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August 18, 2019

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Trump’s hard-line immigration speech stirs frustration among local activist groups


Evan Vucci / AP

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers an immigration policy speech during a campaign rally at the Phoenix Convention Center, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016, in Phoenix.

Updated Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016 | 9:59 a.m.

Almost in unison, the group of predominantly Hispanics gathered at a viewing event in North Las Vegas shook their heads, laughed and booed as Donald Trump rattled off each level of his 10-step immigration plan.

The Republican presidential nominee continued his staunch stances on illegal immigration Wednesday night during a Phoenix speech, reaffirming plans to build a wall on the southern border and deport many of the estimated 11 million immigrants living illegally in the United States. His speech didn’t sit well with the group of locals — or Hispanics nationwide.

“He has made demeaning, degrading and deporting immigrants the cornerstone of his campaign,” said Raul Ravelo, a 13-year Las Vegas resident and UNLV graduate who was born in Mexico City. “It’s very disheartening.”

Trump’s rhetoric drew loud cheers and applause from supporters attending his 72-minute Phoenix speech.

But Nevada, an important election swing state, viewing-event attendees from Hispanic-member organizations such as Mi Familia Vota, The Nevada Center for Community Change, Plan Action and Nevada’s Voice For our Future clearly disagreed. Many are first-generation Americans.

“Hate and racism is part of the history of this country we don’t want to repeat,” said Jocelyn Sida, Nevada State Director for Mi Familia Vota. “In America, we’re better than that, and we’ve moved on from that level of oppression.”

Shouts coming from the crowd included “What is this?,” “disgusting” and “you have got to be kidding me.” They felt Trump failed to address key issues related to race relations and income inequality.

“This country is made of immigrants, so I don’t understand those viewpoints at all,” said Mackenzie Matheny, of Nevada’s Voice For our Future.

Trump said he’d work to deport undocumented immigrants who have committed serious crimes on “the first hour of Day One” of his presidency. Trump added he would develop a commission to research which regions or countries post a greatest threat to American security and suspending immigration from those countries. He said Syria and Libya would be high on his list.

“Anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation,” Trump said.

He reiterated that Mexico would pay for construction of a wall between the two countries, just hours after reportedly avoiding the topic in an impromptu meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico City. The hour-long meeting was Trump’s first formal international trip as the party’s nominee.

Trump's Nevada team issued a statement Wednesday from Charles Muñoz, the campaign's Nevada state director, saying “Donald Trump is the only candidate in this race with a plan to end illegal immigration. Nevada has the highest percentage of illegal immigrants of any state in the nation and this has had a damaging effect on the wages, prosperity and security of legal residents and American citizens. Donald Trump will secure our borders, enforce our laws, remove illegal immigrant criminals and eliminate sanctuary cities. By contrast, Hillary Clinton will leave our borders wide open, jeopardizing the economic and personal security of Nevadans, and award amnesty to those who have broken our laws.”

While Trump visited Mexico City, leading members of the Nevada State Democratic Party expressed their criticism during an afternoon rally in east Las Vegas Nevada State Sen. Ruben Kihuen, Assemblyman Nelson Araujo, Asian American Pacific Islander community leader Rozita Lee and Ravelo — a local DREAMer — spoke out against what they called “divisive rhetoric.”

“No matter what he says in Mexico City and in Arizona, his immigration plan to forcibly remove 11 million people from our country will be the same,” Kihuen said. “This is a publicity stunt.”

Kihuen told Latino voters in Spanish that Trump posed a threat to deferred action programs, which provides leniency for immigrants that arrived in the U.S. before 2010 to legally reside and seek employment.

Lee, a 37-year Las Vegas resident born to Filipino parents, argued immigrants excluded by Trump’s policies were not just limited to Hispanics. She pointed out Asian immigrants represented nearly one-fourth of all people to move to the United States last year.

“They’re going through their own challenges, but they’re affected just as much by Donald Trump,” Lee said. “What’s next, building walls on the ocean, to prevent Filipinos and from coming to the United States?”

In a statement Thursday, Trump's Nevada State Director Charles Munoz rebuked the concerns brought forth by the local groups. Munoz said ending illegal immigration will help resolve wage problems and the improve the security of legal residents.

"Donald Trump will secure our borders, enforce our laws, remove illegal immigrant criminals and eliminate sanctuary cities," Munoz said.

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