POLITICS

Donald Trump addresses Latino leaders in South Florida at much-postponed event

Donald Trump at Latino outreach event in Miami. Florida state Rep. Carlos Trujillo sits to his right.

Donald Trump at Latino outreach event in Miami. Florida state Rep. Carlos Trujillo sits to his right.  (Martin Bermudez)

Fresh off the first debate of the general election on Monday, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump appeared before an audience of more than 150 Latino business and political leaders in Miami Tuesday afternoon.

The event, held at Miami Dade College, had been postponed twice before, but that did not temper the enthusiasm among the crowd for Trump's candidacy.

Irina Vilariño, who fled Cuba with her family in the early 1980s through the Mariel boatlift, told Fox News Latino that Trump assured the crowd that he understands the struggles of many Hispanics.

“He said he sympathized with our sentiments, he knows how we come [here] for freedom, for opportunities,” said Vilariño.

The 30-minute event kicked off with a tribute to Miami Marlins star pitcher José Fernández, who died Sunday at the age of 24 along with two of his friends in a boating accident. 

“What a talent. What a great person,” Trump said of Fernández, according to the Miami Herald.

“I was just talking to Jeff Loria about José,” he added, referring to the owner of the Marlins. “He’s devastated.”

Those in the audience got inside the venue by invitation. Many were Republicans and, more specifically, Trump backers.

Several people were brought on stage to share stories of their family’s arrival in the United States, as well as why they support Trump.

While polls have shown Trump trailing behind Democrat Hillary Clinton among Latino likely voters, some demographic groups, such as Cuban-Americans and Venezuelan-Americans in South Florida, include many among their ranks who favor him.

Addressing the audience from the stage, where he was joined by Florida state Rep. Carlos Trujillo who acted as emcee, Trump said of Venezuela: “I see the problems. I see them on the news every night."

He added, "I’ve got so many friends from Cuba, and they’re so unhappy.” 

If elected president, he said, referring to U.S.-Cuba policy, “We’ll make the right deal. We will make the right deal, believe me.”

Martin S. Bermudez, a Miami businessman who emigrated from El Salvador, said that although Trump spoke briefly – perhaps 10 minutes – his message resonated.

“It was sort of a surreal experience, I had butterflies,” Bermudez said. “Most of us are immigrants who came to this country, we’re proud to be here, we want to protect what we have here. Where the country is heading now is just down the drain.”

Bermudez said that Trump’s hard line on immigration does not bother him.

“He’s anti-illegal immigrants, illegal means you’re breaking the law,” said Bermudez, whose family fled El Salvador’s bloody civil war in the early 1980s and received political asylum. “Our immigration is out of control. It will come to a point where it rips apart our country.”

“This is the last frontier,” said Bermudez, an Army veteran, about the United States. “From here, we can’t go anywhere else.”

For her part, Vilariño, whose family owns 17 Cuban restaurants in South Florida. said, “We need to go back to common-sense principles. We need orderly immigration.”

“There’s a reason people come to the United States,” she added. “They know that when they come here, work hard, within a year they can have a cell phone, a car, a decent life for themselves and their family.”

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