For many Hispanics, Trump is off the wall

Los Angeles (AFP) - Roberto Centeno shrugs off Donald Trump's controversial remarks on Latinos -- including suggestions that America should build a frontier wall to keep out the "rapists" he alleges Mexico sends across the border.

"The things that guy says do not represent Latinos. He can build all the walls he wants. We're not scared," said Centeno, reacting to Republican presidential candidate Trump's controversial remarks on immigration.

"When the time comes, that guy is not going to get into the White House. This country has more sense than he does," the young Mexican, who works as a computer technician, told AFP.

Centeno said he would not miss Trump's performance at the debate Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, where he clashed with ten challengers for their party's presidential nomination.

At that debate, Trump indeed took lots of shots from his many fellow hopefuls and immigration was in fact one of the issues that came up.

Trump, the property mogul and television star who has defied all political odds to lead the Republican race ahead of the November 2016 election, stunned many across the United States when he described Mexican immigrants as rapists.

Hispanic-Americans are the largest and fastest growing US minority; most Latinos are of Mexican descent or origin.

And Republicans need to court Hispanics' votes to win the White House.

Trump, 69, also wants to build a wall along the US-Mexican border.

- Fallout over wall? -

Though Trump lost business contracts with NBC television and some retailers, he still soared in a Republican field that includes Jeb Bush, and Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

"Trump forgets how much power we have. Here in California we are already a majority. Nobody can ignore us," said Alfredo Rincon, another Mexican-born computer worker in Los Angeles.

US Census data backs him up: in the most populous US state Hispanics outnumber whites, Asian-Americans and African-Americans.

Nationwide, Hispanics are the largest group tracked by the Census, with 55 million people.

Many of the millions however are undocumented, most of them from Mexico next door.

Until they get citizenship, they cannot vote for president.

"That guy goes on TV and says absolutely anything. But our time will come when we are all voting," said Enrique Cisneros, a stonemason from Guatemala.

Pop stars such as Ricky Martin, Shakira and Marc Anthony have spoken out against Trump's harsh words about immigrants.

Cisneros' wife Guadalupe works as a waitress in a hotel, and is disappointed that President Barack Obama did not achieve sweeping immigration reform as he promised.

"We gave him eight years to get it done," she said. "Now he is going to leave and nothing will have changed" for undocumented immigrants, estimated to number 12 million or more.

Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday described Trump's comments on immigration as "sick."

"That one guy absolutely denigrated an entire group of people, appealing to the baser side of human nature," Biden told a group of Hispanic Americans.

"This message has been tried on America many times before. We always, always, always, always, always overcome," he said.

Like Trump, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal has urged ending the right to US citizenship by birth. Jindal is the son of immigrants from India.

And Trump himself is the son of an immigrant from Scotland. And two of Trump's three wives have been immigrants.

Jeb Bush, son and brother of former presidents, is married to a Mexican immigrant.