WASHINGTON • Mr Donald Trump faced a backlash from some of his top conservative Hispanic supporters who said their hopes that he was softening his immigration policy had been dashed by his fiery speech earlier in the week, which they said was anti-immigrant.
Mr Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, had shown signs in recent weeks that he was prepared to take a more conciliatory approach to immigrants who had entered the country illegally, dropping talk of a deportation force and instead speaking of treating those immigrants in a fair and humane fashion.
Less than two weeks ago, he held a meeting with his Hispanic advisory council in Trump Tower, leaving attendees with the impression that he was working on a new plan that included a path to citizenship.
That impression faded on Wednesday night in Phoenix.
"There was so much hope," said Mr Jacob Monty, a member of the Hispanic advisory council who was at the meeting with Mr Trump. "He used us as props."
The longtime Republican said Mr Trump appeared humble during the meeting, listened to proposals, acknowledged the difficulty of deporting 11 million unauthorised immigrants and suggested that he was working on a new policy that included a path to legalisation. Mr Monty resigned from the council after Mr Trump's speech.
"That was not a Republican speech, that was populist propaganda," Mr Monty said.
Pastor Ramiro Pena from Texas, who was on Mr Trump's advisory council, also abandoned the campaign. According to an e-mail to the Trump campaign, obtained by Politico, Mr Pena - who could not be reached for comment - said the group that Mr Trump had formed was a "scam".
Other conservative Hispanic leaders were also disappointed.
Mr Alfonso Aguilar, director of American Principles Project's Latino Partnership, who had backed Mr Trump and offered advice on immigration policy to his campaign, withdrew his support on Thursday. Mr Aguilar said he and other conservative Hispanic leaders had supported Mr Trump as they thought he would be able to work with Congress to get something done on immigration reform.
The Trump campaign shrugged off dissension among conservative Hispanics.
"Mr Trump has been consistent in advocating for an end to illegal immigration, and he will continue to reach out and work with voters from all communities to defeat crooked Hillary Clinton this fall," said campaign spokesman Jason Miller.
Mr Trump continued to talk tough on immigration at a rally in Wilmington, Ohio, on Thursday.
"Last night, I outlined a bold new immigration reform to create prosperity and opportunity for all of our people, especially those who have the least," he told the crowd. "We will treat everyone with dignity, respect and compassion, but our greatest compassion will be for the American citizen."
Mr Javier Palomarez, president of the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said Mr Trump proved to be a "clown" and it was a sad moment for the Republican Party.
"I think he's done for with the Hispanic community," Mr Palomarez told MSNBC. "He's never going to see the White House if he doesn't get a significant portion of the Hispanic vote."
NEW YORK TIMES