President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign launches an effort to court the Hispanic vote in Miami this week, but Florida Democrats are criticizing the attempt as a “repugnant, political act” that contradicts the political rhetoric and record of his first term.
A half-dozen Democratic Latino activists, gathered in an AFL-CIO office in Miami Springs on Monday afternoon, argued the afternoon before the Republican announcement that their communities should reject Trump’s candidacy wholesale.
“If Donald Trump wins, nothing good will come to our community,” said Mayra Macias, the vice president of the Latino Victory Fund, a progressive political organization. “His policies have undermined Latinos and Latino families across the country, whether it’s healthcare, jobs and wages or separating migrant children at the border and putting them in horrifying conditions.
“It’s laughable that Donald Trump is launching his Latino coalition in Florida,” she added.
Vice President Mike Pence is traveling to Miami on Tuesday morning to announce a “Latinos for Trump” coalition intended to erode the advantage Democrats have typically had in Hispanic communities. Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez, a former state representative from Miami, is joining him and being named co-chair of the national effort.
The launch nearly coincides with two days of Democratic presidential debates that are being held in downtown Miami on Wednesday and Thursday.
But several Democratic activists slammed Trump’s aggressive immigration policies, his reluctance to send aid to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria and anti-socialist language they say panders to Latino communities — including Cubans, Venezuelans and Colombians — because it belies Trump’s actions.
Frank Mora, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Western Hemisphere, cited an uptick in deportation numbers from 2016 to 2018 under Trump: “Under this administration, Cubans are now being deported in larger and larger numbers.”
He added that under Trump, the long-running family reunification program that brought 20,000 Cubans to the U.S. over two decades “has now practically been suspended. ... The president talks with one hand about how he wants to help the Venezuelan community, the Cuban-American community. On the left, his actions demonstrate something completely different.”
After a disappointing showing in Florida’s 2018 midterms, state Democrats are fearing that the new Republican effort may win over some of Miami’s exile communities, which can vary widely in political alignment. The Florida Democratic Party has already dispatched 90 field organizers, many bilingual, to South Florida to increase voter registration and turnout, as well as feed local media in English and Spanish to counter conservative messaging.
Speakers at Monday’s press conference delivered their comments in both languages, and in some cases directly addressed the voters they said might support the president.
“I want to remind these Latino immigrants who are supporting President Trump a couple of things they may have forgotten. ... If they are here, it is because of the generosity of someone at that moment saying yes, you are welcome here,” said Evelyn Pérez-Verdia, a Democratic political consultant.
Pérez-Verdia, who was a spokeswoman for former Broward elections supervisor Brenda Snipes, referenced the conditions in which migrant children who have been separated at the border are being held — in some cases without soap or blankets.
“We believe that we need someone in office that cares more about the immigrants than what we are seeing now.”