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Presidential candidates Michael Bennet, Bill de Blasio address immigration issues at LULAC convention

Sophie Carson

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Jul 12, 2019

Democratic presidential hopefuls continued Friday to make their pitches to Latino voters gathered in Milwaukee for the week.

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio talked about immigration, education and raising up the working class at a Friday night banquet for the League of United Latin American Citizens as raids on undocumented immigrants were set to begin this weekend in both candidates’ home cities.

Bennet served as superintendent of Denver Public Schools before being appointed to the U.S. Senate. At the start of his speech, he acknowledged John and Maria Castillo, the parents of Denver school shooting hero Kendrick Castillo, before they received a LULAC award for their son Friday night.

“As a parent, I want to recognize their terrible loss and recognize his extraordinary bravery,” Bennet said.

Bennet spoke for about six minutes at the dinner. De Blasio used 11 minutes to discuss universal pre-kindergarten, health care and paid vacation. Both slammed the Trump administration for planned U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids set for Denver, New York City and at least eight other cities this weekend.

“The families there are terrified of these ICE raids,” Bennet said of parents in the Denver school district, whose student population is about 60% Hispanic or Latino.

De Blasio touted New York’s large immigrant population and broke out his signature nickname for Trump, “ConDon” — which means “condom” in Spanish, earning a spattering of confused murmurs from the Spanish-speaking crowd.

“There is no purpose for ICE raids. It’s not about making the country safer, it’s not about upholding the law. This is a political act by this president,” De Blasio said.

The two longshot presidential candidates are both pulling under 1% in national primary polls.

De Blasio focused his speech on making life better for the “working people” of New York and the country.

“Think about if ... we could have a country that actually rewards work again — think about how much it would motivate people,” he said.

Bennet talked about reducing inequalities in the education system for underserved students who might have immigrant parents. And he said his mother, a Polish Holocaust survivor, sees herself in the immigrants detained at the U.S. southern border.

“We are a strong country, we are a rich country, we are a humane country. We were to my mother and we need to be to these families as well,” Bennet said.

A senator since 2009, he touted his role in the bipartisan Gang of Eight immigration reform bill that passed the Senate but never came up for a vote in the House of Representatives.

“We can both secure our border and treat people humanely in this country,” Bennet said.

The LULAC national convention has brought a slate of presidential candidates to Milwaukee since it began Wednesday. The convention concludes Saturday.