Beto O’Rourke launched his presidential campaign on Saturday by stressing the value immigrants brought to the United States, a message in direct contrast to President Donald Trump’s threat to close the border, and taking a shot at the president’s use of ‘fear and division.’
‘For too long in this country, the powerful have maintained their privilege at the expense of the powerless. They have used fear and division in the same way that our current president uses fear and division,’ O’Rourke said.
‘We are Americans first,’ he said, as the crowd cheered ‘USA, USA, USA.’
Beto O’Rourke formally launched his presidential bid on Saturday
He continually returned to a theme of unity and called on people to forget their past differences to come together for the country.
‘So, 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,’ he said.
He began by talking about immigration – a divisive issue in the country – and one he faced off on with President Trump before, when the two spoke at competing rallies in El Paso in February.
‘El Paso represents to me America at its best,’ the 46-year-old said. ”For more than 100 years this community has welcomed generations of immigrants from across the Rio grande, some having traveled hundreds of miles, some having traveled thousands of miles trying to a better life in this country for themselves and their kids, that’s for sure, but also because they were called to contribute to our shared success and to this country’s greatness, and they have.’
He also stressed how safe the city of El Paso is.
‘We formed the largest binational community in this hemisphere. And for 20 years running we’ve been one of the safest cities in the United States of America,’ he said.
”We will find security not through walls, not through militarization is, we will find security by focusing on our ports of entry that connect us to the rest of the world so we have a better idea of who and what is coming in here and we facilitate the trade and travel connected to millions of jobs around this country,’ he said.
He also called on the nation’s immigration laws to be rewritten with ‘our own values.’
‘We will support our CBP officers, our border patrol agents. We will treat every single American with the dignity and respect that they are owed as Americans and as human beings, and if we are really serious about security, we have a golden opportunity, Republicans, independents, 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 added.
O’Rourke’s announcement came on a cool, windy morning in El Paso, his hometown where his late father served as county commissioner and judge.
‘It was really important for Amy and me to launch this campaign from El Paso. It’s the city where I was born,’ he said to cheers of ‘Beto’ from the crowd. ‘It’s the same city where Amy and I are raising our three kids.’
Unity is a major theme of O’Rourke’s campaign and he stressed the bipartisanship of his past work.
‘You’ve found or you’ve helped me to find those Republican colleagues with whom I could walk across the aisle or drive across the country to get the job done for El Paso and for the United States, and we did,’ he said, referring to his March 2017 drive from Texas to Washington D.C. with Republican Rep. William Hurd, a trip they livestreamed on Facebook.
‘We are about to be a part of something transformational,’ he told the crowd.
He laid out a series of policy proposals in his speech after he’s faced past criticism for not having any specific policy programs prepared.
O’Rourke outlined his support for several liberal goals: affordable healthcare, bringing down cost of prescription drugs, a women’s right to choose, a ‘world-class’ public school system, to pay teachers more, strengthen unions, pay a livable wage, equal pay for women, paid family leave, legalization of marijuana, climate change, and a path to citizenship for Dreamers.
‘Let’s make sure we never take another child from another mother,’ he said as the crowd cheered. ‘Let’s reunite all of those families that are separated today.’
The national anthem at his rally was sung by Mis Border City 2019 Andrea Chacon, who is also a former Miss El Paso.
Chacon, wearing a sash and large tiara, told DailyMail.com that she was excited to be singing but wasn’t endorsing O’Rourke just yet.
‘I kind of want to see what there is to say. I don’t want to make up my mind so fast,’ she explained.
The setting of O’Rourke’s formal announcement was El Paso Street, which connects the town to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, and was meant to symbolize the unity theme of his campaign.
Supporters waved black-and-white ‘Viva Beto for America’ signs, vendors sold t-shirts, and a variety of flags were waved – including the American flag, Gay pride flags and Beto for America flags.
He was introduced by his wife Amy, who recalled the blind date where they met and traced the story of Beto O’Rourke’s political career. Their children – Ulysses, Molly and Henry joined them on stage.
‘What was clear to me was how committed he was to El Paso,’ Amy O’Rourke recounted of their first date.
‘Beto was Beto – he had not changed,’ she said recalling her fear of how his his becoming a member of Congress might affect her husband.
‘Reaching the decision to run for president was not an easy one,’ she said. ‘But at the end of the day we knew we had to do everything we possible could in this moment, in this very challenging time.’
O’Rourke has had to apologize for a few gaffs involving his wife: the first when he was criticized for her sitting in silence next to him during his official 2020 announcement video and then for saying she raises their three children practically on her own.
He apologized for that remark during a campaign swing in Iowa and added that ‘I’ll be more thoughtful going forward in the way that I talk about our marriage, and also the way in which I acknowledge the truth of the criticism that I have enjoyed white privilege.’
O’Rourke is a fifth generation El Paso resident. He served on the city council before representing the area for four terms in Congress.
He has been on a listening tour in some of the important primary and presidential states: Iowa, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada.
His announcement on the border comes at a time immigration is topic of vitriol in the country. President Donald Trump is threatening to close the border to stop a surge of migrants from entering the United States.
Democratic Rep. Veronica Escobar, who replaced O’Rourke in Congress, touted this ‘son of border’ as the best person to tackle the immigration issue.
She also vowed a positive campaign from the former congressman.
‘We are not going to engage in the same way others engage. We are going to lift each other up,’ she said.
O’Rourke is kicking off his presidential dreams with a series of three rallies in his native Texas.
After El Paso, he heads to Houston for an event at the historically black Texas Southern University and then it’s on to Austin to hold an outdoor rally in front of the state Capitol building.
O’Rourke has risen in the polls since announcing his bid earlier this month. In a Quinnipiac poll released on Thursday, he was in third place after former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders.