Former Rep. Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke (D-TX) on Saturday formally kicked off his 2020 presidential campaign, declaring at a rally in El Paso, Texas, that immigrants and asylum seekers make the border town safe.
In a speech to over 1000 supporters, O’Rourke drew a sharp contrast between his immigration policies and those of President Donald Trump, extolling the virtues of increased immigration and diversity as a unifying force.
“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.
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.”
O’Rourke also criticized 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.”
O’Rourke delivered the speech at South El Paso Street, which is connected to Mexico by an international bridge.