Some of the most prominent Latino conservatives are planning to hold a meeting this week in Colorado to discuss the presidential election and concerns about the tone of some of the GOP candidates.
One of the key organizers, Alfonso Aguilar, who is executive director of the American Principles Project's Latino Partnership, told Fox News Latino that some candidates, such as Donald Trump, have espoused views on such things as immigration and used rhetoric that has raised alarms and that they hope to send a message to those contenders that these factors will cost them Latino support.
The meeting is planned for Oct. 27 in Boulder, the day before the next GOP presidential debate is to take place there.
Among those expected to attend the meeting are representatives from the LIBRE Initiative, Mario H. Lopez, president of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, Rosario Marin, former U.S. treasurer, and Massey Villareal, the former chairman of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Aguilar said a press conference will follow the meeting.
“They will have words for GOP candidates that speak poorly on immigration,” said an email announcement about the meeting.
Aguilar said that, personally, he was particularly concerned about the immigration stances and tone of Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, both of whom favor strict policies with regard to undocumented people.
He said that he still had not reached conclusions about what position to take on the two candidates.
“We have concerns about their immigration position,” he said, referring to himself as well as other conservative Latino leaders.
Both Trump and Cruz have called for strict immigration enforcement – including tightened border security, an end to sanctuary cities, and to birthright citizenship.
Trump has used language that has angered many Latinos, as well as other ethnic groups. He said when launching his campaign that Mexico dumps its worst people along the border, and said that many of them are rapists and drug dealers. He’s also called for mass deportation, adding that there would be a way for the “good” ones to return.
Rick Tyler, national spokesman for Cruz, said the campaign has disagreements with some Latino leaders over how to deal with immigration and some other issues, but he said that it has a cordial relationship with them nonetheless, and keeps the lines of communication open.
“We have substantive disagreements on some issues, and we’re talking these things over” with Latino leaders, Tyler said to Fox News Latino.
“Ted Cruz is the son of a first-generation Cuban immigrant who came legally,” Tyler said, adding that Cruz’s family story shows “you can legally come to this country, make something of yourself and, now, his son is running for president of the United States. Ted Cruz wants to have policies that make this possible.”
Some of the leaders planning to attend – or sent representatives to -- the Boulder meeting said they were concerned about the tone with which immigration and other issues are discussed in the GOP primary, but drew a distinction between Cruz and Trump.
"We believe that all candidates should support bipartisan efforts to fix our broken immigration system, and should work toward that goal,” said Daniel Garza, Executive Director of The Libre Initiative. “We think that every candidate has an opportunity to get on the right side of this issue, and we hope they do.”
“We have clearly laid out the principles that we believe should guide policymakers as they debate these policy questions,” Garza added. We have great respect for Senator Cruz, which is why we invited him to participate in one of our policy forums."
The LIBRE Initiative, which is active in Latino outreach across the country, receives funding from the billionaire Koch brothers, who have played an increasingly important role in advancing conservative principles and supporting political candidates who embrace them.
“Donald Trump and the Republican presidential contenders must engage in a redemptive and reconciliatory rhetoric with the Hispanic American electorate in order to step into the promise land of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” said Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the nation's largest Latino evangelical organization. “Latino voters represent the proverbial Jordan that Republican presidential contenders must cross.”
Rodriguez added that Cruz should not be viewed in same vein as Trump.
“His commitment to country, faith and family reflect Latino conservative values indeed,” Rodriguez said in an email to Fox News Latino. “He has been nothing less than gracious and accommodating as it pertains to listening to our concerns regarding the 2016 election. Senator Ted Cruz is not Donald Trump."
Several Latino pollsters have said that a presidential candidate would need more than 40 percent of the Latino vote to win the election.
Tyler said that Cruz, who has voted against measures calling for giving breaks to undocumented immigrants, wants to focus on the loopholes and magnets that make possible illegal immigration.
He said Cruz wants tighter border security, better tracking of people who enter on visas, and national implementation of E-Verify to help employers determine a person's eligibility to work in the United States.
Asked what he would do about the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants already living here, Tyler said that discussion of that should come after borders are secure and other conditions contributing to illegal immigration are addressed.
Aguilar said “the consensus is that Cruz has a terrible stance on immigration.”
Aguilar accused the Cruz campaign staff of trying to lean on some attendees to get them to offer something of a defense of the senator.
“The sad thing is they want to try to divide this group, it’s a last minute effort to try to prevent us from saying potential negative comments about Cruz,” he said. “To me, this shows that when conservative Latinos come together, we become a very strong source.”