Phoenix Latino leaders respond to Trump’s Curiel comments

Jason M. Barraza, Vice President of Los Abogados, speaks at an event condemning Donald Trump’s comments on U.S. District Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel. They also called for Senator Flake (R-AZ) to call for hearings on Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. (Photo by David Marino Jr./Cronkite News)

PHOENIX — Local Latino and community leaders Wednesday denounced Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s comments about a Mexican-American judge, calling them offensive and derogatory.

“Donald Trump and his Trump University are currently facing a lawsuit (accused of) defrauding students, and Trump chose to respond by attacking the federal judge presiding over the case based solely on the fact that the Indiana-born judge’s parents are Mexican immigrants,” Samantha Pstross said at a news conference at the state Capitol.

“If that’s not racist, I don’t know what is,” said Pstross, executive director of Arizona Advocacy Network, a voting rights group.

Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo implored Gov. Doug Ducey and Arizona’s Republican congressional delegation to condemn Trump.

“We need other Republican leaders throughout the state of Arizona, including Governor Ducey, to speak out and have his voices heard, to let the people of Arizona know where he stands on Donald Trump’s offensive remarks about the Latino community,” Gallardo said. “He governs a state where nearly a third of the population is Latino. Gov. Ducey, where are you? Why are you so quiet?”

Trump has said U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel, who is overseeing a class-action lawsuit in which former Trump University students accuse Trump of defrauding them, cannot be impartial because of his Mexican heritage.

Gallardo applauded Flake for condemning Trump’s remarks on Curiel, but urged him to move forward on committee hearings in the Senate for Merrick Garland, the U.S. Supreme Court nominee.

Flake sits on the Senate judiciary committee but has joined other Republicans, including Arizona Sen. John McCain, in saying the next president should fill the court vacancy.

“Do they want Donald Trump to make that appointment?” Gallardo said. “Is that what we’re waiting for? We’re waiting for an individual who continues to offend every segment of our society.”

Flake, McCain and Arizona representatives for the Trump campaign in Arizona did not return calls for comment.

State Sen. Martín Quezada, D-Glendale, said Trump has “zero respect” for the judicial system.

“What he has shown to us, is that if you disagree, you are an outsider, an enemy,” Quezada said. “And that’s not the way our judiciary should work.”