Trump celebrates Hispanic heritage, leaves out immigration

President Trump hosted a celebration of Hispanic Heritage month at the White House on Friday, focusing on disaster relief and Latin American relations, but avoiding mention of immigration or "Dreamers." 


Trump opened his speech talking about recovery efforts after the hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands last month, then turned to the mass shooting in Las Vegas and the 7.1 magnitude earthquake that hit Mexico City on Sept. 19.


Trump praised his administration's efforts for recovery from the hurricanes, and, touting a U.S. team of first responders sent to Mexico, praised President Enrique Peña Nieto.


"You have a wonderful president in Mexico, I can tell you," said Trump.


Trump and Peña Nieto have a history together. 


Trump began his presidential campaign in June of 2015 calling Mexicans "rapists" who "bring crime," and scored big points with his base with strong anti-immigration rhetoric. 


During the presidential campaign, Peña Nieto invited Trump to Mexico City amid heavy criticism. The two presidents then clashed over Trump's proposal to build a border wall paid for by Mexico, after which Peña Nieto canceled a visit to Washington.

On Cinco de Mayo, Vice President Mike Pence hosted a small celebration in the Eisenhower Executive Building, in stark contrast to the White House bashes held by Presidents Bush and Obama. 


But relations seem to have thawed as the two presidents spoke over the phone after the Mexico City earthquake and the Las Vegas shooting.


Trump on Friday praised Hispanic contributions to American society. 


Speaking to an audience of conservative and nonpartisan Hispanic-American leaders, including Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) and former Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño (R), Trump spoke about Hispanic contributions to the arts, culture and military.


While on the subject of Hispanics in the military, Trump spotted a congressional medal of honor recipient in the audience and stepped down to greet him.


Trump then moved on to relations with Cuba and Venezuela, two socialist Latin American countries that Trump has butted heads with.


"In my administration, we've taken action to stand with the good people of Cuba and Venezuela," said Trump to applause from the audience.


"Communism is the past, freedom is the future," he said, criticizing the "ruthless socialism of the [Venezuelan President Nicolás] Maduro regime."


But Trump shied away from the issue that's been driving Hispanic leaders left and right - immigration.


Several of the attendees to Friday's White House event banded together Thursday to demand a solution for Dreamers - people brought to the United States illegally as children.


Among those involved in both events were Roger Rocha, president of the nonpartisan League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and Daniel Garza, president of the Koch-funded LIBRE initiative.


The White House is expected to release a "list of priorities" on immigration at some point in the next week, but has left the issue of providing a legislative solution for Dreamers to Congress.


"This is something that belongs in Congress," said Helen Aguirre Ferré, White House director of media affairs.


The priorities list is expected to include steep cuts in legal immigration, a demand that's proven a no-go for many supporters of relief for Dreamers, including organizations like LIBRE and LULAC.

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