Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke on Friday called President Trump’s speech in El Paso, Texas, a “defining moment” for his community, saying that the president came to “one of the safest cities in the United States of America.”

O’Rourke told a crowd at UW-Madison the people of El Paso welcomed the media coverage that came with a presidential visit.

“We met his fear and his lies with this profoundly positive, powerful display of who we are,” said the native of El Paso, which stands on the Rio Grande across the Mexico-U.S. border from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico

As Trump has continued to call for a wall along the country’s southern border, O’Rourke asked, “Are we going to become a country of walls, will we turn our backs on asylum-seekers or will we follow our own laws and welcome them into this country?”

Dressed casually, O’Rourke addressed immigration, climate change and political polarization during a private Q&A session with University of Wisconsin-Madison students on Friday night.

The Texas Dem, who is considering a run for president in 2020, made his second stop in Wisconsin at UW-Madison after a visit to Milwaukee Area Technical College Friday afternoon.

The former congressman detailed El Paso’s public efforts to overhaul border security, such as pushing for removal of the family separation policy.

“We don’t have to wait for the next election to produce the change we want to see in this country,” O’Rourke said.

Responding to a question about his opinion on U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s proposed “Green New Deal,” O’Rourke named environmental legislation as one of the most important priorities for Congress.

“The greatest and the most existential challenge is climate,” O’Rourke said.

In the final questions of O’Rourke’s visit, he addressed dialogue across party lines, saying that he is more concerned with ideas than partisan affiliation.

“We can build walls, we can chant things at rallies, or we can listen to each other,” O’Rourke said.

Mark Morgan, executive director of the state GOP, called O’Rourke “an unabashed liberal who has no interest in moving to the middle” and “the latest example of a Democrat primary field stumbling over itself to determine who is more out of touch with Wisconsin families.”

By Brighid Hartnett



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