In an ironic use of the weekly Senate menu, protesters delivered dozens of taco salads on Thursday to the offices of Republican lawmakers in protest of Donald Trump’s visit to Capitol Hill.
The GOP’s presumed presidential nominee met with House and Senate leaders to discuss his presumed party nomination and sit face-to-face with many senior lawmakers for the first time. But the meetings came on the same day that the Senate Carry-Out, a basement level haunt in the U.S. Capitol, serves taco salads, a meal cherished by many senators, staffers and Hill reporters.
Trump angered Latino leaders and some Republicans last week when he tweeted a photo of himself with a taco salad on Cinco de Mayo and said, “I love Hispanics!”
The irony of Trump’s visit coinciding with Taco Salad Day wasn’t lost on a coalition of immigrants rights groups and labor unions who spotted the coincidental timing earlier this week, made plans for their culinary activism and tipped off a small group of reporters about their plans. Operatives traveled to the Capitol just as the Carry-Out began serving lunch at 11:30 a.m., purchasing at least 24 taco salads — and holding up the line for others.
Later, members of the United Farm Workers labor union; America’s Voice, a group pushing for comprehensive immigration reform; the Latino Victory Project; and United We Dream, a group of younger immigrants, gathered to deliver the salads to a handful of Republican lawmakers.
"I’m here to say that we’re your neighbors, we go to your schools, my parents are working, and I don’t think there’s anything he can do at this point to win our vote," Eric Cruz Lopez, 20, told reporters in Spanish before he visited some offices.
“We want to reject the symbolism that he used,” Lopez added in Spanish. “He ate a taco bowl and said ‘I love Hispanics who made this great food.’ We don’t want to support that — he’s not going to buy our vote with that. I can’t vote, but I have friends and family who can vote, and they won’t vote for him because he ate something.”
Lopez and Giev Kashkooli, a vice president of the United Farm Workers, first visited the office of Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), who told reporters last week that he planned to support Trump "wholeheartedly."
Trailed by reporters, the pair entered Cornyn's office and were greeted by two front-desk staffers who offered to arrange a quick meeting with a staffer. But they declined, with Kashkooli saying that if Cornyn already planned to support Trump, “there isn’t much to discuss.”
Just minutes after Lopez and Kashkooli visited Cornyn’s office, the senator tweeted a photo with Trump, saying that he invited the candidate to speak at the Texas Republican Party Convention.
From Cornyn’s office, the protesters headed across Capitol Hill to the office of Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.), whose central California district is home to largest percentage of farm workers in the country. Valadao, a perennially at-risk GOP lawmaker, has not said whether he would support Trump’s candidacy.
“The congressman represents more farm workers in his district than anywhere else in the country,” Kashkooli explained to two front-office staffers. “Farm workers are feeding not just that district, but the entire country everyday – including Donald Trump. And Donald Trump has been saying that we’re murderers, and we’re rapists, and just last week he said he would deport them.”
“Our vote cannot be bought by Donald Trump,” Lopez added.
“We appreciate you sharing your story,” a staffer told the pair.
“He can’t buy us with a taco,” Kashkooli added, for emphasis.
Kashkooli planned to deliver more salads to the offices of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), two other Golden State lawmakers whose districts are home to high percentages of farm workers.
Other activists said they planned to make deliveries to the offices of several Republican senators who, given the dynamics of their state, are poised to have difficult reelection races this year — especially with Trump atop the GOP ticket: Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Roy Blunt (Mo.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), John McCain (Ariz.), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Pat Toomey (Pa.).
They also planned to visit the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.); Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.). McConnell plans to support Trump’s candidacy, while Cruz, a runner-up to Trump, hasn’t endorsed his former opponent, but remains a big target for immigrant rights groups. Gardner hails from a key swing state with a fast-growing immigrant population