WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump told an audience of Latino business leaders Wednesday that Hispanics are seeing economic gains across the board as a result of tax cuts and regulatory rollbacks that have led to “the booming Trump economy.”
Trump’s comments were warmly received at a legislative summit held by the Latino Coalition, a business advocacy group that also hosted Trump Cabinet members including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson.
The audience even offered a round of applause when Trump talked about progress on the southern border wall. He claimed it is supported by many Latinos because “they’re here, they want to be safe, and they know some of the people coming across are not the people that you want to be with.”
The president also praised Hispanic American border patrol agents.
“We’re immensely grateful for their amazing work in seizing drugs; stopping human trafficking, which is so terrible; and ensuring a safe, human, and lawful system of immigration,” Trump said in his 20-minute speech. “A real humane system is what we’re developing along the border.”
But Orson Aguilar, an executive director at the Latino advocacy group UnidosUS, said Wednesday that Trump does not have much to be proud of.
“Contrary to the president’s claims, the economy is not working for everyone and the massive, budget-busting tax cut lawmakers fast-tracked into law has failed to help low-income and middle-class working families, including most Latino families,” Aguilar said in a prepared statement.
Don’t tell that to the Latino Coalition audience, which offered standing ovations and took selfies while Trump spoke in the ballroom of the JW Marriott, just blocks from the White House.
A central theme of the speech was the growth and success of Hispanic-owned businesses that Trump said are “growing at an astounding pace – really unparallelled – propelled by our groundbreaking campaign to remove job-killing regulations.”
To back up his claims, Trump called business owners onto the stage with him to talk about administration policies they said helped them thrive.
“I’ve been able to glean those benefits because of the tax cuts that the administration put out … Mr. President, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am,” said Rafael Cuellar a New Jersey-based grocery chain owner. “If it weren’t for those things, my business would have stagnated, it would have stayed flat.”
The cuts he was referring to were part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed by Trump in 2017, which slashed individual income tax and corporate tax rates.
But Aguilar pointed to a survey of 800 working-class Latinos late last year by UnidosUS and Lake Research Partners. It showed that most Latinos reported an increase in taxes, not a decrease.
One question in the survey asked Latinos whether they felt the money from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act had gone into their household. Only 10% said yes, while 74% said no and 16% reported they did not know.
“In fact, far too many Latinos continue to struggle to cover basic necessities due to factors like in insufficient wage growth – an important indicator of job quality and a key factor in economic security,” Aguilar’s statement said. “As expected, the president’s remarks are once again off the mark.”