Eight Democratic presidential candidates made their pitches in Miami on Friday, courting the state’s more than 2 million Latino voters.
The candidates spoke at the annual conference of NALEO, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. The group included Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Julian Castro, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, John Hickenlooper, Pete Buttigieg and Eric Swalwell.
Most took swipes at President Trump and his policies while covering topics that included immigration, climate change and the U.S. economy. Just one day earlier, the president claimed his support among Latinos has “gone way up.”
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Noticeably absent from the NALEO event was Joe Biden, the former vice president who is the frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, according to a recent Fox News Poll.
The forum took place five days ahead of the first Democratic debate, which also will be held in Miami, and came just three days after Trump officially launched his 2020 re-election campaign with a raucous rally in Orlando, Fla., unveiling the slogan, “Keep America Great.”
‘Trump is a demagogue’
In his speech, Sanders — a U.S. senator from Vermont — called out what he referred to as the president’s “racism” and “xenophobia” and promised that if elected he would “undo the fear and the damage” Trump has caused.” He labeled Trump a “demagogue” who is picking on the immigrant community in order to divide the nation.
“Let us not forget that this administration is ripping children from the arms of their mothers,” Sanders said. “Some of those children have died.”
Sanders referred to Trump as a “demagogue.”
“What we have got to do is to understand that Trump is a demagogue and he does what demagogues always do,” Sanders said, according to the Hill, “and what that is, is to pick on a minority — and today that minority is the immigrant community.”
O’Rourke, a former congressman from El Paso, Texas, announced that he would reunite every child separated at the border and end the detention of migrant children through an executive order.
“We will no longer put children in cages!” he told the audience.
Adding a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. Census was a key issue at the event.
“It is racist in its design,” O’Rourke said. “It’s intended to suppress the vote of Latinos, people of color, those whose country of national origin was some other place, who came here to contribute to our babies. Let’s make sure they can by counting every single one of them.”
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‘That is our country’
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said she would wait to weigh in on the Census issue until after the Supreme Court decides the case. She focused much of her speech on the economy but also promised to help “Dreamers” — those benefitting from DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), an Obama-era program for assisting adults who came to the U.S. illegally as children.
Julian Castro, a Texan who served in the Obama administration as secretary of housing and urban development, said if elected he would decriminalize illegal border crossings, expand DACA through executive order and protect Venezuelans with Temporary Protected Status.
“That is our country. That is America,” Castro said about his Mexican grandmother who came to the U.S. as a 7-year-old orphan.
Castro added: “Right before [President Trump] leaves [the White House] … I’m going to tell him, ‘Adios!'”
“Right before [President Trump] leaves [the White House] … I’m going to tell him, ‘Adios!’ “
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Pete Buttigieg warned about Trump becoming a distraction as Democrats try to pitch their ideas to voters.
“The more we talk about this president, the less we talk about the people,” he said.
“The more we talk about this president, the less we talk about the people.”
Buttigieg, who had been off the campaign trail to deal with an officer-involved shooting in South Bend, Ind., where he is mayor, spoke about the importance of giving Puerto Rico the right to vote.
“The embarrassingly poor response to [Hurricane Michael, which struck the island last October] would not have happened if Puerto Rico were afforded electoral votes,” he said.
He added that America “must welcome the decision of the people of Puerto Rico” if they choose statehood.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.