Donald Trump met privately in New York on Tuesday with Javier Palomarez, the CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, CNN has learned.
The meeting took place at Trump’s midtown Manhattan office in Trump Tower and lasted more than an hour, Palomarez told CNN. The conversation centered around immigration and the Hispanic electorate.
“It’s kind of interesting, the dichotomy between the private Donald Trump and the public Donald Trump. He listened a lot more than he spoke,” Palomarez said. “He never once interrupted me.”
At one point, Palomarez said Trump joked that “he didn’t need the Hispanic vote” as he referenced his high poll numbers.
“But I think we both know that he’s recognized that in fact, he does need the Hispanic vote,” Palomarez added.
He said Trump earnestly expressed his desire to win over the Hispanic community, saying: “I want it. I feel like I’ve been mischaracterized and treated unfairly and my name has been slandered to some extent with this audience.”
Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks confirmed the meeting took place but did not comment beyond that.
The sit-down comes at a crucial time for Trump as many establishment Republicans are concerned that the billionaire businessman’s controversial rhetoric about immigrants might harm the party’s outreach efforts to Latino voters. His tough talk has dominated the campaign from day one, when he referred to some immigrants crossing into the U.S. from Mexico as “rapists” and “criminals,” to his more recent scuffle with Univision anchor Jorge Ramos.
Palomarez said Trump asked for his thoughts on the recent incident with Ramos, who was ejected from a Trump event as he questioned the candidate about immigration.
“I told him that both sides were at fault,” Palomarez told CNN. “On the one hand, it appeared Jorge spoke out of term and somewhat commandeered the microphone, and on the other hand, this issue (of immigration) for Jorge Ramos is considerably different for him than most other journalists in the room, let’s face it. And I think Donald could have done a better job of hearing him out and allowing him an opportunity to ask his questions.”
Trump’s choice of words about Mexicans entering the country have sparked outrage. And some of Trump’s policy proposals aimed at curbing illegal immigration – such as building a massive wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and the mass deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants currently residing in the country – have alarmed minority groups.
Earlier this year, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce responded to Trump’s comments about Mexicans by announcing a boycott of all Trump brands and properties. Palomarez said that boycott will remain in place for the foreseeable future, even after Trump floated the Trump National Doral resorts as the site of the group’s convention next year in Florida.
“He said are you considering Doral? And I said no, we’re not,” Palomarez said.
According to the Chamber, Tuesday’s meeting came at the Trump camp’s request. The group said Trump advisers expressed interest in clarifying in a private setting what they perceived to be the “media’s mischaracterization” of Trump’s views on immigration.
Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, Palomarez said the Chamber was in clear “disagreement” with the candidate on the issue of immigration, and that Trump’s proposals on immigration would have devastating consequences.
“Frankly, we don’t think it is possible to round up 11.5 million people and in any efficient fashion and escort them right out of the country. I just don’t see how logistically you can make that happen,” Palomarez said. “And let’s say that you could – that would have a very negative economic impact and I think Donald has discussed that enough.”
Following the meeting, Palomarez said they two men still did not see eye-to-eye on immigration – particularly on the logic behind a wall along the Mexican border and the impact of mass deportation of undocumented workers.
Still, the the two men were able to have a “thoughtful conversation” about the issue, Palomarez said. “There were no bombastic statements of any sorts.”
During Tuesday’s meeting, Trump also agreed to participate in a question-and-answer forum with the Chamber, scheduled for October 8.
A Gallup poll last week showed that 65% of Hispanics have an unfavorable view of Trump, with eight in 10 saying they had formed an opinion of the candidate.
Nevertheless, Trump has insisted on the campaign trail that he has many fans in the Hispanic community.
“I love the Hispanic people,” Trump said Saturday at an event hosted by the National Federation of Republican Assemblies in Nashville, Tennessee. “Incredible energy, incredible people. I love the people.”
On Friday, Trump also met with the family members of victims killed by illegal immigrants in Norwood, Massachusetts. He told CNN afterward that there was “crime wave of illegal immigrants” plaguing the country.
“There’s a crime wave like nobody’s ever seen before,” he said. “We’re not going to let it continue.”