Beto O’Rourke said, “El Paso is safe because we are a city of immigrants and asylum seekers.”
Presidential candidate Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke (D-TX) formally kicked off his 2020 presidential campaign at a crowded downtown intersection less than a mile from the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, Saturday, declaring that immigrants and asylum seekers make the border town safe.
O’Rourke praised the virtues of illegal immigrants comparing them to those who entered the United States legally over past generations.
“Welcome to the beautiful, magical, safe and secure U.S.-Mexico border,” U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, said as she introduced candidate O’Rourke. “El Paso is the Ellis Island of the border and in Beto O’Rourke we are sending the nation our best.”
The border is at the center of ongoing immigration debate in the United States, Escobar said, praising O’Rourke – known as Beto, the Spanish nickname for Robert — as a “son of the border.”
“We are safe because we are a city of immigrants and asylum seekers,” O’Rourke said in a stump speech that lasted 30 minutes. “El Paso represents America at its best.”
Since O’Rourke announced his presidential bid March 14, he has driven almost 2,500 miles to campaign in eight states: Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.
Saturday was his first campaign appearance in Texas. Talking to an enthusiastic crowd in El Paso, O’Rourke quoted the civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King and promised a campaign focused on respect and unity rather than division and fear.
“Rather than a campaign based on where you live, who you love, or who you voted for in the last elections, before anything else we are Americans first,” O’Rourke told the crowd of several thousand.
O’Rourke promised his campaign would unify Americans on immigration reform, climate change legislation, universal healthcare and equal pay for women. He vowed to defend women’s reproductive rights and to protect U.S. democracy. He did not mention gun control, an issue he has addressed at other rallies.
“Universal healthcare means everyone gets primary healthcare, mental healthcare — and universal care also means that every woman makes her own decisions about her own body,” O’Rourke said.
If he were the next president, O’Rourke said he would sign legislation to protect voting rights, provide families with paid leave and outlaw workplace discrimination. He said he would end the federal prohibition on cannabis and expunge arrest records for a substance now legal in many states. He promised to protect so-called Dreamers, child migrants brought to the United States by their parents under an Obama-era program and who are at risk of deportation. He also said he would confront the legacy of slavery in the United States.
“With Ciudad Juarez we form the largest binational community in this hemisphere. And for 20 years running, we’ve been one of the safest cities in the United States of America,” the El Paso native declared. “We are safe not despite the fact that we are a city of immigrants and asylum seekers. We are safe because we are a city of immigrants and asylum seekers.”
“We have learned not to fear our differences, but to respect and embrace them. We see the languages spoken in this community, the traditions, the cultures, as a strength for El Paso,” he added.
O’Rourke’s remarks follow a threat by President Trump to shut down the Southern border, citing repeated failures by the Mexican government to assist the administration in preventing further South American caravans reaching the United States. The president also blasted Democrats for advocating “weak” immigration laws.
“The DEMOCRATS have given us the weakest immigration laws anywhere in the World. Mexico has the strongest, & they make more than $100 Billion a year on the U.S. Therefore, CONGRESS MUST CHANGE OUR WEAK IMMIGRATION LAWS NOW, & Mexico must stop illegals from entering the U.S,” the president wrote on Twitter Friday morning.
The DEMOCRATS have given us the weakest immigration laws anywhere in the World. Mexico has the strongest, & they make more than $100 Billion a year on the U.S. Therefore, CONGRESS MUST CHANGE OUR WEAK IMMIGRATION LAWS NOW, & Mexico must stop illegals from entering the U.S….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 29, 2019
He continued: “Mexico has for many years made a fortune off of the U.S., far greater than Border Costs. If Mexico doesn’t immediately stop ALL illegal immigration coming into the United States [through] our Southern Border, I will be CLOSING the Border, or large sections of the Border, next week.”
….through their country and our Southern Border. Mexico has for many years made a fortune off of the U.S., far greater than Border Costs. If Mexico doesn’t immediately stop ALL illegal immigration coming into the United States throug our Southern Border, I will be CLOSING…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 29, 2019
O’Rourke took the opportunity to criticize President Trump over family separations at the border and vowed to kill the policy if elected president.
“Let us reunite every single one of those families that are still separated today,” O’Rourke said. “And let’s remember that every single one of us, including those who are just three or four blocks from here detained under the international bridge that connects us with Mexico behind chain-linked fence and barbed wire, that they are fellow human beings and deserved to be treated like our fellow human beings.”
“We will find security not through walls, not through militarization, we will find security by focusing on our ports of entry,” he went on. “If we are really serious about security, we have a golden opportunity, Republicans, Independents, Democrats alike to work on comprehensive immigration reform, to rewrite this country’s immigration laws in our own image with our own values and in the best traditions of the United States of America.”