(CNSNews.com) - The 7,000 Central Americans streaming toward the United States, some intending to cross the border illegally, "should have a receptive audience" when they arrive, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) told CNN's "New Day" on Tuesday.
"But when people are desperately showing up at our border, they should have a receptive audience from the United States to try to deal with their needs. It doesn't necessarily mean that they can come and live in America, but it does mean that we have a process to deal with people who are at risk."
Host John Berman asked Cardin to explain the Democrats' policy on the caravan: "What do you want to see happen with these thousands of people?" he asked.
"America's strength is in our values, Cardin responded:
And we've been a leader internationally in standing up for people who have been at risk. People of Central America, many are at risk. If they qualify for asylum, we believe there should be a process in which that case could be heard in a fair manner protecting the individuals.
We have invested a great deal in Central America to try to improve the living conditions and the safety for people in that region. And I've been there. I know how gang violence can disrupt the family's safety and the economic opportunities are limited. So it's in our interests to invest in stabilizing Central America -- we shouldn't be threatening to cut off the funds.
But the people that are in this caravan, many are in desperate situations. It's a humanitarian need -- the United States should be out there to try to help. It doesn't necessarily mean that they can come live in America, but we certainly should not be using the language the president is in regards to the caravan.
Cardin said comprehensive immigration reform would produce a much more orderly way for people to come to America as well as giving hope to those who already are in the country illegally.
Cardin also said he is worried that President Trump is appealing to people with "nationalist sentiments" by describing the caravan as an assault on our country.
On Monday, President Trump warned that "criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in" with the caravan, but Cardin said Trump is "not telling the truth about the caravan."
"So he has made a case by misstating the facts in order to get Americans to believe in a nationalist strategy rather than being more universal in dealing with humanitarian needs."
President Trump called himself a nationalist at a rally in Houston Monday night:
"You know what a globalist is, right?" Trump asked the crowd. "A globalist is a person who wants the globe to do well, frankly, not caring about our country so much. And you know what? We can't have that. You know, they have a word, it sort of became old-fashioned, it's called a nationalist. And I say, really, we're not supposed to use that word. You know what I am? I'm a nationalist, ok? I'm a nationalist."
Cardin told CNN there's nothing wrong with rooting for America, "but the question is, do you believe America is (comprised) of a certain type of person and that diversity issues are something that is foreign to our country? I don't. I believe diversity is our strength.
"I'm a product of immigrant families,” Cardin continued. “My grandparents came to this country. Most Americans have come to this country as immigrants. That's our strength. But when the president refers to nationalism, it provokes an anti-immigrant, an anti-majority view that this nation is of a certain demographic rather than being the diverse nation we are."
Cardin said talk of nationalism spurs "hate activities" and discrimination.
But when it comes to immigration, President Trump is not talking about demographics. He repeatedly has said he wants a legal immigration system based on merit, bringing in people who will contribute to the well-being of this country, not people who win the immigration lottery or simply barge in.