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U.S. Hispanic Chamber leader: Cruz 'missed an opportunity'

Texas Senator and GOP presidential hopeful Ted Cruz at the GOP debate in Cleveland, Ohio on August 6, 2015.
Fox News Screenshot

The head of the nation's largest Hispanic business organization said Monday that U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has damaged himself in the Latino community by refusing to condemn bombastic billionaire Donald Trump.

Trump's inflammatory comments on illegal immigration have drawn rebukes from some members of the GOP presidential field, but Cruz, swearing off "Republican-on-Republican violence," has steered clear of any criticism of Trump. At the annual meeting of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on Monday in Houston, the group's president and CEO was asked if Cruz has hurt himself among Hispanics by adopting a hands-off approach to Trump.

"Frankly I think he has," Javier Palomarez told reporters, later adding he thinks Cruz "missed an opportunity."

Palomarez's remarks came after former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush addressed the conference, telling Hispanic business leaders that comprehensive immigration reform, no matter the political ramifications, is key to an upwardly mobile society. Bush laced his speech with thinly veiled jabs at Trump, alluding to his immigration proposals as unworkable and suggesting he has divided the country like President Obama has.

Responding to the question about Cruz, Palomarez volunteered that Bush has succeeded at taking on Trump from within the GOP.

"I think the Hispanic community is looking for somebody to be the voice of reason," Palomarez said. "To a large extent, I think Jeb Bush has done exactly that."

The chamber is working to make sure immigration is front and center in the GOP race for the White House. The group is arranging meetings with candidates to quiz them on the issue, and Palomarez said Cruz is among the hopefuls who has already "spent time with" the chamber.

Cruz was among the GOP candidates who reportedly declined invitations to the chamber's annual legislative summit earlier this year, prompting Palomarez to suggest the hopefuls were trying to avoid a politically thorny issue. A few weeks after the criticism surfaced, Cruz arranged a a question-and-answer session with Palomarez in Washington, D.C.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2015/09/21/palomarez-cruz-hurt-among-latinos-not-taking-trump/.