Even though the pack of Republican candidates were the marquee event Wednesday, Colorado Latino leaders, students and community members weren’t about to be upstaged.
Hundreds turned out to rally against the anti-Latino and anti-immigrant rhetoric they say has defined this presidential race, especially among GOP contenders.
The Boulder rally kicked off the “My Country, My Vote” campaign, an effort to mobilize Colorado’s pro-immigration-reform voters for the 2016 election. The rally was led by former Denver Mayor Federico Peña.
“You cannot win an election without the support of the Latino community,” Peña said.
When it came to this crowd, the Republican Party had zero support.
“They’re using our families for political games,” said Laura Soto, 33, of Longmont.
Soto is 33 years old and has lived in the U.S. for nearly all of them. What she wants from her elected officials is simple: a pathway to citizenship.
Though she has extreme doubts about the Republican field, she also has doubts about the Democratic candidates.
“They’ve played games with us, too,” she said. “But I’ll vote for whoever is serious about passing immigration reform right away.”
Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia rallied the crowd, saying he’d rather stand with them outside in the autumn chill than inside the debate hall with Republicans. Without naming names, he slammed certain candidates for trying to “vilify, denigrate and insult our people.”
“Immigrants aren’t the enemy. Ignorance is,” he said.
Donald Trump drew special ire from attendees.
Theresa Flores of Denver said that Trump’s rhetoric crosses the line. She recalled him saying, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. […] They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Flores and her siblings started printing up anti-Trump T-shirts a few months ago. The response, she said, has been incredible. Requests have been pouring in not just from Colorado, but from around the country for the cheeky, pull-no-punches shirts her family sells.
In a roundabout kind of way, Flores thinks Trump’s candidacy will end up being good for Latinos.
“In other elections, [Latinos] have been ‘ehh’ about voting, but this time, you’ll see us out there. Oh we’ll be out there.”
See more photos from Wednesday’s rally below.