(CNSNews.com) - South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg told a CNN town hall Monday night he doesn't know how the federal government defines "sanctuary city," but he said the South Bend police force does not enforce federal immigration law, "so you can call it whatever you like."
"We're a welcoming city," Buttigieg said, explaining that South Bend has a "population growth strategy."
While President Trump has tweeted that the United States is "full," Buttigieg said his city is not:
"I would be delighted to have more people. We only have 100,000 because so many people left after the auto factories collapsed in the 60s. We've got plenty of room for more residents and taxpayers who want to help fund the snowplowing and firefighters that I've got to have for 130,000 people...with only 100,000 people to pay for it.
"And let us not forget that in many respects, from property taxes to sales taxes, undocumented immigrants are taxpayers, and the truth is, in many respects, because they are not eligible for a lot of benefits, they are subsidizing the rest of us. Which is just one more reason we've got to get this sorted out."
Buttigieg advocates comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship, not only for Dreamers, but for the millions of other people who are living here illegally.
"The thing that's incredibly frustrating about this to me is that there's actually, broadly, an American consensus on what we're supposed to do about this. You know, leadership is supposed to be about taking issues that are very divisive and somehow finding a way to unify Americans around that. That's how a good president earns her or his paycheck.
"But right now we have an issue where there's a pretty broad consensus, and it's been used to divide us. It's actually a remarkable feat of whatever the opposite of leadership is. And you can see it because there have been healthy compromises, bipartisan immigration reforms that have passed in one chamber --the House or the Senate in Washington -- only to go die in the other."
Buttigieg noted that the last time the nation passed "meaningful" comprehensive immigration reform was in 1984:
"So we know the outlines of a comprehensive immigration reform. A pathway to citizenship for undocumented people in this country. A level of protection for Dreamers. A set of reforms to clear up the bureaucracy and the backlogs in the lawful immigration system, which is how my father as an immigrant came to this country and became a U.S. citizen. And reasonable measures on border security.
"We know what to do," Buttigieg said. "It's just that we don't have the leadership in Washington to do it. And I'm afraid one of the reasons is, we’ve got a White House that has actually computed that it is better off politically if this problem goes unsolved so that Americans continue to be divided around it for short-term political gain, and that has got to end with a new president."
Buttigieg is one of 20 people running for the Democrat presidential nomination.