By Brenda Flanagan
“They need to consider the Hispanic vote if they want to go to the White House,” said Luis De La Hoz, board member of the New Jersey Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
And at their Chamber of Commerce luncheon, the movers and shakers in New Jersey’s Hispanic business community talked shop and rated last night’s GOP debaters.
“If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t even be talking about illegal immigration, Chris,” Trump said.
“Trump was a clown yesterday,” said Frank Garcia, chairman of the New York Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “And I felt he’s not sensitive enough to be president.”
Most agreed Trump’s strident, anti-Mexican, build-a-border-wall rant still outrages an Hispanic community hungry for meaningful immigration reform.
“The Mexican government is much smarter, much sharper, much more cunning and they send the bad ones over because they don’t want to pay for them, they don’t want to take care of them. Why should they when the stupid leaders of the United States will do it for them? And that’s what’s happening whether you like it or not,” Trump said.
“How dare you say things about people like that? I just don’t get it. I’m not too happy. I don’t want to go ballistic and go off,” said Loretta Gregory Bowe, CEO of Simply Britt’s Gourmet.
“With the venom with which it is being spewed by Trump and others, it criminalizes the whole process and that scares us,” said Carmen Torres-Izquierdo, education services coordinator for The Latino Institute.
“Right now everybody is focused on the same enemy, basically,” De La Hoz said. Trump? “Yes,” he said.
Jeb Bush’s plan — finding a way to let undocumented immigrants earn legal status, without awarding amnesty — struck a positive note.
“The great majority of people coming here illegally had no other option. They want to provide for their family. But we need to control our border. It’s our responsibility to pick and choose who comes in,” Bush said.
“I want to hear more of what he has to say. I don’t think he’s the best speaker, but I think his core values say something about him,” said Dee Rivera, CEO of Dee & Co Group.
“I agree — a path to citizenship is the answer. They want something better for their family so they’re willing to come over here and work two, three jobs, work 12 hours a day. And our economy counts on them, is the bottom line. So if you try to deport the illegal immigrants, our economy will fall apart,” said Carlos Medina, chairman of the New Jersey Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Many liked Marco Rubio’s idea — create a clear path to citizenship — and welcome those trying to enter the country legally.
“The people that call my office, who have been waiting for 15 years to come to the United States and they paid their fees and they hired a lawyer and they can’t get in. And they’re wondering — maybe they should come illegally,” Rubio said.
“I think Rubio is our shining star, not just because he’s Hispanic. He understands the community. He did a lot with small business,” Garcia said.
Gov. Chris Christie never got a question on immigration.
“That’s where we don’t hear Christie — our governor of New Jersey — talk about. So that’s of concern to us. We don’t hear him talk enough about it. So that’s an issue I think he’s gonna have to attack more,” Garcia said.
The debate format — with its rapid-fire questions — left many wanting to hear more from the candidates. People here say the Hispanic voting bloc is powerful. They’re going to help elect the next president.