Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke kicked off his presidential campaign on the historic South El Paso Street in El Paso, Texas this weekend, the candidate’s hometown. Emphasizing a pro-immigration message, O’Rourke spoke of welcoming immigrants at a time when the current president has done everything he can to discourage immigration, especially from Mexico and South America.
He emphasized his hometown’s proximity to Ciudad Juárez, a town just across the Mexican-U.S. border: “With Cuidad Juárez, we form the largest bi-national community in this hemisphere and, for 20 years running, we have been one of the safest cities in America,” O’Rourke told the excited crowd, adding, “We have learned not to fear our differences but to respect and embrace them.”
Beto O'Rourke: "Whatever our differences — where you live, who you love, to whom you pray, for whom you voted in the last election — let those differences not define us or divide us at this moment. Let's agree going forward, before we are anything else, we are Americans first." pic.twitter.com/hsjXrB1fyV
— NBC News (@NBCNews) March 30, 2019
He quoted Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., saying Ciudad Juárez and El Paso were “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny,” adding, “This is a campaign for America, for everyone in America… This is our moment of truth, and we cannot be found wanting.”
He then took the opportunity to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform: “If we are really serious about security, we have a golden opportunity — Republicans, independents and 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,” he said
O’Rourke also expressed support for legislation to address climate change, unions, and paid family leave. His other policy proposals included legalizing marijuana, expunging arrests for marijuana possession, as well as ending cash bail along with privatized prisons.
The candidate also decried the erosion of voting rights and the influence of dark money and political action committees, saying he wants automatic voter registration: “We run the risk of becoming a democracy in name only.”
To once again emphasize his Texas roots and his embrace of immigration, O’Rourke closed out his speech in Spanish.
Beto switched to Spanish at the end of his speech in El Paso pic.twitter.com/1QwYF7L6lk
— Alexi McCammond (@alexi) March 30, 2019
This rally was the first of three. O’Rourke will next head to Dallas and Austin this weekend.