Vice President Mike Pence declared that President Donald Trump has “stood up for the values and faith of the people in the Latino community like no one else” and got a rousing response Thursday night from a modest-sized crowd in a Hispanic evangelical church in Kissimmee.
At a rally billed as “Latinos For Trump,” Pence pressed economic and and religious freedom initiatives of the Trump administration.
And he made two announcements, of Trump signing a new disaster declaration for Puerto Rico following the series of earthquakes that have rocked the island in recent weeks, and of Trump signing an executive order to require that all public schools receiving federal money allow for prayer in schools.
Both announcements drew loud ovations from a crowd gathered at the Nación De Fe in the heart of the Puerto Rican storm refugee diaspora community. Yet the prayer in schools announcement was a highlight in a theme that Pence touched on numerous times, always getting enthusiastic responses: pressing his and Trump’s record in support of religious, particularly evangelical Christian, values.
Whenever Pence touched on topics as prayer in schools, religious freedom, abortion [calling Trump “the most pro-life president in American history], the crowd lit up.
“Under the president’s leadership, Hispanic unemployment is at the lowest level ever recorded,” Pence said.
“He stood up. He stood up for jobs and opportunities, but he has also stood up for the values and faith and freedom of people in the Latino community like no one else,” Pence. “He stood for religious freedom at home and all across the world.”
Pence also covered topics ranging from Trump’s record on tax cuts and the current economic boom in the stock market and job creation, Trump’s international trade policies, Trump’s border security policies [“We’ve already started to build the wall!”], Trump’s support for the military, Trump’s actions in the Middle East, Trump’s appointments of 180 “conservatively principled judges” and his policies toward socialist dictatorships in Latin America, notably in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba. The crowd also cheered enthusiastically when Pence mentioned that Trump repealed of the economic and political thaw with Cuba undertaken by Democratic President Barack Obama.
“I know Hispanic Americans across Florida and all across America know: We’re just getting started,” Pence said.
Polls have shown that Hispanic voters across Florida favor Democrats over Trump, and that is particularly true of Puerto Rican voters, who have helped push the voter roles in Osceola County, where Pence spoke, to 92,000 Democrats and about 50,000 Republicans. Republicans, Trump, and Pence have contended that the improved economy and social, conservative religious values ought to appeal to Florida’s Hispanics. They did to the 400 or so who attended Pence’s rally.
At the same time, the economic claims of Democrats, that too many of the new jobs are low wage and too many people, including Latinos, are not benefitting much from the economy, was evident nearby. Nación De Fe stands next door to one of the many low-cost motels in Kissimmee that serve as home to low-income residents who cannot afford apartments, let alone houses. Similar hotels line much of that part of the U.S. Highway 192 corridor, many of them filled with Puerto Rican refugees.
There also is widespread frustration in the federal government’s response to Puerto Rico’s needs after Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 and earthquakes this month. Pence insisted things were different.
“Our message to Puerto Rican Americans is simply this: We are with you today, we will be with you tomorrow, and we will be with you every day,” Pence said.