Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, a loyal Republican and candidate for the U.S. Senate, is breaking ranks with his party’s presidential front-runner over immigration issues.

Rocky Chavez near the Oceanside Pier. Campaign photo
Rocky Chavez near the Oceanside Pier. Campaign photo

Donald Trump’s comments on immigrants are mean-spirited — “and not characteristic of the Republican Party or our nation,” said Chávez, who represents the 76th Assembly District including Camp Pendleton, Carlsbad, Encinitas, Oceanside and Vista.

“California is a world leader in many categories, and it is crucial that we solidify our state as a leader in comprehensive immigration reform; it is clear to me that the ideologies of Mr. Trump will set our nation and our state back many years and damage our society for many years to come,” Chávez said in a statement Monday.

“Immigrants give great value to society and lawmakers need to focus on the importance of keeping families together in order to ensure our nation continues to be the land of opportunity.”

Chávez made his remarks in the wake of an interview the New York businessman had Sunday with NBC’s Chuck Todd and the release of the candidate’s immigration-reform plan, which includes ending citizenship rights children of undocumented immigrants born in the United States.

Trump said on “Meet the Press” that he would reverse President Obama’s executive orders on immigration and deport all undocumented immigrants from the United States.

“We’re going to keep the families together, but they have to go,” he said. “We will work with them. They have to go. Chuck, we either have a country, or we don’t have a country.”

A retired Marine colonel, Chávez, 64, has launched a long-shot bid for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Barbara Boxer. His name would be on the same ballot at Trump’s if both make it to the November 2016 elections.

Chávez the sole Latino Republican serving in Sacramento, backs a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants.