Republican presidential primary front-runner Donald Trump touted his “great relationships” with Hispanic people during a speech Thursday in Patchogue while immigration advocates protested his appearance near the scene of a hate-crime slaying.
Trump made the remarks as the guest speaker at a Suffolk County Republican Committee fundraiser at The Emporium, a music venue three blocks from where an Ecuadorian immigrant was killed in 2008 by a group of teenagers. Trump’s comments on immigration sparked cheers from supporters inside the venue and jeers from protesters participating in various anti-Trump rallies outside.
“I have great relationships with Mexico, with the Hispanic people,” Trump said after reiterating his proposal to have Mexico pay for the construction of a wall on the US-Mexico border to keep undocumented immigrants out of the United States.
More than 1,000 ticketholders paid $150 each to see Trump speak ahead of New York’s presidential primaries on Tuesday. Hundreds of protesters rallied outside the venue in candle light vigils, picket lines and anti-Trump concerts.
Trump backed his statement about having great relationships with Hispanics by citing his recent win in the Republican caucuses in Nevada, where Latinos make up nearly a third of the population. The Washington Post noted that the majority of Hispanic voters in Nevada are Democrats and there is a 10-percent margin of error in exit polls gauging Trump’s support among the minority of Latino Republicans. The crowd of Suffolk Republicans cheered Trump’s comments nonetheless.
“We are proud to stand behind Donald trump,” John Jay LaValle, the Suffolk GOP chair, told the crowd before introducing Trump. “One of the reasons why we felt it was important to come and endorse Donald Trump is, let’s face it: Our government is not working for us. Our government is broken and Donald Trump is willing to tell it straight, he’s willing to tell it like it is, he’s absolutely willing to tell the politicians how it should be done.”
LaValle had made similar remarks at a larger Trump rally on Long Island last week, when the real estate mogul and former reality TV star drew more than 12,000 supporters in Bethpage. Also endorsing Trump at that rally was LaValle’s counterpart, Nassau County Republican Committee Chairman Joseph Mondello, and Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano.
The speech Trump gave in Patchogue lasted around 20 minutes, about half the time he spoke in Bethpage. While the candidate reiterated many of his talking points—blasting Ted Cruz for his “New York values” comment, proposing a repeal of Obamacare and increasing military spending—Trump tailored his speech differently for each town.
When in Bethpage, he touted growing up in Queens and his love of golfing at Bethpage State Park. In Patchogue, Trump read off a sheet of statistics describing the loss of manufacturing jobs in the region before he threw the sheets of paper, calling them “too negative.” And he repeatedly mentioned how “tough” his friends from Suffolk are.
“I know this area,” Trump said. “I want business coming back here. I see what’s going on here, I know what’s going on here. I come here. I have many friends from this place. Let me tell you, they’re tough. They’re tough friends.”