Latino group leader faces calls to resign over Trump letter

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The leader of the oldest Latino civil rights organization in the U.S. is facing pressure to resign after he publicly endorsed President Donald Trump’s immigration plan that seeks to build a border wall.

Some board members and local council leaders said Thursday that Roger Rocha, the elected president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, should step down or be removed for telling Trump the storied civil rights group would back an immigration plan the group has opposed.

“Members are furious,” Dave Rodriguez, California LULAC state director and a member of the group’s national board, said. “California LULAC is calling for the immediate resignation of our national president. The bleeding from this incident needs to stop.”

In a letter to Trump this week, Rocha wrote that the civil rights group would support his plan for a wall and immigration restrictions in exchange for protecting young immigrants brought to the country illegally.

But those proposed policies stand in direct contrast to what group members voted on last year which called for protecting hundreds of young immigrants brought to the country illegally without border security or the elimination of family visa categories.

Rocha said he wrote the letter at the request of the Trump Administration but rescinded it following a backlash from members in Texas, New Mexico and California. He had been negotiating with Trump officials about an immigration compromise, he said.

Brent Wilkes, the group’s paid CEO who runs the organization’s daily operations, said Rocha overstepped his authority by sending the letter with the group’s logo and using the CEO’s name. He said Rocha’s support for Trump’s plan was “a clear contradiction” to the group’s previous stance.

“I want to state unequivocally that I reject Mr. Rocha’s endorsement of the President’s stance on immigration and can state with authority that his letter does not represent my personal views, nor those of many of the dozens of people with whom I have spoken with,” Wilkes said.

Without mentioning Rocha’s name, the group’s board said in a statement the organization did not support any plan that would require border security and new immigration restriction in exchange for protecting young immigrants.

“In addition, the LULAC National Assembly has adopted resolutions opposing Trump’s offensive wall along the US/Mexican border, opposing cuts to family-based immigration, opposing efforts to force state and local governments to enforce federal immigration laws, and opposing the increased detention of undocumented immigrants,” the statement said,

The LULAC Young Adult Delegation, a segment made of college members, also joined other councils in calling for Rocha’s resignation.

Mickie Solorio Luna, a founding member of the San Benito County LULAC chapter in Hollister, California, said it’s now up to the board to decide Rocha’s future.

Rodriguez said group members in California and Texas are drafting articles of impeachment and the board is scheduled to meet Feb. 16 in Washington, D.C.

Rocha, of Laredo, Texas, said he has no plans to resign. “I plan on finishing my term,” he said. “We still have a lot of work to do.”

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Associated Press writer Russell Contreras is a member of the AP’s race and ethnicity team. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/russcontreras