ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – The leader of the oldest Latino civil rights organization in the U.S. is facing harsh criticism for endorsing President Donald Trump’s immigration framework that includes a border wall.
Roger Rocha, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, wrote Trump this week to say the storied civil rights group would support his plan for a wall in exchange for protecting young immigrants brought to the country illegally.
“The four pillars which you have outlined, (Border Security, DACA Legalization, Protect the Nuclear Family and Elimination of the Lottery and Repurpose Visas) are items that LULAC can support if they remain within the current framework you have proposed,” Rocha wrote in a letter dated January 28. “I encourage you to stay engaged on what you have proposed in order to prevent other variations from being introduced by Congress.”
But the group’s endorsement of the border wall and new restrictions on legal immigration drew strong reactions from the group’s members and activists across the country who say such policies would hurt Hispanics.
“Like everyone else I’d like Congress to find a permanent solution for DACA students,” said LULAC member Ralph Arellanes of Albuquerque, referring to the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. “But the wall…that’s not the message you want to send.”
On social media, group members and Latino activists attacked Rocha for the letter and criticized him for support a plan many called racist.
Rudy Acuna, a noted historian and author of “Occupied America: A History of Chicanos,” called Rocha’s letter “a complete sellout” and urged the Latino group’s members to speak out.
“(Rocha) does not know even the basics of immigration and he is applauding Trump,” Acuna wrote on his Facebook page.
Washington State LULAC Director Diana Perez said Rocha’s letter was not approved nor seen by the national board before it was released.
“We are working together to address this unfortunate situation and remain united as a civil rights organization with clear purpose and direction,” Perez said in a statement.
Rocha, of Laredo, Texas, said his group has been working to help find a solution to protect thousands of young people in the U.S. illegally after arriving as children.
“We offered the president some suggestions and when he released his framework it was similar to what we proposed,” Rocha said.
Associated Press writer Russell Contreras is a member of the AP’s race and ethnicity team. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/russcontreras