How Will Trump’s ‘Mexican’ Judge Attacks Play Among Colorado’s Latino Voters?

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Photo: Latinos On Trump, Annie Falcon And Family (Estabrook)
Annie Falcon, second from left, her boyfriend Isaac Baca, and her two boys Ivan, left, and Adrian, at right.

Donald Trump’s opponents plan to keep criticizing him after he called for a federal judge to recuse himself from a case involving Trump University. The Republican businessman said the Indiana-born judge’s Mexican heritage meant the judge was biased because of Trump’s plans to build a wall with Mexico.

Via NPR:

Trump made the remarks, and others like it, repeatedly, in interviews with CNN and The Wall Street Journal, referring to Judge [Gonzalo] Curiel variously as "of Mexican heritage" or just "Mexican." But the message was always the same, that the judge had what Trump called "a conflict" because of his ethnicity.

Republicans already face a deficit with Latino voters. What does that mean in an important swing state like Colorado? We spoke with shoppers outside of a grocery store in the diverse city of Aurora, where we found people who had plenty to say about Trump.

“I cannot have somebody leading us like that,” said Ilce Guillen. “Just so racist.”

“I’m planning to vote for Clinton,” Polly Quintana said.

“I’m anti-Donald Trump,” said Fredi Perez.

And all three of them said they disliked the presumptive GOP nominee before his controversial statements about the Indiana judge last week.

For Guillen, the judge comments didn’t help.

“My dad’s Cuban and my mom’s Mexican. So I take that as offensive. Really offensive,” she said.

Like Guillen, three quarters of Colorado’s Latinos voted for President Obama in 2012. Their numbers are growing fast and this year one in seven voters here is expected to be Latino. To win over that big voting bloc, Republicans need people like Fredi Perez. He voted for George W. Bush and liked Ted Cruz -- but he won’t support Trump.

“He’s trying to make it as racial, as white, Mexican, black, and it’s not like that,” he said. “Everyone comes to America for freedom, to work, to better their lives for the future.”

That doesn’t mean Trump’s lost all Latinos. From the driver’s seat of his yellow SUV, Javier Lara said he believes the judge should recuse himself in the Trump University case. And he thinks Trump’s border wall would protect the country.

“It’s being invaded by people we don’t know. This is one nation of rules. We just can’t let people in!” he said.

Born in the U.S. and having served with the military in Iraq, he says his relatives walked across the border from Juarez into Texas in the 1800s. Surveys suggest that multi-generational Hispanics like Lara are generally more conservative than those who arrived recently. And there are more of these multi-generational Hispanics in Colorado than the national average.

Annie Falcon is a second-generation Latina born in the U.S., but on the opposite side of Lara ideologically. Sitting with her family near a basketball court on the other side of Denver, Falcon says she’s not surprised by Trump’s comments last week.

“He’s very offensive to every group, even very educated people, such as that judge,” she said. She plans to vote for Hillary Clinton, and that she's trying to convince her boyfriend to vote, too.

“I hope he votes so we can make sure Trump doesn’t win. Every vote counts,” she said.

Colorado has voted with the winner of the presidential race every year since 2000.

Editor's Note: Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Judge Curiel's home state. The current version is correct.