On Tuesday, several Republican congressional leaders touted to reporters that Trump’s immigration proposal had been endorsed by the League of United Latin America Citizens (LULAC)—a Latino civil rights group that for years has advocated for a path to citizenship for young immigrants known as Dreamers.
While LULAC’s president Roger Rocha did in fact write a letter to President Trump over the weekend thanking him for “taking the lead” on immigration reform and declaring that the White House framework was one “LULAC can support,” staff at the organization tell TPM that they were completely blindsided by Rocha’s action and were not consulted before the letter was sent.
“Literally nobody on staff knew about it. He sent that letter on his own,” LULAC policy manager Juan Perez told TPM. “None of the board members knew. We don’t even know whether the letter went straight to the White House or to Capitol Hill as well. We’re getting calls from so many Hill offices about it, and we’re just trying to figure out what’s going on and put out the fire.”
Perez said the organization’s bylaws do allow Rocha to write such a statement on his own without checking first with the group’s other leaders. “Unfortunately, that’s the reality. But it’s not the reflection of the membership,” he stressed.
When Senate Republicans cited Rocha’s letter on Tuesday afternoon, however, they characterized it as an endorsement from the organization itself.
“The endorsement of LULAC—not just of the President’s DACA proposal, but the whole —is enormously significant,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters. “Honestly I’ve always thought LULAC was sort of a subsidiary of the Democratic Party. Apparently I was wrong about that, but I hope they do listen to the leaders of LULAC, who said here in effect that what the President is offering is a reasonable proposal. That ought to break the ice. That ought of give us chance to get an outcome.”
Rocha did not respond at press time to TPM’s inquiry as to why he wrote the letter and who in the organization he talked to before sending it to President Trump.
Signs of a backlash from the group’s membership were apparent on social media Tuesday night.
“Moves from the top don’t represent our membership!” wrote Misael Jimenez, the secretary of LULAC’s chapter on the campus of Texas A&M and a member of their national Young Adult Coalition.
“To all Latin@s out there, this is not a representation of“We will always denounce Trumps poisonous proposals.”
LULAC’s official Twitter account liked and retweeted several messages from members criticizing Rocha’s letter, including the one below, but later deleted them.
As a #DREAMer Woman Commissioner in @LULAC @LULACWomen, I am destroyed to know that @NatlPresLULAC has signed up on my deportation and that of my fellow LULAC DREAMers. I strongly denounce his support for Trump's deportation Machine and ask that he resigns.#ImmigrationReform
— Monica Sibri (@MonicaSibri) January 31, 2018
Some LULAC members took to Twitter to demand Rocha’s resignation over the controversial letter, using the hashtag #FueraRocha—Spanish for “get out, Rocha.”
Tierney Sneed contributed reporting.