Why the President’s Call for Unity Hits a Wall with Latinos

When it comes to warmer relations with Latinos, it seems as though the president just cannot stop arguing with himself.


What He Said:

“America First is about unity. It’s about coming together as one family — one big, beautiful American family — no matter our race, or color, or creed, to protect our jobs, our communities, and our country. We want all Americans to thrive and flourish together …”

“… Latinos are also starting new businesses at three times the national average. That’s pretty good. Three times.

“The American economy is coming back bigger and better and stronger than ever before. And Latino businesses are helping to lead the way. You’re paving the path.”

President Trump’s remarks to The Latino Coalition on March 7, 2018


“[Undocumented Mexican immigrants] … are like professional mountain climbers, these are incredible climbers.”

— President Trump in San Diego on March 13, less than a week after The Latino Coalition remarks explaining why he wants a more formidable border wall between the U.S. and Mexico


“Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release. Getting more dangerous. “Caravans” coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!”

— President Trump on Twitter April 1


What Should Be Said

President Trump is increasingly interweaving praise for Latino veterans and entrepreneurs in his remarks at selected venues. This outreach gesture alone would likely reap outsized benefits for the White House because this entrepreneurial community is rational and would be much more receptive to innovative market-based solutions on a variety of issues ripe for reform, including healthcare, education and welfare.

Alas … when it comes to warmer relations with Latinos, it seems as though the president just cannot stop arguing with himself. There are numerous examples which demonstrate how his praise is too often followed by hackneyed stereotypes about immigrants, wrapped in a sales pitch for what many consider fear-driven policies.

The president’s messaging style has pretty much created an automatic knee-jerk reaction to practically every proposal put forth by his administration. He’s effectively building a wall between some of the sound, free market reforms he supports at the local, state, and national level and the hearts and minds of this important community.

It is a problem with both the messaging and the messenger — one amplified among independent-minded, persuadable Hispanic and Latino Americans, many of whom form part of “mixed status” families, as well as faith-based communities. These communities retain a memory of recent insults and past slanders.

A lack of a presidential apology, ongoing conflicting messaging, and policy proposals that seemingly target specific minority groups further erode trust and undermine the president’s call for national unity.

Examples of poor, odd, or conflicting messaging to this audience by the president abound. And of course, it is hard to forget one of the most incendiary outbursts taking place on June 16, 2015, when he announced his candidacy for the U.S. presidency:

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best … They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

It can make a first-generation American wonder: “Really, you’re praising me, but calling my father an illegal immigrant and assuming he’s the worst kind of criminal? Hmmm.” Obviously, and with good reason, it’s very difficult for people to detach human emotion entirely from this public conversation. Perhaps it’s as difficult as it is for the president to fully comprehend how desperate some of these “economic refugees” fleeing crony capitalism or failed socialist states can be.

Moreover, the ongoing utilization of a DACA extension as a bargaining chip and the doubling down on erecting a $25 billion brick-and-mortar boondoggle along our southern border, which evidently Mexico will never pay for, certainly does not help improve free-market groups’ engagement efforts on other topics of concern.

While many are keenly aware of the importance the president places in delivering on this campaign promise, most engaged independent-minded citizens also understand it is no panacea for the problems it purports to solve: illegal immigration, human and drug trafficking, and especially systemic waste, fraud, and abuse of entitlement programs.

This significant problem with messaging to Americans of Hispanic and Latino descent partially explains the latest political firestorm surrounding the administration’s new proposal to add a question about citizenship status in the next U.S. census.

Here are just four things the president can say and/or to truly mend fences with Latinos:

1)    Apologize publicly for past transgressions. President Trump  should really try to show a smidgen of humility and apologize for the way he chose to introduce himself as a political candidate. He should make it quick, contrite, and very public.

2)    Show some good faith. Fix DACA now, and build a more cost-effective virtual wall later, in lieu of a brick-and-mortar wall. The president should look to past proposals that combine the latest technology and the leveraging of public-private partnerships in issuance of temporary visas and seasonal work permits. For instance, although not without flaw, The Vernon K. Kriebel Foundation once proposed a partially viable solution known as The Red Card Solution.

3)    Streamline and make legal immigration fairer. We’re all about the free market and smaller, more efficient government. So, why not start working on making our naturalization and immigration system fairer, less bureaucratic, more accessible, and less expensive for prospective immigrants who show promise and demonstrate drive? Allow them an opportunity to build their skills while in the U.S. and ditch the so-called merit-based system, which does not take into account an immigrant’s future potential and prospective value-add to this country. The University of Phoenix’s “We Rise” campaign illustrates the point beautifully — and taps into the kind of inspirational, uplifting messaging the free market movement and the administration should adopt.

4)    Stop scapegoating and start working on entitlement reform. Most undocumented immigrants are not committing heinous crimes, shamelessly abusing social safety nets, or willingly becoming dependent on the welfare state. The administration should instead take aim at the real problem by working to bring about real welfare reform, which will save taxpayer money and empower more of our nation’s most vulnerable to thrive.


Sandra Pedroarias is the former director of Hispanic and Latino outreach for Think Freely Media. She previously served as senior adviser to the U.S. treasurer and acting director of Global Women’s Issues at the U.S. Department of State.


What Should Be Said shows effective ways of communicating freedom principles by using a storytelling approach, taking the moral high ground, and staying hopeful and aspirational. Media, politicians and thought leaders often fail to include the freedom perspective at all by omitting critical facts. Alternatively, when they do make a sincere attempt to sell the freedom philosophy, they often do so with a stale and defensive approach that is missing stories that humanize the dry facts and figures. Here we show examples of how storytelling and emotionally compelling changes in message will make all the difference for those trying to advocate for liberty.

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