Several Democratic presidential hopefuls met Thursday night for a town hall organized by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) in downtown Milwaukee.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro and former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke all spoke, as part of the four-day convention that’s drawn thousands of people. The discussion focused largely on immigration.
The candidates' forum was held a few hours after President Trump announced that he will abandon efforts to put a citizenship question on the U.S. census form. Instead, he says he'll instruct government agencies to compile citizen information from federal records.
“Wow, he’s going to follow the law?” Warren said, reacting to the decision.
When the moderator noted that President Trump is going to seek other ways to get this information, Warren said: “Look, this is not about trying to find out real information about citizenship and non-citizenship in America, this is just about trying to stir up some more hate.”
She says that’s not how to build a future in this country, and that she would focus on expanding legal immigration. She would also support a wealth tax which could fund universal child care and tuition-free tech schools and colleges.
Julian Castro also distinguished himself from Trump on economic and immigration issues. He says his administration would not put families in detention centers for crossing the U.S. border illegally.
"We have these little children that are being separated from their parents, that are being kept in conditions where some of them don’t have soap, they don’t have toothbrushes, they’re crowded into pens," he said. "They’re going to be traumatized, many of them, for the rest of their lives. I’ve said, ‘I’m not going to do that.’ ”
In addition, Castro says he wants to decriminalize immigration violations.
O’Rourke says it’s not necessary to deport people or round them up to make communities safe. He says when immigrant communities fear local and federal law enforcement, they’re less likely to report crimes and testify in trials.
"That’s why, as president, I will lead the effort in rewriting our immigration laws in our own image, to reflect our values, the reality on the ground here in Milwaukee, in El Paso, Texas, across this country, that the very presence of immigrants makes us stronger, makes us more successful, and makes us safer and more secure,” he said.
O’Rourke also says he would set a $15 minimum wage and introduce universal health care.
Sanders has an extensive vision for immigration. He says he would provide immediate legal status to more than 1 million “dreamers.” But he also turned to the U.S. trade relationship with Mexico. He says he’d reject the Trump-designed U.S.- Mexico-Canada Agreement.
"Trade agreements have not been written with the needs of working people or poor people in mind," said Sanders. "They have been written to protect the best interests and the profits of large, multi-national corporations who often write these agreements behind closed doors.”
The Republican Party of Wisconsin responded to the town hall, saying that the candidates’ “radical policy proposals threaten the safety and economic prosperity of all Americans,” and “President Trump continues to champion economic policies that have delivered real results for Hispanic Americans in Wisconsin and across the country.”
Trump will be in Milwaukee Friday talking about his economic policies and making an appearance at Derco Aerospace on the northwest side.