EL PASO, Texas ― Beto O’Rourke directly challenged President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration policies and painted the administration’s efforts to build a wall along the southern border as dangerous and divisive during a rally Monday night.
Speaking to a crowd of thousands within sight of the El Paso County Coliseum, where Trump spoke, the former Democratic congressman delivered an energized speech that recalled those he delivered in his unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign, a contest that vaulted him to the national stage. Amid wide expectation that he will launch a bid for the presidential nomination in 2020, O’Rourke evoked key themes he honed while campaigning across the state ― calling for a pathway to citizenship for so-called Dreamers and other undocumented immigrants, and urging the country to welcome asylum seekers.
In stark contrast to Trump’s doomsday vision of a crime-infested region under assault from foreign criminals, O’Rourke offered a glowing vision of the border zone. Noting that migrants are statistically less likely to commit crimes than the native-born, O’Rourke insisted that cities like El Paso, his hometown, are among the country’s safest precisely because of their strong immigrant presence.
“In El Paso, we are secure because we treat one another with dignity and respect. That is the way that we make our communities and our country safe,” O’Rourke said at the event. “We know that walls do not save lives. Walls end lives.”
Beto O'Rourke speaks to cheering supporters through a fence. It doesn't get more symbolic than this. pic.twitter.com/CTnKThq2kh— Roque Planas (@RoqPlanas) February 12, 2019
The speech marked O’Rourke’s first foray onto the national stage since conceding the Senate race to Republican Ted Cruz in November. Since then, he has maintained a low profile, rarely speaking to the press and offering only oblique remarks about whether he will launch a presidential bid. He told Oprah Winfrey earlier...