When Natalie Lally told her Colombian family that she was supporting Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, silence fell over her grandmother’s living room.
“They just kind of seemed uneasy,” she recalled. And my uncle just said, ‘Why?’”
“I’m not ashamed to vote for Trump,” the 22-year-old college student from New York City added. “I’d just rather not have the conversation with my family.”
"I have talked to a lot of people and of course they criticize me. They ask, 'Do you hate your race?' I feel discriminated against, honestly."
- Carlos Guerra
Lally’s experience in “coming out” to family and friends about her support for Trump is similar to that of an increasingly vocal Hispanic minority that is speaking out in favor of the brash billionaire. A glaring contrast to many Hispanic voters around the country that have waved Mexican flags and bash Donald Trump piñata – clashing with police, at times – all to protest his hard line approach on immigration.
In the border towns of Texas, the working-class neighborhoods of New York, and even inside Trump's overwhelmingly white rallies, the pro-Trump Hispanic minority is willing to risk public and private ridicule to defend the GOP's presumptive presidential nominee. So far, however, they're not getting much help from Trump's campaign, which has yet to launch an outreach effort to improve his standing with the growing voting bloc.
Approximately 23 percent of Hispanics said they'd vote for Trump in a May poll conducted by Fox News Latino. Other recent polling places Trump far lower. The GOP's last presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, has cited his poor standing with Hispanic voters as one of his biggest regrets from the last election, when he earned 27 percent of the Hispanic vote.
Heated protests have followed the Republican leader across the country, particularly in urban centers and states, like New Mexico and California, with large Hispanic populations.
During a Wednesday appearance in Anaheim, he claimed "a great relationship with the Hispanics."
"The Mexican people are great. They're going to vote for me like crazy," he said.
Outside the Anaheim event, a small group of protesters pummeled and decapitated a Trump piñata as police arrested more protesters.
Trump's team acknowledges the importance of the voting bloc, but says there has been little organized outreach so far.
"Any demographic that is growing at the rate of the Latino voters obviously will be of the utmost importance to a presidential campaign," Trump aide Ed Brookover said when asked about Hispanic outreach. "I know it's been talked about, but I think it's a touch early. I don't know of anything organized."
Trump's team expects to work closely with the Republican National Committee, however, which has had paid Hispanic outreach staff on the ground in nine states.
Trump supporters are eager to help.
Carlos Guerra, a 24-year-old son of Mexican immigrants who lives along the border in Laredo, Texas, says he wants to do more than wear Trump's "Make American Great Again" hat around town.
"Our town is sick of the violence from Mexico," he said, applauding Trump's plan to build a massive wall on the border. "People are dying every day."
Some of his family members also support Trump, but "they're not as loud about it," he said.
"I have talked to a lot of people and of course they criticize me," Guerra added. "They ask, 'Do you hate your race?' I feel discriminated against, honestly."
Trump's policies and tone on immigration have sparked passionate — and sometimes violent — reactions from minority voters.
His vow to complete a massive wall along the Mexican border is a pillar of his agenda. He has also promised to impose a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S., embraced plans to deport more than 11 million immigrants in the country illegally and described Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals in his announcement speech.
He lashed out at protesters who clashed with police outside his Tuesday rally in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The protesters, including many Hispanics, waved Mexican flags while others hurled rocks at police.
"The protesters in New Mexico were thugs who were flying the Mexican flag," Trump wrote on Twitter. "The rally inside was big and beautiful, but outside, criminals!"
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.