Presidential candidate Donald Trump decried the American media's supposed unwillingness to cover undocumented immigration in his press appearance at a Los Angeles hotel Friday, doubling down on controversial remarks even as protesters gathered outside.
Trump said Mexico's leaders are "smarter" than those in the United States, and that Mexican leaders send people "that they don't want" across the U.S. border. Similar remarks over the past week have provoked two celebrity chefs to pull out of deals with Trump hotels.
"They're sending criminals to us and we're sending those criminals to jail, oftentimes after they've killed somebody or hurt somebody," Trump said at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
The families of several people killed by undocumented immigrants joined Trump at the news conference and said they stood behind the outspoken mogul's comments on illegal immigration, which have also inspired multiple businesses — including NBC Universal and Univision — to cut ties with Trump's business.
"No one really listened to us, our story really wasn't heard," said Sabine Durden, whose 30-year-old son was killed by a driver who was an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala three years ago. "When I heard Mr. Trump, I started screaming," she said. "Finally, someone who had the guts to say what millions are thinking."
Meanwhile, protesters rallied outside the hotel in response to Trump's comments about Mexican immigrants. The protest was organized by the CHIRLA Action Fund, the political arm of a California-based immigrant rights organization.
Some protesters carried Donald Trump piñatas filled with trash to "represent the type of language the candidate has been spewing," according to a CHIRLA statement.
"There is no way a candidate for the highest elected office in the land can utter the type of hateful language that Trump is known for and expect to win the Latino/immigrant vote," Diana Colin, CHIRLA Action Funds program director, said in a statement. "And everyone knows the road to the White House is paved with Latino/immigrant votes. Mr. Trump should do the math."
Trump also met with the father of a high school football standout killed by a gang member who was in the country illegally. Trump told syndicated talk show host Dana Loesch he was meeting with Jamiel Shaw — the father of Jamiel Shaw II -- "and pay my respects to him."
The elder Shaw praised Trump in interviews this week on the Fox News Channel and with Loesch for his criticism of illegal immigration. Shaw told Loesch that Trump's criticism of illegal immigration is "resonating in the black community because we see all the carnage that's happened and all the memorials. We see all the jobs that are gone. We see the whole community changing."
Jamiel Shaw II was a Los Angeles High School football standout who was shot and killed in 2008 near his Arlington Heights home by a gang member who prosecutors said mistakenly perceived him as a gang rival because he was carrying a red Spider-Man backpack. Pedro Espinoza, convicted of first-degree murder in 2012 and sentenced to death, was living in the United States without legal permission at the time of the killing. He had been freed from jail two days before the shooting without immigration authorities placing a hold on him.
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Trump's arrival in Los Angeles follows a week of fallout from his comments about immigrants. Alex Nogales, president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, said Thursday that the PGA of America's decision this week to move a golf tournament from a Trump-owned course was a step in the right direction.
The PGA and other major golf organizations should agree to keep tournaments off Trump properties in response to his comments about Mexican immigrants, Nogales said. The PGA said it relocated its Grand Slam of Golf, in mutual agreement with Trump.
NBC ended its partnership with Trump on the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants after the celebrity billionaire, in announcing his presidential campaign, said some Mexican immigrants to the U.S. bring drugs and crime, and some are rapists.
"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best," he said. "They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with (them). They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."
Trump vowed to file paperwork next week ensuring he would qualify for next month's Republican presidential debate, where his immigration policies could emerge as a focus on national television. Trump said Thursday that his Republican competitor Jeb Bush is "a joke" for suggesting that Mexican immigrants cross the border illegally as "an act of love."
"This has nothing to do with love," Trump said in an interview airing Thursday on Fox News Channel's "Hannity." "They are taking people that should be in Mexican prisons, Mexican jails and they are pushing them over to the United States. These are dangerous people."