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Donald Trump: 'Leaders of the party take me seriously'
01:46 - Source: CNN

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Republicans are trying to broaden their appeal to Latinos

Donald Trump's immigration comments could hurt that effort

Washington CNN  — 

Republicans seeking to broaden the party’s appeal to Latino voters have a challenge: Donald Trump.

The bombastic businessman, who is seeking the GOP presidential nomination, is leaving many Republicans worried about the fallout from his comments that immigrants from Latin America are “killers” and “rapists.”

“Donald Trump’s comments are hurtful for the cause of Republicans who want to reach out not just to Latinos but across many different ethnic barriers,” said Ben Domenech, founder of The Federalist, a conservative opinion website, who co-authored a 2012 guide for Republicans on Hispanic outreach. “The problem with those comments is made worse by the fact that people will continue to confuse Trump with a Republican, which he is not, as opposed to thinking of him as an entertainer, which he is.”

Since losing the 2012 presidential election, Republicans have emphasized efforts to bring Latino voters into the fold. As a whole, the rapidly-growing group supported President Barack Obama over Republican Mitt Romney 71% to 27%, according to the Pew Research Center. The Republican National Committee pledged to spend $10 million on minority outreach after the election and made some in-roads during last year’s mid-term races 2014, Pew found.

READ MORE: Inside the battle for Latino voters

Trump, who is polling near the top of Republican presidential contenders, has already lost partnerships with companies including NBC and Macy’s after his comments stirred a public uproar.

Earlier this week, RNC chairman Reince Priebus, who initiated the party’s multi-million outreach program called Trump’s comments “not helpful,” according to The Washington Post.

Conservative groups unaffiliated with the official party that coordinate Latino outreach efforts are speaking out against Trump’s characterization of immigrants.

“He’s just wrong on policy. Flat-out. It’s unkind and it mischaracterizes the contributions of the entire immigrant community,” said Daniel Garza, executive director of the Libre Initiative. “They’ve brought wealth to America and ingenuity and innovation. The fact that Donald Trump is wrong both on sentiment and policy has allowed the Latino left to pile on. And there’s something valid about what they’re saying, that this is wrong in both content, style and policy.”

Despite the outcry, Trump has refused to back down or walk back his remarks.

“If you look at the statistics of people coming, you look at the statistics on rape, on crime, on everything coming in illegally into this country it’s mind-boggling!” Trump told CNN’s Don Lemon in an interview Wednesday. “Somebody’s doing the raping, Don! I mean somebody’s doing it! Who’s doing the raping?”

READ MORE: Why supporters like Donald Trump

Meanwhile, Trump’s fellow Republican presidential candidates have distanced themselves from Trump on immigration.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who delivered a speech at the National Press Club in which he called on minority voters to give Republicans a chance to make their case, said: “I don’t think Donald Trump’s remarks reflect the Republican Party.”

And Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said last week that candidates “will be held accountable by the voters for what they say.”

“I can tell you what I believe, particularly about Mexican-Americans: they are a community that has contributed greatly to this country, they work extremely hard, they’ve been very productive citizens of our country, and I think that’s true of many ethnic groups in this country,” he said.

CNN’s Maeve Reston contributed to this report