Jan 2, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Trump's "poisoning the blood" remark could see Latino evangelical backlash

Former president Donald Trump responds to cheering supporters at the Republican Party of Florida Freedom Summit at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Kissimmee, Fla.

Former president Donald Trump responds to cheering supporters at the Republican Party of Florida Freedom Summit at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Kissimmee, Fla. Photo: Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via Getty images.

Former President Trump's claim that undocumented immigrants are "poisoning the blood of our country" — language echoing the rhetoric of Adolf Hitler — could turn reliably conservative Latino evangelicals against him, a top leader in the faith tells Axios.

Why it matters: Latino evangelicals are one of the fastest-growing segments among an increasingly influential voting bloc. In recent elections, they have helped shift some close races from Democrats to Republicans.

Catch up fast: At least four times in recent months, Trump said immigrants are "poisoning the blood" of the nation, sparking backlash from historians, Democrats and activists who liken the comments to those Hitler wrote in "Mein Kampf" — his blueprint for a "pure Aryan" Germany and the removal of Jews.

  • Trump also claimed, with no evidence, that the migrants seeking to come across the U.S.-Mexico border were terrorists or from mental institutions.
  • Trump has said he has never read "Mein Kampf." His campaign did not respond to a request for comment from Axios.
  • Fellow Republicans so far have not commented, offered tepid disagreement or even openly endorsed the Nazi-era rhetoric, Axios' Zachary Basu reports.

What they're saying: Rev. Samuel Rodriguez Jr., head of the influential National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, tells Axios that Latino evangelicals support border security but will not put up with racism.

  • "We repudiate all vestiges of bigotry and racism."
  • "Any candidate, be Donald Trump or others, who engages in rhetoric that paints the immigrant community with one blanket slate will do so at their peril."
  • If Trump doesn't stop or denounce that language, it will open the door for other GOP presidential candidates like former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley to woo Latino evangelicals, Rodriguez adds.

Rodriguez says many Latino evangelicals, especially immigrants, flee countries ruled by authoritarian communist or fascist regimes with racist policies.

  • He says language like the one used by Trump is triggering and takes away the focus from honest immigration policy debates.
  • "I would advise Donald Trump, I would advise Joe Biden, I would advise Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley ... do away with anti-immigrant rhetoric and double down on securing the border."

Between the lines: Latino evangelicals overwhelmingly vote Republican but are more politically moderate than white evangelicals on race, immigration, and the economy.

  • Yes, but: Their influence may have hit a ceiling as Gen Z Latinos turn away from religion, California-based GOP consultant Mike Madrid tells Axios.
  • "For every three Latinos that turn 18, one is evangelical and two are atheists (or non-religious)."

What to watch: The accurate measure of the fallout from Trump's comments may come if Latino evangelical leaders openly criticize Trump instead of making excuses for him, Madrid says.

  • Rodriguez says to also watch how Latino evangelicals vote in the primaries when the race moves to Nevada and Texas.

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