POLITICS

In gala event, HUD's three Latino secretaries highlight Hispanics' political sway

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 04:  San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro gives the keynote address on stage during day one of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 4, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC that will run through September 7, will nominate U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 04: San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro gives the keynote address on stage during day one of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 4, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC that will run through September 7, will nominate U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)  (2012 Getty Images)

The current U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary joined two of his Latino predecessors Tuesday night in Washington to honor their public service at gala organized by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

HUD Secretary Julian Castro and others honored Henry Cisneros, who served as HUD Secretary under President Bill Clinton, and Mel Martinez, who held the position under President George W. Bush.

“Twenty-five years ago, there had never been a Hispanic cabinet officer,” Cisneros said, according to the Dallas Morning News. “And here you just had three persons who served in one department.”

Both Castro and Cisneros are Mexican-American and Martinez is Cuban-American.

Coming on the same night as the second Super Tuesday primary elections, the event took a political turn when each of the former HUD secretaries called out some in the Republican Party who have taken a harsh rhetoric toward Latinos and immigrants. They particularly took aim at GOP front-runner Donald Trump, who won three states on Tuesday night and has centered much of his campaign on calling out illegal immigration and stumping for stepped up border security.

“I’m very disappointed that the Latino community has been targeted the way that it has,” Cisneros said. “We cannot be a throwaway community.”

Martinez, the only Republican of three Latino HUD secretaries, said that the GOP that he is seeing in this presidential campaign season is not the party that he knew.

“It was the old Republican Party,” he said of his time in office. “And maybe the future one.”

For his part, Castro, a surrogate for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, shied away from calling out her opponents but did point out the increased importance of Latinos in the electoral process.

“Already, nearly a quarter of the folks under the age of 17 in this country are Latino,” he said, praising the growing role of Hispanic Americans in public life. “What that means is that the U.S. destiny is intertwined with the Latino destiny.”

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