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Latino celebrities say Rubio and Bush belong to the ‘party of Trump’

Rosalia Garcia de Flores, center, listens during a press conference for a new campaign to register Latino voters in mixed-status families  on July 1, 2015, in Pacoima, Calif. (Katie Falkenberg / Tribune News Service)
Rosalia Garcia de Flores, center, listens during a press conference for a new campaign to register Latino voters in mixed-status families on July 1, 2015, in Pacoima, Calif. (Katie Falkenberg / Tribune News Service)
Kate Linthicum Los Angeles Times

Two dozen Latino celebrities came together Thursday to implore voters to reject Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and other top Republican presidential candidates who they say have turned their backs on the Latino community and “embraced the party of Trump.”

In “an open letter to the Latino community” published online, Carlos Santana, George Lopez, Zoe Saldana and other prominent Latino celebrities and activists say Donald Trump’s GOP rivals have not done enough to distance themselves from the Republican front-runner’s anti-immigrant rhetoric.

“The rest of the Republican presidential candidates went off the deep end with him,” the letter says. “We’ve seen clearly that all the leading Republican candidates have sided with the far-right at the expense of the Latino community. They’re capitalizing on negative stereotypes and inaccurate information about our community in order to win votes from the GOP base.”

The bilingual letter, which also was signed by “Parks and Recreation” actress Aubrey Plaza, “Ugly Betty” star America Ferrera and actor Benjamin Bratt, was released by People for the American Way, a left-leaning nonpartisan group that targets what it describes as “right-wing extremism.” Another of the letter’s co-signers, labor and immigrant rights leader Dolores Huerta, sits on the organization’s board.

Its main target is not Trump, whose has called Mexicans rapists who bring drugs and crime to the U.S., but Rubio and Bush, two candidates who have portrayed themselves as more moderate alternatives and who are still attempting to break through as the nomination process continues past Iowa and New Hampshire.

The letter attacks Rubio for calling for a border wall and attacks Bush for using the term “anchor babies” to refer to children born to immigrants in the country illegally. Bush used the term after Trump proposed revoking automatic citizenship for those born in the U.S. to immigrant parents.

It also criticizes both candidates for not supporting a path to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally. Neither the Rubio nor Bush campaign responded to requests for comments on the letter.

The letter comes as Rubio and Bush go head to head for Latino votes in early primary states such as Nevada. Both candidates have made a claim to the Latino electorate, with Rubio emphasizing his Cuban roots and Bush flaunting his fluency in Spanish.

The candidates have both denounced Trump’s most controversial comments. Bush, especially, has presented his views on immigration as softer and more humane than Trump’s, describing children being brought to the United States without documentation as “an act of love,” and calling for a path to legalization for the estimated 11 million immigrants in the country illegally.

But according to the authors of the letter, neither has gone far enough.

“Even if the eventual Republican nominee backtracks on his or her anti-immigrant sentiments, we must not forget that we’ve now seen that in the face of bigotry, the Republican candidates have chosen to turn their backs on our community,” the letter says. It closes with a reminder about the growing power of the Latino electorate, which this election will be larger than ever before.

“We hope that power is used to vote for candidates who support our community, share our values, and will fight for working families,” it says. “Neither Trump nor any of his fellow Republican candidates meet that standard.”

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