EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — It’s no coincidence that Michael Bloomberg chose El Paso to talk about his political offer for Latino voters, gun control and immigration reform.
This city is still reeling from the Aug. 3 attack by a lone gunman who allegedly came to the border to kill Mexicans. And it has been the epicenter of controversy over a Trump administration policy that makes asylum seekers wait months in Mexico until called to immigration hearings in El Paso.
The Democratic presidential hopeful played on president Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric to get a mostly Hispanic crowd going Wednesday at a rally in a Downtown El Paso venue.
“Not far from where we stand tonight, brave Latino men and women are preparing to serve our country in Fort Bliss. They are heroes who deserve our respect. They’re not criminals and rapists and murderers and killers,” Bloomberg said. “He’s called them animals. He said our country is under invasion and we face an infestation. […] These are more than words. This is when a president of the United States uses his bully pulpit to fuel fear and hatred. White supremacists hear his language as an invitation.”
He went on to talk about gun-control laws, including a ban on assault weapons such as the one the gunman used in the El Paso mass shooting. He told El Pasoans that he laid a branch from a tree that survived the 9/11 attacks on the memorial for their shooting victims.
Late in getting to the presidential race, Bloomberg is running fourth in the Democratic race in Texas. A Texas Lyceum poll released this week has the former mayor of New York at 9%, behind Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (13%), Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (26%) and national front-runner Joe Biden (28%).
But on Wednesday night, Bloomberg stressed that his Path Forward plan — which he translates as El Paso Adelante — is right for Hispanics. Hispanics comprise nearly 40% of the Texas population and 30% of its registered voters.
He said he’s aware of the growth of the Hispanic population. “Republicans know that and that’s why they pass so many voter suppression laws that are designed to lower turnout, especially in Latino communities,” he said, vowing to foster voter participation. “Texas isn’t a red state, it’s a non-voting state.”
Bloomberg utilized his campaign stop to outline broad plans to expand Obamacare to include more uninsured, provide tuition-free college and debt forgiveness to low-income students, lower interest rates on home loans and push for a $15-an-hour minimum wage.
He also said he favors a path to citizenship for 11 million unauthorized immigrants already in the country. “That will be one of my top priorities during my first month in office, and I’m going to tell you, after too many years of inaction, we will get it done,” he said to rousing applause.
The Democrat also brought back the topics of migrant children kept behind bars and dying in detention. “What kind of a country have we become? This cruelty is just unimaginable. It is un-American, and on my watch, it will end,” he said.
Just before the candidate’s speech, a member of the audience stole the crowd’s applause. A former presidential candidate himself, Beto O’Rourke said he was at the venue merely as a spectator.