigration status of suspected undocumented immigrants.

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Undocumented immigrants like Belen and her father, who works as a landscaper, fear a return to the days of S.B. 1070 in the off-chance that Trump becomes president. Her father still cannot get a driver’s license because the state prohibits it.

“My dad drives a landscaping truck and he was stopped … because of him driving a landscaping truck,” Belen said. “The police officer gave some excuse of how his insurance wasn’t valid. But his insurance is valid. Why would you stop somebody? It was those things that you could start seeing that the police had a different kind of power within the community, that instead of us going to them for help, it became being us afraid of them.”

Trump’s Phoenix event, originally slated for the Arizona Biltmore resort, which can hold 1,000 guests, was changed to the convention center reportedly because of the “overwhelming amount of support.” Critics like Belen, however, believe that pressure from the Latino community may have contributed to the switch.

It’s a bit delusional.

Just a day prior, Trump appeared at a “Friends of Abe” event hosted by conservative Hollywood filmmakers in Los Angeles, CA with family members of victims allegedly killed by undocumented immigrants. He said, “People came into the country illegally and killed their children.” One woman whose son was killed in a traffic collision stated, “My taxpayer dollars are paying for all these illegals and their children. I’ve lost my child, how much more do I have to give?” Trump also made a stop at a Freedom Fest event in Las Vegas, NV earlier Saturday.

The Pew Research Center found that Latinos make up about 30 percent of Arizona’s population, with 902,000 eligible voters in 2014. Even though Trump is confident that he “can win the Latino vote,” holding a rally with Arpaio likely won’t help him win over any supporters.

“It’s a bit delusional,” Porchas said. “You can’t hold a rally in Arizona and call it ‘Join me in the fight against illegal immigration’ and say that Latinos, especially Mexicans, are rapists and expect the Latino community to respond well.”

She added said that Saturday’s protest aims to “send out a clear message to both Donald Trump himself who has made racist statements and Arpaio, but … all other presidential candidates that the Latino community will not tolerate this type of racist bigotry from anyone.”