EL PASO, Texas – The quarrel between President Donald Trump and Beto O'Rourke on immigration resumed at a distance on Tuesday, pushing the border wall policy further into the 2020 presidential campaign.
After O'Rourke told MSNBC last week that he would "absolutely" cut a stretch of wall off the border of his hometown of El Paso, Trump told reporters here Tuesday that the statement "probably end of his political career ".
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The opposite of this assessment seems to be true nearly 2,000 miles from the border town of El Paso, where O'Rourke did not announce his run for president on Tuesday – but could as well have done so .
Linking his political identity to this highly Hispanic and strongly Democratic southwestern region, the former Texas congressman seized Trump's border policy to create an opening in the Democratic primary. In a speech in which he received El Paso Inc.'s "El Pasoan of the Year" award, he said that, on issues ranging from climate change to immigration, "El Paso is the solution".
The call and response exposed the sustainability of an issue that defined the 2016 presidential race and shaped the early stages of the 2020 campaign.
Trump and O'Rourke's jabs come one week after the president's appearance in El Paso to redouble calls for a border wall by organizing a rally in the countryside that resulted in a massive march and a demonstration. O'Rourke said Tuesday that even though Trump "focused his country on the US-Mexico border, … we got up, not necessarily against him, but defended ourselves."
After the duel, O'Rourke traveled to the Midwest to meet with students in Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin, before speaking at a meeting of the American Institute of Hispanic Leadership in Chicago on Saturday. . He placed Trump's call for funding a border wall in the center of his likely campaign, claiming that the walls are not only ineffective at reducing crime – a point corroborated by statistics in El Paso – but that they also endanger immigrants by encouraging them to cross the border. in more distant places.
"We do not need another wall. We do not need another fence, "O'Rourke told Chicago. "As the president has claimed, walls do not save lives. The walls end lives.
In recent weeks, O'Rourke has presented proposals to extend citizenship to undocumented migrants known as Dreamers – who were illegally taken into the country – and to provide a path to citizenship to other undocumented immigrants. And his comment on MSNBC that he would remove existing barriers in El Paso has forced other Democrats to react.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, interviewed on Friday, told Fox News: "I should ask people in this part of the country to see if the fence that exists today is useful or not." But, she added: "I could look and see what part it means and why, and if it makes sense, I could support it."
On Tuesday, Mr. O. Rourke told the press that "physical barriers have a role to play in some places" and that it would not necessarily remove fences at the border in areas located at the border. 39, outside El Paso.
"I would work with local stakeholders, homeowners, communities, people living there to determine the best security solution," O'Rourke said. "We saw in El Paso a solution looking for a problem imposed by people who did not live here."
For Democrats facing an impending election campaign against Trump, immigration policy is cumbersome. A poll POLITICO / Morning Consult last week suggested that the US electorate was divided over the construction of a border wall, while previous polls indicated that the subject was resonating louder with Republicans than Democrats. Even in El Paso, some supporters are worried about O'Rourke who is so focused on a topic that Trump used to win the elections in 2016.
"I'm worried about general electoral politics," said Hector Gutierrez Jr., a public affairs consultant in El Paso. "But I admire the fact that he's ready to take a stand."
Celinda Lake, a leading pollster and Democratic strategist, said that immigration "fit perfectly with the Beto brand" and that he was "in a unique position in this regard, having been a member of the Congress of that region" .
"I think the main reason so many people engage in immigration is because it's a fundamental contrast to Donald Trump," said Lake. "And for the moment, the Democrats want to go beat Donald Trump."
Frank Luntz, a former Republican consultant and pollster, wrote in an e-mail that "it makes perfect sense that Democratic candidates focus on immigration, not because they are anti-muros." but because it allows them to stay anti-Trump. "
"I'm surprised none of them offered a song like" scrape the wall "to their fans."
O'Rourke's attention to immigration comes at a time when other Democratic candidates are refocusing on health care, child care and taxes – and O'Rourke says more centrist elements of his profile. While congratulating Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) On Tuesday for adding "so much to the national conversation," said O'Rourke, "I am a capitalist."
Asked about the role of democratic socialism in the Democratic Party, he said: "I do not see how we are able to address the country's fundamental challenges without partially harnessing the power of the market."
O'Rourke called climate change, one of the problems Sanders focuses on, "the most immediate example."
"If you want to harness all the innovation and ingenuity of this country," said Mr. O. Rourke, "our system as a country must be part of our economy".
O 'Rourke's remarks come after Sanders, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist, announced that he would run for president again in 2020. O'Rourke was a super-delegate from Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention of 2016 and declared to have voted at the primary level.
O & # 39; Rourke said about Sanders: "I find it great that he gets into the game. I think he has added a lot to the national conversation, that's it." Act health care, access to higher education, the power of small businesses. dollar donors against the concentration of power that you see in the PAC and the wealthiest in this country. "
O'Rourke, who spoke with potential campaign strategists about a race to 2020, said he planned to decide within two weeks whether he would participate in the race. But he said that he "will not be limited" by this schedule.
O'Rourke did not rule out running in the Senate or another office.
"I'm trying to find the best way to serve this country," he said.
Addressing about 600 people in El Paso at Fort Bliss for the "El Pasoan of the Year" ceremony, Mr. O. Rourke called the award "a lifetime of honor and honor." the pinnacle of what I did to myself. "
O'Rourke speaks incessantly of El Paso, making the West Texas town an example of a diverse community feasting on its multiculturalism. Located on the border between Juárez and Mexico, El Paso County has a Hispanic population of more than 80% and the region presents itself as a democratic oasis in a strongly Republican state.
In a video broadcast Tuesday in the city, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) And Representative Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) Congratulated O'Rourke on the award he received. Kennedy said that since he knew O'Rourke, the Texan had always sought to "raise" his hometown.
When O'Rourke went on stage, he joked that he was not sure before seeing the video that Pelosi knew he existed.