CNN's Cuomo Presses DNC Chairman on Illegal Immigration: Why Let Trump Own an Issue That Resonates?

By Susan Jones | November 1, 2018 | 11:05am EDT
The migrant caravan moves into the interior of Mexico after pushing through the Guatemalan border on October 21, 2018 near Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

(Update: President Trump plans to address the nation on the topic of immigration at 4 p.m. today.)

( - As liberal media brand Trump as a "racist" for wanting to keep illegal aliens out of the country, it appears that some on the left are growing more worried that Trump's main campaign issue is resonating with voters.

Three times on Wednesday night, CNN's Chris Cuomo asked Democrat National Committee Chairman Tom Perez why Democrats aren't going "toe to toe" with Trump on illegal immigration -- explaining what their plan is.

Trump has defined the issue for Democrats, telling his many campaign rallies that Democrats stand for open borders, more crime, more drugs, sanctuary cities and the abolishment of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Trump wants to seal the porous Southwest border by building a wall. He also wants to end chain/family migration, stop "catch and release," and create a merit system for foreigners wishing to come here. He's been firm on these points since the day he announced his presidency.

On Thursday, the outrage du jour for liberals was a video currently pinned to the top of Trump's Twitter account, showing illegal immigrant Luis Bracamontes in a U.S. court, expressing regret that he killed only two Northern California sheriff's deputies. "I'm going to kill more cops soon," he sneers.

"Democrats let him into the country," say the words on the screen. "Democrats let him stay." The video then switches to the caravan now heading north. "Who else would Democrats let in?" the video asks.

"Trump shocks with racist new ad days before midterms," CNN reported on Thursday.

Chris Cuomo asked Perez for his reaction:

"This is distracting, divisive Donald at his worst," Perez said.


"This is fear-mongering. They're hemorrhaging, Chris, on the health care issue. Health care is the number one issue in this country. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are right up there.

“They can't talk about those because they're on the wrong side. They want to cut Medicare. They want to cut Medicaid. They voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act how many times? They don't care if you have a preexisting condition, you're out of luck. And so they have to distract. They have to fear monger.

"And his dog whistle of all dog whistles is immigration. This has been Donald Trump's play book for so long."

Cuomo asked Perez if Democrats handed Trump "the stick that he's beating you with when it comes to immigration." Cuomo told Perez, "I don't hear your candidates and your leaders going toe to toe with Trump about his fear and loathing. And by doing that, are you risking letting people believe his side of it, about where you guys are when it comes to immigration?"

"No, we have never been shy about the fact that we are a nation of immigrants," Perez responded. "We support Dreamers. And we support immigration reform. And I was proud to work under Barack Obama when we passed bipartisan immigration reform in the United States Senate. It was held up by the Republicans in the U.S. House. I am not shy about that, as a Democrat and as a Latino.

“And what I am also not shy about is calling out dog-whistle politics. This is dog-whistle politics at its worst," Perez said.

Then Perez veered away from immigration, accusing Trump of setting a tone that encourages "violent acts."

"And days after we had a tragic shooting in Pennsylvania, less than a week after you have an arrest of someone in that Scooby-Doo van with all the anti-CNN and all the other things. When you create a climate as this president has created that invites violent acts, you should never be surprised when you have violent acts. And the American people are tired of it.

"That's why they know that we need guardrails in Washington. We need guardrails in our governor's residence. And that's why I'm confident that we're going to do really well in electing Democrats here in Washington and across the country."

Cuomo tried again:

"But on this issue of immigration, you guys have not owned it the way he does. He says you guys are open borders because you're in favor of policies like family reunification and what they call chain migration...And you don't hear Democrats going toe to toe with Trump about this. You talk about other things, and I'm wondering, what's the calculus there? Because to me it seems like a risk.

"Well, I disagree with you, Chris," Perez responded. "And here's the deal. Donald Trump -- the Republicans own the White House. They have the Senate. They have the House. They own any failure in these policies right now."

(Trump is campaigning on the fact that he needs 60 Republican senators to reform the nation's lax immigration laws. Right now he has 51.)

Cuomo tried a third time, asking Perez, "But shouldn't you have your own plan?"

"Oh, we have a plan. It's called comprehensive immigration reform," Perez said. "It's called creating a tough but fair pathway to citizenship. It's about making sure that Dreamers for whom America has always -- it's been the only home they've known, we give them that opportunity.

“I think America is great because America is good. And you look at the organizations that were targeted by this thug last weekend. They were helping to integrate immigrants and refugees into this country. That is what has always made America great. And when you continue to demonize -- and I'm proud that the Democratic Party has supported immigration reform. I am proud that we have supported Dreamers. And it is unconscionable you're trying again to use this wedge issue to divide us."

Cuomo noted that the immigration issue "gets people down deep."

"No matter where they are on the issue, they care about the issue," Cuomo said. But "how will you stop illegal immigration?" Cuomo asked for the fourth time. "Because if you don't speak to it....he's constantly talking about it, and I don't hear equal rhetoric from the left about your plans to make the place safer."

Perez deflected again:

"Well, listen, I'm not going to fight lowball politics with lowball politics. I'm going to fight lowball politics with facts," Perez said. "The fact of the matter is, in Fiscal Year 2017 which touched 2016 and 2017, the illegal border crossings in the Southwest border were their lowest levels since the 1970s. That is a fact. That is not an alternative fact.

"He is trying to manufacture a crisis. And by the way, the way that you solve this problem is by building relationships with countries in the region. But when you demonize Latinos every day, you make it harder to solve these problems. That's why you see failure in immigration policies under this administration because nobody wants to work with our country because you're constantly calling Mexicans thugs and all these other atrocious names. That's why they can't do it.

But that's the fact on the border," Perez continued. "When you try to manufacture a crisis so that you can deflect attention from the fact that health care is the number one issue in this country, and they're on the wrong side of it, Chris, that's what's going on here."

It is true that in FY 2017, as Trump took office, a relatively low 415,517 foreigners were either apprehended or deemed inadmissible at the Southwest border. But as reported, that number jumped 25.4 percent to 521,090 in FY 2018, which just ended on Sept. 30, partly because of conditions in Central America, and partly because Congress has failed to reform immigration law or give Trump the money he has requested for a “big, beautiful” border wall.

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