Donald Trump's meeting with his Hispanic advisory council a couple of weeks ago left its members so excited that some even told reporters that Trump was about to significantly soften his approach to illegal immigration and maybe even embrace a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants.
Those advisers got a reality check Wednesday night, when Trump gave arguably his toughest speech on illegal immigration yet — promising a large-scale crackdown and saying that every undocumented immigrant is subject to deportation.
Now some of these Trump advisers, along with leading Hispanic Republicans who had been giving Trump a second look over the last two weeks, are renouncing him — and there are signs many more may follow.
Jacob Monty, a Houston-based immigration attorney who is a third generation Mexican American and a longtime Republican, has now resigned from Trump’s advisory council and withdrawn his support for Trump. In June, as Trump became the presumptive nominee, Monty wrote a column in the Houston Chronicle headlined: “A Latino's case for Donald Trump.”
Monty said that he backed Trump — and started to help raise money for him — before he had fully firmed up his immigration stances. But Monty believed that a businessman would approach immigration from a business standpoint. Monty attended the Aug. 20 meeting at Trump Tower and said he was impressed that Trump talked about what to do with undocumented immigrants who have contributed to American society for years or decades.
“He asked all of the right questions. He said all of the right things,” Monty said. “He brought it up. … By bringing it up, it told me that he was prepared to talk about it. That was music to my ears, for sure.”
Monty also thought Trump’s remarks during a visit with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Wednesday afternoon struck just the right tone. Monty agreed to go onto cable news shows and defend Trump, believing that the candidate had truly pivoted on this key issue.
Then Trump took the stage in Phoenix. “The speech was just an utter disappointment,” Monty said in an interview on Thursday.
He added in a Facebook post: “Tonight he was not a Republican but a populist, modern day Father [Charles] Coughlin who demonized immigrants.”
“I don’t want to be a prop like the Mexican president,” Monty said in the interview. “We were out there defending him. And then to be just lied to like that — it doesn’t feel good. It’s not okay.”
Monty wasn't the only member of the advisory council to bolt. According to Politico, Texas pastor Ramiro Peña sent the Trump campaign an email saying the council basically amounted to a "scam."
"I am so sorry but I believe Mr. Trump lost the election tonight," Peña said. "The 'National Hispanic Advisory Council' seems to be simply for optics and I do not have the time or energy for a scam."
Another member, Massey Villarreal, told NBC Latino he was done, too.
“As a compassionate conservative, I am disappointed with the immigration speech,” Villarreal said. “I’m going to flip, but not flop. I am no longer supporting Trump for president, but cannot with any conscience support Hillary [Clinton].”
One Hispanic data analyst who has worked closely with Republicans, Leslie Sanchez, said she expects half the council to quit.
Hispanic leader who advises Trump camp telling me half of Trump's Hispanic advisory board is ready to resign today (15 of 30)
— Leslie Sanchez (@LeslieSanchez) September 1, 2016
Other Hispanics who have gone to bat for Trump were disheartened. Alfonso Aguilar, the head of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles who has alternately been against Trump and then promoted his campaign as a surrogate, said he was finished with the GOP nominee.
"I thought that we could work with him and the campaign to move him to the center on immigration, and the initial response was very good," Aguilar said Thursday morning on CNN. "And then we heard yesterday, and I was totally disappointed — not surprised, but disappointed — and slightly misled, because he gave the impression and the campaign gave the impression, till yesterday morning, that he was going to deal with the undocumented in a compassionate way."
Aguilar said Trump's speech was a new low.
"In that speech, he's basically saying: We'll deport you or we self-deport you," he said. "It's even worse than what he initially proposed."
And some Hispanics who had been keeping an open mind about Trump as he appeared to soften his rhetoric in recent weeks recoiled after the speech.
Bettina Inclán, a former director of Hispanic outreach at the Republican National Committee, went from "hopeful" after Trump's Mexico visit to disenchanted after his speech.
— Bettina Inclán (@BettinaInclan) August 31, 2016
ughhh.... I was so hopeful after the #TrumpInMexico trip. Please tell me this speech gets a bit better, give me something to work with Trump
— Bettina Inclán (@BettinaInclan) September 1, 2016
Artemio Muniz, the chairman of the Texas Federation of Hispanic Republicans who has been a Trump skeptic but was willing to give him a chance on immigration, said Trump is doubling down on a bad strategy.
"I was not sure and I was going to leave my slate blank, but at this point, with what I heard last night, I can't support Trump," Muniz said on CNN. "I can't sell the product that he's trying to give to the Hispanic community."
Certainly, surrogates and advisers bolting from the campaign doesn't tell the whole tale. But the growing exodus suggests that the Hispanics watching Trump's moves on immigration the closest now feel betrayed, misled and alienated. And if that extends to Republican-leaning Hispanics writ large, that's very bad for Trump.