From the beginning of his candidacy through the opening months of his presidency, Donald Trump has neither minced words about Mexico nor made any effort to hide his disdain for the country, its “corrupt” system, its trade practices, and its refusal to embrace his proposed border wall. At his campaign launch, it took him only 195 words to identify Mexico as a hostile target. As president, it took him only six days to scuttle a planned meeting with Mexico’s president and only seven days to challenge Enrique Peña Nieto in a confrontational phone call.
Now, almost eight months into his presidency, Trump continues to take actions perceived by Mexico City, by Mexican Americans, and by Latinos generally as insulting. At the White House, Trump’s advisers are unconcerned, pointing to exit polls that showed he won 29 percent of the Latino vote in 2016, slightly better than Mitt Romney did in 2012. But other Republicans fear lasting damage.
In recent days, there were reminders of Trump’s unhappy relationship with Hispanics in the wake of a deadly earthquake in Mexico, and a crucial change to Obama-era immigration policy.
Here are 10 times Trump’s actions or words were taken as insults by Latinos:
1. Failure to call Mexico on earthquake or acknowledge offer of aid.
On Sept. 7, a deadly 8.1 earthquake shook Mexico, killing almost 100. For a week afterwards, Trump failed to talk to Peña Nieto, and none of his 42 tweets mentioned the devastation to the neighbor south of the border. His most recent tweet on Mexico had called it “one of the highest crime nations in the world.” After being badgered by reporters asking about the lack of a phone call, the White House said one would soon take place. Finally on Thursday, Trump tweeted: “Spoke to President of Mexico to give condolences on terrible earthquake. Unable to reach for 3 days b/c of his cell phone reception at site.” Additionally, at no point did Trump publicly thank Mexico for its offer of aid to Texas after Hurricane Harvey.
2. The DACA decision.
When Trump on Sept. 5 ordered an end to President Obama’s program that protects 800,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation, Mexico immediately protested, noting that 80 percent of those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program are Mexicans. In a statement, Mexico said it “profoundly laments” the decision. In the United States, Hispanic groups were more forceful. Javier Palomarez, head of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, called Trump “a liar” and said the action was “deplorable.” He also quit Trump’s diversity coalition.
3. Pardoning Joe Arpaio.
When Trump pardoned former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who had defied a federal judge’s order to stop profiling Latinos, Republican Rosario Marin, a former U.S. treasurer, called it “yet another action the occupant of the White House has taken to insult and degrade the entire Hispanic community.”
4. A confrontational call with the Mexican president.
Less than a week after his inauguration, Trump had to cancel a meeting with Peña Nieto because of their differences. Then, the day after the cancellation, the two men spoke for almost an hour. Mexican news reports accused Trump of humiliating and bullying Peña Nieto on the call. When a transcript of the conversation leaked, Trump was seen as threatening tariffs on Mexican goods, warning that it may take U.S. troops to corral the “bad hombres” in Mexico, and twisting the Mexican president’s arm to get him to stop saying he wouldn’t pay for Trump’s border wall.
5. The “rapists” comment.
In his June 16, 2015 campaign announcement, Trump lashed out at Mexico 13 times, second only to his 22 mentions of China. Of Mexicans, he said, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
6. The attack on Judge Curiel.
In the campaign, Trump repeatedly blasted U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, contending that he could not fairly preside over a court challenge to Trump University because of his Mexican heritage.
7. Bullying Mexico to pay for the wall.
The most constant irritant in Trump’s relationship with Hispanics is his promotion of a border wall and his insistence that “one way or the other, Mexico is going to pay for the wall.”
8. Calling Mexico corrupt.
Since 2015, the year he announced his presidential candidacy, Trump has called Mexico “corrupt” five times, complaining of “unbelievable corruption,” a “totally corrupt gov’t,” and a “corrupt court system.” Fourteen days after entering the race, Trump tweeted that “Mexico is not our friend.” A month later, he tweeted, “We get the killers, drugs & crime, they get the money!”
9. The taco-bowl tweet.
In perhaps his least effective but most memorable outreach to Hispanics, candidate Trump tweeted out a picture of himself eating a taco bowl on Cinco de Mayo last year, proclaiming, “I love Hispanics!”
10. Threatening to pull out of NAFTA.
Complaining about Mexican and Canadian conduct in the ongoing renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement, Trump has threatened to “terminate” the agreement. That would end a 25-year partnership that has seen trade blossom on both sides of the border, boosted exports from the United States, and transformed the U.S.-Mexico security relationship. For the first time in decades, anti-U.S. talk is booming and expected to dominate next year’s presidential campaign to replace Peña Nieto.
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