Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke said Saturday that President Trump was like an "arsonist who wants credit for putting out a fire" on immigration policy and his decision to cut off all US aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras will only lead to more refugees fleeing those countries.
Speaking with CNN's David Axelrod, a former Obama campaign official, O'Rourke said: "He's going to cancel out half a billion dollars in aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. That's going to make the problem even worse and you will see an even greater flow of people heading north, coming here, that no wall or militarization or policy is going to stop."
"What we need is someone who will not play games or politics with people's lives or the security of this country but will invest in the smart decisions and policies like investing in Central America to stop the outflow before it even begins," O'Rourke told Axelrod.
"We can try to address these problems at the US-Mexico border with walls or open arms, or we can address them in the countries of origin before they ever become a problem, and that's what I want to do," he continued.
BETO O'ROURKE: What he has done in the name of this country, taking kids from their parents after they survived a more than 2,000 mile journey, some of it on foot, some of it atop a train known as "The Beast," arriving here at their most desperate and vulnerable moment, deporting that mom back to the very country she fled and then putting that kid in a cage, you would like to think it's un-American, but it's happening in this country. Not only must we follow our own asylum laws, which he's clearly breaking. Not just in the way he's treating these asylum seekers but preventing them from lawfully seeking asylum at this port of entry.
Here's what he's going to do. Whether this is the intent or not, he's going to cancel out half a billion dollars in aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. That's going to make the problem even worse and you will see an even greater flow of people heading north, coming here, that no wall or militarization or policy is going to stop. They're desperate, doing exactly what I would do if my kids were in the same danger their kids are right now. So instead, we should be investing even more in the northern trial of not military equipment but violence reduction and prevention in those communities. Where we've been successful in doing that, we've seen a net decrease in outflow.
DAVID AXELROD: You've been in the business of politics. Do you think he sees an advantage in torquing up the crisis?
BETO O'ROURKE: Donald Trump is the arsonist who gets the credit for putting out the fire. He's going to cause worse out-migration and asylum-seeking by cutting off all U.S. aid and then he wants to be the person who gets the credit for stopping it. What we need is someone who will not play games or politics with people's lives or the security of this country, but will invest in the smart decisions and policies like investing in Central America to stop the outflow before it even begins. We can try to address these problems at the U.S./Mexico border with walls or open arms or address them in the countries of origin before they become a problem and that's what I want to do.
DAVID AXELROD: The president says the country's full. That was his message to immigrants who went to the border and because you have traveled around quite a bit and you have traveled through all kinds of communities in this country, you know that there is a certain resonance to that with some americans and some voters.
BETO O'ROURKE: You know what? I haven't found that, actually. I was just in Storm Lake in Iowa, talking to Mexican immigrants who came to work at the Tyson's plant that no one born in Storm Lake is working at right now. And they're investing in the success of that community and the people in that community get it. Revitalizing rural America in part depends on ensuring that immigrants can find a home in rural America. Our success as farmers, as an economy, as a country, as a democracy is necessitated upon new people coming in to reinvigorate the country.
DAVID AXELROD: He says he's going to make immigration a centerpiece of his campaign. And your answer is, bring it on.
BETO O'ROURKE: Absolutely. There's this community of El Paso/Ciudad Juarez that is an example of why immigration matters, why it makes us safer and why it creates more jobs. So I'm looking forward to sharing that message and talking about safety and economic growth and jobs in a positive way that includes all of us.