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Cleveland Hispanic community moves from shock to action after Trump nomination

July 22, 2016 GMT

Cleveland Hispanic community moves from shock to action after Trump nomination

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Many Cleveland Hispanics, unprepared for Donald Trump’s nomination as Republican presidential candidate, are working to overcome their shock. They’re also looking to unify to defeat him in November.

“I’ve been floored this whole time,” said Jose Feliciano Jr., vice president of Greater Cleveland Young Republicans and member the Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs. Feliciano supported Ohio Gov. John Kasich because he hoped an Ohio president would bring greater influence and wealth to the state.

Despite their disbelief, Trump -- the brash businessman who wants to build a wall on the Mexican border -- has been nominated in their town. And now they have to make a plan.

Hispanic community leaders like Jose Feliciano Sr., a partner at Baker and Hostetler law firm and chairman of Cleveland’s Hispanic Roundtable, are getting the same feedback.

“People are concerned,” he said. “The reaction I’m hearing is just significant concern, if not fear, which may be too strong a word, but conceptually that’s what’s on people’s minds.”

Feliciano and other members of the Hispanic community gathered at a panel during the Republican National Convention to talk about what to do about Trump.

“This convention is bringing to a head what’s been a pretty horrible year of a party with one person leading the charge who’s attacked every single subgroup in this country,” said Lynn Tramonte, a Cleveland Heights resident and deputy director of America’s Voice, a group working toward immigration reform.

Here are four ideas they’re contemplating.

1. Join with other disenfranchised groups.

State Rep. Stephanie Hawse urged those in attendance to reach out to other minorities -- black voters, Appalachians, women and younger generations -- to talk out differences first, then work together.

“What’s happening is that every group that gets attacked is looking around and thinking they went after me yesterday and they’re going after her today,” said Tramonte, who helped organize the panel. “The question is can we get organized enough to bring our power to the voting booth in November.”

2. Learn from states with bigger Hispanic populations

States with heavier Hispanic populations are more organized, but there’s hope Ohio can still pull together.

One recent project, Ohio Against Hate, sponsored by Good Jobs Strong Communities -- Ohio and MoveOn.org, had volunteers going door-to-door across the state, asking voters to stand against Trump and against hate, bigotry and division, Tramonte said. More of such projects are needed.

3. Get voters to the polls

Getting out the vote was top of mind for the panel and for Feliciano Jr., who views Trump’s nomination as a call to get Millennial Hispanics to the polls. About 42 percent of the 199,000 Ohio Hispanic voters, a huge opportunity to engage young voters.

Currently, Hispanic voter numbers are low enough that neither Democrats nor Republicans pay much attention to the community.

“They just look past us and/or pander,” he said. “The only way we’re going to be able to command the respect that we deserve is if we vote. Then we influence both parties to, in turn, pass policies that are beneficial to our community, which in turn is beneficial to the country.”

4. Know the issues

The panel also discussed the importance of being educated about the issues and the policies of each of the candidates. In attendance was Democratic National Political Director Amanda Renteria, in Cleveland to meet voters at the convention on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

“Understanding the vision about what each of these candidates can give to the Latin community is where it must start, because that piece is where true empowerment starts,” she said. “We’ve never had a moment like this. ‘Stronger together’ would not be an unusual tagline in any other election, and yet it is in this election against Trump.”

Not all Hispanics are worried about Trump’s nomination.

Gus Hoyas, president of the Hispanic Contractors Association of Northeast Ohio is a Republican who says Trump’s business savvy can be beneficial. He also believes Trump is not racist because his employment record shows Hispanic workers moving up up through the ranks of his businesses.

He admits the Republican party needs to do better at communicating with Hispanic and black voters.

“It has hurts us,” he said of Trump’s controversial rhetoric on immigrants and Mexicans. “But he has great consultants who are going to see that it changes.”