POLITICS

National Latino business group endorses Clinton and Kasich, snubs Cruz

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 19:  President and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) Javier Palomarez speaks during a breakfast meeting of the chamber's 2013 Annual Legislative Summit March 19, 2013 at Capitol Hilton Hotel in Washington, DC. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) also spoke at the event on immigration and he announced his endorsement for a pathway for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States to become citizens.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 19: President and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) Javier Palomarez speaks during a breakfast meeting of the chamber's 2013 Annual Legislative Summit March 19, 2013 at Capitol Hilton Hotel in Washington, DC. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) also spoke at the event on immigration and he announced his endorsement for a pathway for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States to become citizens. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)  (2013 Getty Images)

Although for the first time ever a Latino has made it far into the presidential election, coming in second in delegates near the end of the primary cycle for the Republican nomination, one of the nation’s most prominent Latino groups is endorsing Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and GOP contender John Kasich.

The U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce announced its endorsement of Clinton and Kasich on Thursday as presidential nominees for the general election.

The move seems to be an outright snub of Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican who has a hard line on immigration as well as other issues.

Many Latino organizations, including Republican ones, have expressed opposition to Cruz, saying that despite his Cuban heritage – on his father’s side – he embraces policies and positions that are detrimental to Latinos.

Of the remaining GOP candidates – Cruz, Kasich and real estate mogul Donald Trump – Kasich, who is Ohio governor, is the most moderate.

Chamber President Javier Palomarez said that as much as he would have wanted the chamber to be able to endorse Cruz, the Texan didn’t fit the bill.

“I’m heart-broken we can’t endorse a Latino for the presidency,” Palomarez said to Fox News Latino. “I hope to see the day when a Latino takes that office.”

“But this isn’t about my feelings, but what is right for my constituency,” Palomarez said. “Ted Cruz is a man who believes that we must do a mass deportation of 12 million – that would cripple certain sectors, [such as] the hospitality sector, the agricultural sector.”

“He is more grounded in political ideology than in our economy’s needs.”

The chamber has gotten more involved than it ever has been in politics, hosting question-and-answer forums with candidates from both parties and endorsing Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro for Democratic vice president and New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez for Republican vice president.

It also endorsed Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, in his bid for re-election.

The chamber made headlines last year after a dispute with Trump, who originally had agreed to participate in one of its forums but then backed out. Palomarez took the mogul to task for his about-face, and for his actions and remarks that he said were offensive and harmful to Latinos.

The endorsements have attracted criticism from those who say the organization should focus on business, not politics. 

“As a 501(c)(3), you cannot endorse candidates,” said Frank Garcia, chairman of the New York State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said to Fox News Latino. “A lot of my members are afraid” of legal repercussions because the endorsements by the national organization.”

The New York chamber took issue with a meeting Palomarez had last year with Trump in New York City, and to the USHCC invitation to the mogul to take part in the presidential question-and-answer forum.

The dispute was depicted as a symptom of broader friction between the New York and national Hispanic chambers. Recently, the national chamber dropped New York as a member.

Mindful of the criticism about its involvement in politics, the national chamber has been careful to endorse and establish relationships with political figures in both the Republican and Democratic parties.

Palomarez said the national chamber decided to get involved in this presidential election because the rhetoric and policy proposals of some candidates had become too alarming to leave unaddressed.

“We are not a civil rights organization, we’re not a political organization, we are non-partisan,” Palomarez said. “The way the political dialogue has evolved in this election cycle, it got so divisive, so filled with fear and hatred, we felt that American businesses should be heard.”

“When the dialogue [in campaigns] goes contrary to our needs and our mission, we will speak up so that potential policy makers hear us. We should be part of the dialogue.”

The chamber praised Kasich for helping to create jobs in Ohio, and other fiscal moves that benefited the state.

“Governor Kasich understands that sustainable economic growth is needed in order to allow the American people an opportunity to succeed, regardless of background,” the chamber said in a statement. “He also understands that the Hispanic community is not monolithic, and that the issues most important to all Americans are: jobs, the economy, healthcare, education, immigration and national security.”

“Governor Kasich earns our endorsement because, unlike his primary opponents, he has a proven ability to unite people across party lines, and has a track record of enacting bold, comprehensive policies to solve the problems that matter to Hispanic business owners, and all Americans.”

As for its endorsement of Clinton, the chamber said the former Secretary of State has a track record of supporting Latinos.

“From registering Hispanic voters in south Texas as a college student – to helping raise education standards in one of the poorest states in America as First Lady of Arkansas – to strengthening diplomatic and commercial ties around the globe for American small business owners as Secretary of State, Clinton has always stood by our community,” the statement said.

“Secretary Clinton also recognizes that small businesses are the engine of American
economic prosperity.”

“Unlike her primary Democratic opponent, Secretary Clinton has demonstrated the ability to enact a robust and pragmatic policy agenda that will allow the Hispanic small business community to thrive and prosper.”

Elizabeth Llorente is Senior Reporter for FoxNews.com, and can be reached at Elizabeth.Llorente@Foxnews.com. Follow her on Twitter @Liz_Llorente.