Former Rep. (Texas) met with asylum seekers on Sunday during his first trip to Mexico as a presidential hopeful.
O’Rourke traveled to Ciudad Juarez, which sits across the Rio Grande from his hometown of El Paso, Texas, to meet immigrants who had been turned away from entry into the U.S. while their asylum claims are processed, his campaign said.
According to O’Rourke’s campaign, the 2020 hopeful met with a range of asylum seekers denied access to the U.S. under what it described as “’s cruel and inhumane policies,” including a 19-year-old woman separated from her family at the border and a woman fleeing with three children from her abusive husband in Guatemala.
O’Rourke met with immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala at a roundtable in Casa del Migrante.
“We hope, by sharing these stories, that the conscience of our country is awoken right now, and the need to change the policies that we have in place” becomes apparent, O’Rourke said via a livestream on his Facebook page.
O’Rourke, speaking in Spanish, asked asylum seekers about their experiences in the court system.
The White House hopeful blamed what he called the “Trump administration’s unlawful ‘Remain in Mexico’ program,” under which the U.S. has returned thousands of Central Americans to cities along the Mexican border as they await their asylum claims.
“It’s a cruelty on a young person who’s already separated from her family, is no longer in her country, has been in Ciudad Juárez for months now, just trying to get help, and is navigating all of this without an attorney,” O’Rourke said.
“We put them in this precarious position, we have caused this suffering. We also have the opportunity to make this better and to make this right,” he later added.
O’Rourke visited Juarez late last year before announcing his candidacy to meet with immigrants staying in shelters as they waited for their asylum claims to be processed.
O’Rourke, who represented a border district, released an immigration plan earlier this year that calls to end family separation, reunite those already separated and create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
His plan came after fellow Texas Democrat Julián Castro called for sweeping reform to U.S. immigration policy, including decriminalizing illegal border crossings.