WASHINGTON -- Citing "anti-immigrant fear mongering" by Republican presidential candidates, nearly two dozen Latino celebrities and civil rights leaders released an open letter urging Latino voters to reject the GOP and "vote for candidates who support our community."
Signers of the letter include actors America Ferrera, Benjamin Bratt, George Lopez, Aubrey Plaza and Zoe Saldana, musician Carlos Santana, and labor leader Dolores Huerta, a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient.
The statement, which was published Thursday in English and Spanish, singles out GOP front-runner Donald Trump for special derision.
"From accusing Mexicans of being rapists to kicking Jorge Ramos out of his press conference, Trump has spent the entirety of his presidential bid stoking unfounded anti-immigrant fears and deeply offending our communities," the letter declares, referencing Trump's disagreement with the Univision anchor.
It emphasizes that the rest of the GOP candidates -- including the two Cuban-American contenders, Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Ted Cruz (Texas) -- share the blame.
"We must not … let Trump's xenophobia overshadow the extreme policies being pushed by every single one of the GOP's leading presidential candidates," the letter states. "Latinos should understand that Donald Trump embodies the true face of the entire Republican Party."
Huerta, who has advocated for the Latino community since the 1950s, told HuffPost that she could not remember a time when national political candidates had so openly played to voters' anxiety about immigration. "I've never seen something this overt," she said. "It reminds me of a time down South, when George Wallace ran for president on a segregationist platform [in 1968]."
Subtle differences between the GOP candidates on immigration will likely be magnified in the days leading up to Feb. 23, when Nevada hosts the fourth Republican nominating contest. Few places in the country have seen more immigration in recent decades than Nevada, where Hispanics now make up more than a quarter of the population.
Huerta pointed to one good sign that the state hasn't embraced xenophobia.
"Nevada voters exercised their influence at the ballot box in 2010, when they defeated Sharron Angle, who ran on an anti-immigrant platform," Huerta said. "The polls showed Angle winning all the way up to Election Day, but Nevada voters turned out to support a diverse society."
In that closely watched race, then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) handily defeated his GOP challenger, prompting pollsters to wonder whether they'd underestimated the importance of Hispanic voters.
"If we can combine the Latino vote and the women's vote in 2016, we're going to be the deciders in the next election," said Huerta. "These candidates stoke people's fears at their own peril."
Editor's note: Donald Trump is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist, birther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.