White House Hopefuls Flay Trump On Immigration at LULAC Event
WASHINGTON – A quartet of Democratic presidential candidates on Thursday vowed to make significant changes to the nation’s immigration laws if elected, contrasting their approaches with the hard line policies pursued by President Donald Trump the past two-and-a-half years.
The candidates, all of them skewing to the liberal side of the political spectrum, spoke at a presidential town hall sponsored by LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The event couldn’t have been more timely. Just moments before it began, and in a major reversal, President Trump announced he had abandoned his effort to insert a citizenship question into next year’s census.
Instead, he said, he’s directed federal agencies to try to compile the information using existing databases.
“Wow, you mean he’s going to follow the law?” Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., quipped from the town hall stage when asked about the then-breaking development.
The line drew one of the biggest audience reactions of the two-hour event, but Warren quickly grew more serious, saying that Trump’s obsession with adding the question to the census wasn’t “about trying to find real information about citizenship and noncitizenship in America. This is just about trying to stir up some more hate.”
The other candidates at the town hall were Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., former Housing Secretary Julián Castro, D-Texas, and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas.
But it was Warren who got off to the fastest start. Earlier in the day on Thursday, she released a wide-ranging immigration reform plan that included retooling rather than abolishing federal immigration enforcement agencies and placing new limits on the detention of migrants who enter the country.
But it was perhaps Sanders who spoke the most personally of immigration from the stage, recalling how his father Eli arrived in the U.S. from Poland at the age of 17 “without a nickel in his pocket” and unable to speak English.
Sanders said his father was just the kind of person Trump would seek to bar from entry into the country today.
The Vermont Senator then said his administration would “end the hatred, we will the end the xenophobia that currently exists in this country.”
“We will provide immediate legal status to the 1.8 million young people eligible for the DACA program … and we will move to comprehensive immigration reform and a path for citizenship for all 11 million undocumented,” he said.
DACA, short for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, protects about 700,000 people, known as dreamers, who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children or came with families that overstayed visas.
Like Warren, Sanders also promised to “develop a humane policy at the border, not one that criminalizes desperate people for having traveled a thousand miles.”
As for O’Rourke, he described Trump’s handling of the immigration as inept, saying that when immigrant communities fear local and federal law enforcement, they’re less likely to report crimes and testify in trials.
“That’s why, as president, I will lead the effort in re-writing our immigration laws in our own image, to reflect our values, the reality on the ground here in Milwaukee, in El Paso, Texas, across this country, that the very presence of immigrants makes us stronger, makes us more successful, and, yes, makes us safer and more secure,” he said.
Castro promised his administration would not put families in detention centers for crossing the U.S. border illegally.
“I will not stand by it. I’m not going to do it,” he said. He said children who are being crowded in pens, away from their parents “are going to be traumatized for the rest of their lives.”
On Friday, President Trump will travel to Wisconsin for the first of two political fundraisers on his schedule and also to tout the still-pending United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which is popular in the state.
Trump was the first Republican to win Wisconsin since Ronald Reagan in 1984, defeating Clinton by just 22,748 votes, and the state — seen as critical to his re-election chances — remains sharply divided over him.
A Marquette University Law School poll conducted in April found 46% of Wisconsin residents approve of his handling of his job, while 52% of respondents disapproved.
The poll also found that 54% of respondents said they would definitely or probably vote for someone else in 2020, while 42% said they would definitely or probably vote to re-elect him.
The poll came on the heels of Democrats sweeping every statewide office in the 2018 fall midterm elections.
Trump is scheduled to make two stops in Milwaukee on Friday, one a fundraiser, and the other a visit to Derco Aerospace Inc., a subsidiary of aviation giant Lockheed Martin that provides parts, logistics and repair services to fixed-wing aircraft.
After his visit to Wisconsin, Trump will travel to Ohio for a fundraiser at the Cleveland home of Brian Colleran, a nursing home magnate who was ordered to pay $19.5 million by the Justice Department for his role in a Medicare fraud nursing home scheme.