Donald Trump’s scorching rhetoric on immigration has infuriated Hispanic voters and made him a target for Democrats and even some members of his own party, but at least one group of people think his stance on immigration is comforting: The family members of people who have been killed by undocumented immigrants.
Trump met last week with at least three such Massachusetts families at the residence of Ernie Boch, a local car dealership magnate, after addressing supporters.
The meeting between Trump and the families was organized by The Remembrance Project, a nonprofit organization formed in 2009 to “honor and remember Americans who have been killed” specifically by undocumented immigrants.
Trump has made it his mission to be outspoken against undocumented immigrants, promising to build a wall and deport people who are here illegally. It’s a message that’s been perceived as offensive and racist by some, but Trump skyrocketed to the top of the GOP primary polls following comments he made at the launch of his campaign. The popularity has not translated to all voting groups.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll out Wednesday showed Trump is viewed unfavorably by 82% of Hispanics. In that same poll, 48% of Whites have a favorable view of the real estate mogul.
And while his frank stance has resonated with a lot of America, for the families Trump met with last week, it’s personal.
“He reached out and gave me a hug,” Maureen Malloney said. “He said he would get rid of the illegal immigrants, he will do everything to secure the borders, and enforce the current laws that we have. He will make it a great country.”
She and her husband Mike lost their son Matthew four years ago, when he was killed by an undocumented immigrant from Ecuador, in a traffic accident.
“Matthew was the third person in our town to be killed by an illegal immigrant in a two year period,” Malloney said.
According to another guest of the Trump meeting last week, Michael Fromer, his brother’s killer was under the influence, unlicensed, unregistered and “shouldn’t have been here.” He was arrested and brought to trial after waiting in jail for nine months, but was later found not-guilty.
“Finally someone has the courage to stand up and not be afraid of everybody else’s opinion about him,” Fromer said of Trump. “And whether they like him or not, he’s doing what he should be doing – not be intimidated about losing votes because of his opinion.”
Remembrance Project co-founder and National Director Maria Espinoza said Trump asked the families to attend the event.
“He’s very concerned about what’s taking place, as you know,” Espinoza told CNN. “You can see that his feelings are very genuine and caring for what’s taking place to our American families. ”
Trump has also taken his pitch to the campaign trail at large. In his stump speeches, Trump almost always talks about “Kate” and “Jamiel” and how they were killed by undocumented immigrants. Trump’s referring to the high profile deaths of Kate Steinle who was shot to death on a San Francisco pier and Jamiel Shaw Jr,, a high school football player who was shot and killed in Los Angeles, while his father listened to it happen on the phone. Shaw’s father spoke next to Trump at an event in Phoenix last month, voicing his trust for Donald Trump.
Most recently, Trump’s been mentioning the story of a “66-year-old veteran who was raped, sodomized, and murdered by an illegal immigrant” in his speeches. Trump appears to be telling the story of Marilyn Pharis, a 64 year-old California woman who worked as a contractor for the Air Force, and was killed by Victor Aureliano Martinez, a Mexican native who lives in the United States illegally and had four prior arrests since 2009.
Another woman from Milford, Maureen Laquerre, also shared her story with Trump. Laquerre lost her brother Richard six years ago in a traffic accident, after a woman who overstayed a visa ran a red light, striking his car. “The only thing that’s changed since my brother died six years ago, it’s sad to say is the body count,” she told him.
In an interview with CNN just after the meeting, Trump reiterated his commitment to do something about illegal immigration and the crime wave “like nobody’s seen before.”
“We’re not going to let it continue,” Trump said. “They’re are incredible people who have been devastated by the crime wave of the illegal immigrants… I’ll tell you what – the lives that have been lost, they’re gonna serve a very, very important fact. What’s happened to these people is just a shame.”
CNN’s MJ Lee contributed to this report