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Beto O'Rourke Begins Rallies Talking Immigration as Trump Threatens to Close the Border; O'Rourke Speaks at Rally in El Paso; At Least One Palestinian Killed in Gaza Violence. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired March 30, 2019 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:00:09] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, again. Thanks for being with me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

Right now, Democratic presidential hopeful, Beto O'Rourke, is rolling out his first official day of campaign rallies across the state of Texas, and at the heart of his pitch to voters, immigration and the crisis unfolding at the border.

Meanwhile, the president is renewing his threat to close down the border next week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mexico could stop it right at their southern border. It's very easy for them to stop people from coming up and they don't choose to do it. Well, we're not going to give them hundreds of billions of dollars and tell them that they're not going to use their strong immigration laws to help the United States. There's a very good likelihood that I'll be closing the border next week and that will be just fine with me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITIFIELD: This, as Homeland Security officials say conditions are dire and resources are strained.

CNN correspondent, Leyla Santiago, is in El Paso, Texas, where, at any moment now, Beto O'Rourke is heading to the stage along with his wife, Amy.

So, Leyla, what more can you expect there about the topic of conversation?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We can expect him to talk a lot about immigration, a lot about climate change, as well as education, criminal justice reform. That's what he's been talking about.

Let me kind of walk you through what's happening right now. Amy O'Rourke, his wife, is now on the stage. She's already said she's very excited. Beto O'Rourke is in the crowd. He came out sort of shaking hands. We expect her to introduce him. Now, before Mrs. O'Rourke took the stage, we heard from Congresswoman

Veronica Escobar, who described him as a son of the border. This is where he's from. We are only about half a mile away from the U.S./Mexico border so that's why you can really expect that he will be talking and hitting it heavily about immigration, especially given the timing of this. Remember, this is a day after President Trump threatened to close the border. This is a day after Beto O'Rourke visited the international bridge where there are hundreds of migrants that are being held there. Families, children still there at this very hour about a half an hour from where we stand right now. So I suspect that will definitely be a topic of conversation.

I expect he'll also talk about President Trump. About two weeks ago, he announced via video on social media that he was going to run to try to become the next U.S. president. Since then, he has visited a lot of those early voting states. We're talking about Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina. While he's been talking to folks, to voters specifically in those states, he's called Trump the meanest, vile, even accused him of racism. He's continued to talk to voters about what they care about and what he cares about.

What will be interesting will be to watch, among this crowd of supporters, among the cheers, among the passion and the support, how those conversations before today mold the future of his campaign, the strategy that he takes on and provide some clarity on his policies. Now, he has said that climate change is at the top of his list. I suspect he'll also talk about that today.

But take note of this crowd. The unofficial estimate coming from police, this is about 1,000 to 2,000 people here in downtown El Paso waiting to hear from him after, again, two weeks ago he made that video announcement.

Also happening right now, they have set up watch parties. The campaign says they have more than 1,000 watch parties happening in every single state and territory. So, yes, that includes Puerto Rico. Folks are live-streaming this, waiting to hear what he has to say as he officially kicks off this campaign.

This is one of three events that we expect today. He's starting in El Paso. From here he will go to Houston and he will end the night in the state's capital of Austin, Texas, joining a very crowded field of candidates who want to become the Democratic nominee to take on President Trump. After today, after this official launch, we expect him to travel to other locations, other events, to join other candidates in speaking to voters.

So he's really kind of getting ready to take on the next phase or maybe the initial phase of his campaign to become the next U.S. president.

[13:05:03] WHITIFIELD: Leyla, that is pretty different to join some of the other Democratic candidates at other stops after he leaves Texas. Is it simply joining them, they happen to be in the city, or joining them in some way about messaging and being in each other's space? SANTIAGO: Right. So he'll be joining them in other public events.

These are events that candidates seek the particular audience, and Beto O'Rourke is now joining in on that, trying to reach voters. I, myself, have asked him what type of Latino voters and black voters will play in his strategy and he consistently has told me, this isn't about one audience, I am targeting everyone here. So I suspect he'll be going to quite a few events that hits a pretty broad audience.

He is known here not only as someone from El Paso but for his ability to raise money. He became sort of the rising star among the Democrats when he took on Senator Ted Cruz in the midterm elections, raising $80 million. His campaign says that in the first 24 hours of this campaign he raised $6.1 million. That is the most we have seen of any of the candidates that are in the field right now. Will he be able to sustain that? That's another question that will be a matter of time. We'll have to wait and see.

WHITIFIELD: Leyla Santiago, we'll check back with you.

Again, Beto O'Rourke's wife, Amy, is on the stage right now to introduce him and, of course, when Beto O'Rourke takes to the stage, we'll go there, too.

Let's talk a little bit now about what to expect. I want to bring in CNN contributor, Wes Lowry, and CNN political analyst, Sabrina Siddiqui.

Good to see you both.

Wes, what kind of details do we need to hear from Beto O'Rourke today? What kind of detail does the audience in El Paso need to hear?

LES LOWRY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think there are two challenges facing Beto moving forward. The first is, how does he quickly capitalize on the excitement and continue that excitement he began with that Senate race. Again, people were so excited for him coming up against Ted Cruz and they want to see if he can capture that lightning in a bottle that led him to such great fundraising.

The second, as he appeals to a broader, bigger swath of the electorate for the Democratic primary, is there substance behind the sizzle. Can he talk about child detentions and issues at the border? How hard does he come at Trump, much less the other Democrats in the race? A lot of people recognize the excitement around Beto and there's a real question now of, can he show people and prove to people that he's got the substance.

WHITIFIELD: Sabrina, we're seeing this kind of excitement.

Now Beto O'Rourke will take to the microphone. In fact, let's listen in to him right now.

(CHEERING)

(SINGING)

BETO O'ROURKE, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you all for being here.

(Applause)

Let's hear it for Veronica Escobar. Let's hear it from Marielle. And let's hear it for Amy O'Rourke. You killed it.

(Cheers and Applause)

Love you. So grateful to everyone who is here today. So grateful to this community of El Paso and I'm very grateful to each one of you who made the trip to come here and join us in our hometown in this community.

(Applause)

It was really important for Amy and me to launch this campaign from El Paso. This is the city where I was born. It's the city where Melissa and Pat O'Rourke raised me, my sisters Erin and Charlotte. It's the same city where Amy and I are raising our three kids, and perhaps most importantly, El Paso to me represents America at its very best.

(Cheers and applause)

For more than 100 years, this community has welcomed generations of immigrants from across the Rio Grande, some having traveled hundreds of miles, some having traveled thousands of miles trying to escape brutality, violence and crushing poverty to find a better life in this country for themselves and their kids, that's for sure, but also because they were called to contribute to our shared success and to this country's greatness, and they have.

(Cheers)

El Paso has been home to leaders in the struggles of civil rights and workers' rights, the Mexican-Americans who led the Chicano movement, the women in this town who organized the Farah(ph) strike, and black El Pasoens like Dr. Lawrence Nixon, like Thelma White who not only secured voting rights in this state, but they ensured that El Paso would be among the first cities of the former confederacy to desegregate our public places and integrate our education.

(Crowd cheers)

With see that as we reform the largest bi-national community in this hemisphere.

(Crowd cheers)

And for 20 years running we've been one of the safest cities in the United States of America.

(Crowd cheers)

We are safe not despite the fact that we are a city of immigrants and asylum seekers. We are safe because we are a city of immigrants and asylum seekers. We have learned - we have learned not to fear our differences but to respect and embrace them. We see the languages spoken in this community, the traditions, the cultures as a strength for El Paso. We understand, we understand that we are, in the words of Dr. King, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.

(Crowd cheers)

This community has offered me my inspiration in life and every single opportunity that I've had to the world class public school teachers at Mesita Elementary who believed in me and sought to bring out the very best in me. To the small business community who allowed me to work for them as we were starting our own small business here in this community and those who joined that business creating high skill, high wage, high value jobs in a community that had so much talent that was just looking for a way to express itself. And to those community leaders, border network for human rights, enunciation house, the women's march, you have shown me what leadership is. You elected me in 2005 to serve this community on the city council, not as a democrat, not as a republican but as an El Pasoan.

Working with our fellow El Pasoans to improve this community, to turn around our mass transit system, to invest in neighborhoods and people, to protect our public spaces and to never shy away from the fights in front of us. Like extending health care benefits to the same sex partners of city employees regardless of the consequences, regardless of the recall elections that would follow.

In 2012, we won a race against the odds and against the establishment to represent El Paso in the United States Congress.

(Crowd cheers)

We ran by talking and listening to you about tough issues like the veteran suicides that follow the fact that we had the longest wait times for mental health care access at a V.A. in the country. We talked about a war on drugs that had become a war on people. And thanks to you, once in office we were able to deliver. We helped to turn around the V.A. in El Paso, expand mental health care for veterans nationally,

(Crowd cheers)

expand our protected public spaces, improve our security at our connections with Mexico by investing in our ports of entry and having the backs of every single service member and their families stationed at Fort Bliss or deployed around the world.

(Crowd cheers)

You've found or you've helped me to find those republican colleagues with whom I could walk across the aisle or drive across the country to get the job done for El Paso and for the United States, and we did.

(Crowd cheers)

And El Paso, it was your story that I told all over Texas in every single one of these 254 counties, all people, no pacts, all the time.

(Crowd cheers)

Everyone counts. Everyone matters. So we showed up everywhere to listen to everyone. It didn't matter how red or how rural, how blue or had you urban, we showed up both with the courage of our convictions and a willingness to listen and learn from those whom we sought to serve in the Senate. And though we did not win that race, although we came awfully close ...

(Crowd cheers)

... we all got to be part of something absolutely transformational in our lives and in the democracy of this state. We were able to win votes from republicans and independents, expand the number of democrats who voted in an election. And this state, this state which before 2018 had ranked 50th in voter turnout, this state saw voter turnout approaching presidential year election levels.

(Crowd cheers)

This state -- this state saw young voter turnout up 500 percent over the last midterm election. This state and its 38 electoral votes count like they've never counted before. All of us have a seat at the table. All of us matter. The United States House of Representatives, two new members of congress from Texas, both democrats, elected into what we were told to believe were safe republican seats. The composition of the state legislature has changed, and in Houston, Texas, 17 African- American women winning judicial positions, literally changing the face of criminal justice in this country's most diverse city. You did that. You did that.

(Crowd cheers)

Your votes, your willingness to volunteer, the popup offices that you hosted in your home, that's how we made this happen. That's why I am so glad to be here with you today in my hometown, in my home state, to announce that I'm running to serve you as the next President of the United States of America.

(Crowd cheers)

Thank you.

(Crowd applause)

CROWD CHANTS: Beto, Beto, Beto.

O'ROURKE: This - this is a campaign for America, for everyone in America. Like so many of you here, like so many more across the country at this defining moment, Amy and I want to know that we've done everything within our power for this country. Though we know it comes at some sacrifice to our family, especially to our kids, we also know that our children and that your children and the generations that follow them are depending on us now at this moment. This is our moment of truth. This is our moment of truth and we cannot be found wanting. The challenges before us are the greatest of our lifetimes.

An economy that works too well for too few and not at all for too many more, a health care system where millions are unable to see a doctor or be well enough to live to their full potential, and the last best hope of averting a catastrophe that will follow additional climate change fading before our very inaction, we must overcome these challenges, but we must first ask ourselves how this, the wealthiest, the most powerful country on the face of the planet, the most powerful country that world history has ever known, has found itself in such a perilous position.

For too long in this country, the powerful have maintained their privilege at the expense of the powerless. They have used-they have used fear and division in the same way that

our current president uses fear and division.

(Crowd cheers)

Based on the differences between us of race, ethnicity, geography or religion to keep us apart, to make us angry, to make us afraid of ourselves and of one another. Unrestrained money and influence has warped the priorities of this country. It has corrupted our democracy. It has invited the cynicism and the distrust and the disengagement of millions of our fellow Americans who see their very own government enthralled to those who can pay for access and for outcomes. A vigorous democracy, both political and economic, is the only check against this inertia of power, the only way to free our institutions of their capture and corruption and the only means by which we can lift the voices and the lives of our fellow Americans.

(Crowd cheers)

But when - but when the safeguards of this democracy are manipulated by those in power, when members of Congress can choose their own voters, when the supreme court decides that corporations are people and money is speech, when pacts and special interests can buy the outcomes of elections and legislation and when voting rights are not expanded, they are functionally withdrawn, then we run the risk of becoming a democracy in name only. And the idea that we are founded on the principle that we are all created equal, to equal opportunity is justifiably seen as a lie to those who have experienced gross differences in opportunity and outcome when it comes to education or health care or economic advancement or justice.

(Crowd cheers)

So, whatever our differences, where you live, who you love, to whom you pray, for whom you voted in the last election, let those differences not define us or divide us at this moment. Let's agree going forward before we are anything else ,we are Americans first.

(Crowd cheers)

We are Americans first and we will put the business of this country before us. So, if you believe in guaranteed, high quality, universal health care (Crowd cheers)

because you have seen the cost and the consequences of millions of our fellow Americans who have no healthcare or do not have enough healthcare, then let us come together around a policy that begins by prioritizing affordability and prescription medications, that ensures that we bring down the costs of our premiums and our deductibles and in a country

(Crowd cheers)

and in a country where too many of our fellow Americans are dying of diabetes in the year 2019, dying of the flu, dying of curable cancers, in a community, in a state, in a country where one of the largest providers of mental health care services is the county jail system, and in a nation that is in the midst of a maternal mortality crisis three times as deadly for women of color, then let us ensure that universal healthcare means all of us can see a primary care provider, all of us can get mental health care help,

(Crowd cheers)

and that universal care means every woman makes her own decisions about her own body.

(Crowd cheers)

We can give every American, every business in this country the choice to enroll in Medicare without eliminating plans that many Americans like for their families because those plans work for their families. Everyone able to see a doctor, everyone able to afford their prescription, everyone able to take their child to a therapist; no one left behind, no one priced out.

We must get to universal guaranteed, high-quality healthcare as soon as surely as we possibly can.

(Crowd cheers)

If we believe in an economy that works for all, I want to make sure that everyone has the chance to advance, then let's begin with the very youngest among us and invest in a world class public school system, pre-K to 12, everywhere in every community.

(Crowd cheers)

And then let's do this, let's pay our teachers what they are worth, a living wage.

(Crowd cheers)

There is no reason that any educator, any teacher, should be working two or three jobs when they have the most important job in front of them -- unlocking that lifelong love of learning within every single child. Once we do that, there's no stopping those kids. There is no stopping this country. When they graduate from high school, let's make sure that they're both college-ready and career-ready, ready to go on to debt-free higher education and ready to go to a job that provides purpose and pays a real paycheck.

(Crowd cheers)

Speaking of that, let's also insist that we will not continue to diminish the power of unions; we will strengthen unions in this country.

(Crowd cheers)

Unions who insist that one job should be enough for every single American, unions who will help us to provide apprenticeships, not just for that young woman or young man graduating from high school but for that parent who has finished raising their kids, for that worker whose job has been automated out of existence. Apprenticeships ensure that we have the skills and the trades that command a living salary for the rest of your life so let's strengthen those unions going forward.

(Crowd cheers)

And in rural America. If we want to lift up rural America, let's begin by listening to rural America. Let's partner with them in investing in hospitals, in schools, in infrastructure like broadband internet and let's ensure that every farmer, every rancher, every grower, every producer can make a profit as they grow what feeds and clothes not just America but so much of the rest of the world.

(Crowd cheers)

And those farmers, like anyone else, wants to make sure we are meeting the challenge of climate change before it is too late. Let's open up technologies and markets to them that provide an incentive for capturing the carbon that we're currently emitting in the air. I want to make sure that your gender, your race, your family does not prevent you from advancing in this economy so let's do a few things.

Let's pay women equal to what men make in this country.

(Crowd cheers)

Let's sign into law paid family leave for every single family in this country. Let's ban workplace discrimination, and let's do this. Let's make sure that there's access to capital for communities who have effectively been shut out of access to capital, home loans and the ability to build wealth in this country for generations. If we believe in justice for all in the face of the largest prison population per capita on this planet, one disproportionately comprised of people of color, then we must do the following. Not only end the federal prohibition on marijuana,

(Crowd cheers)

not only expunge the arrest records of everyone arrested for possession of something that is legal in more than half the country, (Crowd cheers)

we must not only end cash bail and for-profit prisons in the United States of America, but we must also confront the legacy of certain communities who have been criminalized and kept down based on the color of their skin.

Confronting -- confronting the legacy and the consequences of slavery and segregation and the continuing suppression of your fellow Americans is the only way that we will begin to repair the damage and keep ourselves from committing the same injustices.

(Crowd Cheers)

And if we truly believe that we are a country of immigrants and asylum seekers and refugees and they are the very premise of our strength, of our success, and, yes, our security, then let us free every single Dreamer from any fear of deportation.

(Crowd Cheers)

Let's bring millions more out of the shadows an onto a path to contribute to their maximum potential to the success of this country. Let's not only -- let's not only follow this country's asylum laws but let's make sure that we never take another child from another mother at their most desperate and vulnerable moment. Let us reunite every single one of those families that are still separated today, and let's remember that every single one of us, including those who are just three or four blocks from here, detained under the international bridge that connects us with Mexico behind chain link fence and barbed wire, that they are our fellow human beings and deserve to be treated like our fellow human beings.

(Crowd Cheers)

CROWD CHANT: Beto. Beto. Beto. Beto. Beto. Beto. Beto. Beto

O'ROURKE: We will find security not through walls, not through militarization. We will find security by focusing on our ports of entry that connect us to the rest of the world so we have a better idea of who and what is coming in here and we facilitate the trade and travel connected to millions of jobs around this country. We will support our CBP officers, our border patrol agents. We will treat every single American with the dignity and respect that they are owed as Americans and as human beings, and if we are really serious about security, we have a golden opportunity, republicans, independents, democrats alike, to work on comprehensive immigration reform to rewrite this country's immigration laws in our own image with our own values and in the best traditions of the United States of America.

(Crowd Cheers)

For all of the veterans here in El Paso, a community that has distinguished itself in service to country going back to Marcelino Serna in World War I, an undocumented immigrant who went over to France with the U.S. Army and came back the most highly decorated veteran from the state of Texas, to the Bolanos brothers in Vietnam, to every man and every woman who right now has their life on the line for this country, if we truly appreciate your service not only will we make sure that we make the investments in the V.A. to care for you when you return from having born the battle especially for those conditions connected to service in combat, posttraumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma, we will also ensure that there is a roof over the head of every single veteran who's sleeping on the streets tonight.

(Crowd Cheers)

And then if we really mean it, if we really mean it, we will ensure that this country does not start yet another war before every peaceful, diplomatic, nonviolent alternative is explored and pursued and those wars that we ask our fellow Americans, these service members to fight on our behalf, 17 years and counting in Afghanistan, 27 years and counting in Iraq, let's bring these wars to a close and bring these service members back home to their families, to their communities, and to their country.

(Crowd Cheers)

If, after 300 years, after the enlightenment, we can still listen to and believe the scientists, and I for one do, who tell us that thanks to our own emissions, our own excesses and our own inaction this planet has warmed one degree Celsius just since 1980, and the fires and the floods and the droughts and the man made natural disasters will only get worse if this planet warms another degree Celsius and this is our moment with little more than ten years to spare to do everything in our power to free this economy from a dependence on fossil fuels, greenhouse gas emissions,

(Crowd Cheers)

and to ensure as we make the investment in new technologies and renewable energy that everyone has the chance to benefit from this new economy, especially those communities lower income and too often of color that have borne the brunt of climate change so far, this country has shown that we can do it. When the western world faced the existential threat of Nazi Germany more than 80 years ago, this country harnessed the political will of hundreds of millions here of the western democracies not only to win that war for the following 80 years to make this world safe for democracy and to lift millions in this country into the middle class. This is our opportunity right now to do something for a far greater existential threat, to do more not just for those here with us today but for the people of the future, our kids and grandkids and every generation that succeeds them.

(Crowd Cheers)

We have to once again reassert our role on the world stage in order to do this, but if we're going to do that, we've got to strengthen these historic friendships and alliances, so many of them forged in sacrifice, the service of men and women who put their lives on the line and lost their lives to this country. Let's make sure that that sacrifice was not squandered. Let's make sure that we strengthen those alliances. Let's end these love affairs with dictators and strong men all over the world.

(Crowd Cheers) Let's earn - let's earn the respect of the people around the world, not just by how we treat those in other countries but how we treat those within our country.

(Crowd Cheers)

And how we treat those at the border of our country. If we do that, we can make sure that we once again become the indispensable nation convening the other nations of this planet around some of our shared challenges like climate change, like nuclear disarmament, like ending all these wars that we are currently engaged in. We can do for ourselves what no other country can and we have an opportunity at this moment to reprioritize this hemisphere, those countries and people who are literally connected to us by land. We can try to solve the problems of Central America. We can invest in the opportunities to help the people of Central America where they are at home. It is our choice.

(Crowd Cheers)

But to do any of this, we've got to understand that our country's success depends on the success of this democracy. It is the single greatest mechanism that humankind has ever devised to call forth the power, the potential and the genius of a people around their challenges and their opportunities and so every single citizen must be able to vote and every vote must count.

(Crowd Cheers)

As president, I will sign into law a new Voting Rights Act. Together we will end gerrymandering.

(Crowd Cheers)

We will get big money out of our politics

(Crowd Cheers)

and all across this country we will have automatic and same-day voter registration. That's how we're going to do it.

(Crowd Cheers)

A full political democracy is only possible if we vigorously pursue a true economic democracy. Every child, every man, every woman in this country must be able to see a future for themselves in this country. Otherwise this country will have no future as a democracy. That means that this extraordinary, unprecedented concentration of wealth and power and privilege must be broken apart and opportunity must be shared with all.

(EXTENDED REMARKS IN SPANISH)

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: A bilingual Beto O'Rourke there, former Congressman, now running for the presidency. This is his first big rally from his hometown and birth place of El Paso, Texas. You heard him -- his overall message, that of inclusion. And now he's back to talking in English.

But if I could show you that we have Wes Lowry and Sabrina Siddiqui back with me now.

He is very idyllic. He's talking about a lot of things, like a collection of what we heard from a number of candidates, but all of it rolled into one here. He's talking about immigrants, being called to contribute to this country's greatness. On policy, he is promoting universal guaranteed affordable health care, investing in pre-K for all. Huge increases for teachers, wage increases for teachers, the end of the fear of DREAMers, deportation.

Wes, he is speaking -- he's trying to speak to everyone talking about ending the federal prohibition of marijuana, expunging arrest records. This is his probably most comprehensive rollout about who Beto O'Rourke is. Would you agree?

WES LOWRY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Certainly. I think that those early comments at the beginning of his speech where he talked so much about his work in El Paso, his time, both at the local level but then later on representing this area of the country in Congress, both speaking about issues of immigration, which are clearly front of mind for many voters right now in this moment. But then also speaking very fluently about veterans' issues, which is interesting. It speaks to him being a candidate and a politician from Texas and used to dealing with the interest of voters down there, in speaking to the excitement around his Senate campaign. Again, I think that we saw a speech today from Beto O'Rourke that's going to be similar to other ones we will hear and it speaks to how he will sound and look different on the trail than maybe some of the other candidates.

WHITFIELD: Sabrina, we saw a lot of content. We saw his style. And it opened up with he and his family, his three kids, wife, Amy. And we see him wrapping it up with a similar message of togetherness. At the same time, kind of incorporating that this whole town of El Paso where he was born and grew up is also an extension of his family. A city with many immigrants and a city where he learned how to be a business person before being a member of Congress. How do you see him trying to roll out or introduce to the world who he is in this way?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Beto O'Rourke touched on a wide range of policy proposals, from health care to public sector unions, education, criminal justice reform. But it was very clear that he believes he is uniquely positioned to counter this president on the issue of immigration. He leans so heavily into his roots from El Paso, a border city, at a time when the president is again seeking to make immigration front and center in the 2020 campaign. You heard Beto O'Rourke speak about inclusiveness, about the need to embrace our differences and the contributions of immigrants to society. I think what's interesting about that is, the other Democratic candidates are making issues like health care, Medicare for All, environmental policy, such as the Green New Deal, very much a platform of the Democratic agenda as they campaign in 2020. Immigration is more of a rhetorical theme for Democrats but not one where they've met the president front and center on the basis of policy. If you look at the 2018 midterms, when the president was trying to make the closing argument about the caravan, Democrats didn't take the bait and stayed laser focused on pre-existing conditions. Beto O'Rourke very much wants to take the fight to the president on the issue of immigration. And it will be interesting to see how that changes the way that Democrats talk about the issue as the campaign really heats up in the coming months.

[13:45:26] WHITFIELD: Wes, you know, competitors, fellow contenders, always want to look for the weakness in another candidate. Did Beto O'Rourke reveal anything, whether it be the incumbent, President Trump, seize on or even his fellow Democrats seize on a potential weakness in what he rolled out as how he's advocating for certain policies?

LOWRY: Certainly. I think that Beto is going to have to contend with the accusation that the depth isn't necessarily there. As you listen to a speech like this, you hear him tick off dozens of ideas, a liberal wish list of policy proposals, and I think there's a real interest among voters and hearing him go maybe not one or two sentences on these issues but three or four. I was very interested in hearing more about how he might implement something like same-day voter registration across the country the way he talked about it. As he talks about these various issues, the actual implementation because interesting question, something I'd expect him to hit on, especially in a race that includes people who are extremely intelligent and very specific, a Bernie Sanders, an Elizabeth Warren, folks like that. It's going to be a question of, how do you gauge the "in the weeds" specifics versus folks who speak with more sweeping rhetoric. I think that voters unquestionably are going to be attracted to Beto's rhetoric. It's going to be a question of whether or not he can continue to attract them that way or if he gets bogged down in these questions, well, how exactly would you do this, how exactly would you do that, which have dogged any number of politicians, but doesn't necessarily mean doom. We're still waiting to hear how Mexico is going to pay for the wall, for example. As we know, the specifics don't always matter to the voters.

WHITFIELD: Sabrina, he has to have already thought about that, right, how he's going to be able to deliver on some of these idyllic ideas that he just expressed. He gave a broad-brush stroke on a lot of it, but he knows and his campaign knows that, when it comes down to the town hall, when it comes to more meet and greets, he's going to have to be very specific. Do you see that he's probably already come up with those specifications and is just waiting for the right timing?

SIDDIQUI: I think he's certainly is trying to introduce himself at this stage to the American public in a more detailed way. This sort of reinforces the ways in which a presidential campaign is very different from a Senate campaign. Look, there's no question that Beto O'Rourke still has a strong base of support, if you look at the fact that he raised $6.1 million in the first 24 hours after launching his campaign. He clearly still is seen as someone who is inspirational. But there's going to be a great deal more scrutiny, not just on the specifics of his proposals but also on his past, his past voting record, for example, and some of the ways in which progressives believe that he falls short of what some of the issues that are emerging to be a litmus test for Democrats in 2020. He's walked back his support of Medicare for All. Today, he called for high-quality universal health care. I think you'll see him pressed on that position by people like Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren. He's already said he's regretful of a vote he took that would have made it easier for those who have been convicted of killing police officers to receive the death penalty. So I think you're now starting to see him draw more of that scrutiny that perhaps he didn't get in his bid for the Senate race in Texas. Again, that's what comes with a presidential and it's very early yet. I think a lot of this will be litigated on the debate stage.

WHITFIELD: Beto O'Rourke winding things up there in El Paso, soon to be heading to Houston and Austin, Texas, before he moves on to other primary states on now the official road to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Wes Lowry, Sabrina Siddiqui, thanks to both of you. Appreciate it.

SIDDIQUI: Thank you.

[13:49:20] WHITFIELD: And we'll be right back.

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WHITFIELD: At least one Palestinian has been killed and more than 200 injured in Gaza protests, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. At least 20,000 Palestinians gathered to commemorate the anniversary of last year's March of Returns protest.

As Michael Holmes explains, despite the violence, today's protests are being seen as largely peaceful.

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MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: Fred, Israeli forces are still firing tear gas at some of the stragglers in the field behind me, near the fence. There's been some incoming canisters in just the last few minutes. But it is much calmer here than it was earlier in the day. The crowds have largely gone home. Earlier, there were tens of thousands of people along the fence between Israel and Gaza.

Now, for Hamas, this was a test. A test that they could turn out large numbers of people for this anniversary protest. But also, a test to show that they could have the ability to keep that crowd under control and limit the number of casualties. And in fact, it does appear that that has worked. Casualty numbers way below what they have been in other weeks of this protest. Hamas trying to show to Israel they were controlling the people, Israel watching closely to see how that was done and how effective it was. Earlier in the day, as thousands of protesters were here, and going closer to the fence, they were warning shots and a lot of tear gas being fired. But very, very few injuries compared to other protests.

[13:55:02] Now the hard work begins. Egypt mediating those talks between Hamas and Israel and trying to come to some sort of understanding going forward, alleviating restrictions in Gaza, allowing more goods and services in, more electricity, more diesel, things like that. And Hamas, in return, keeping things quiet here on the Gaza Strip. And that includes protests like the one today, and rocket fire into Israel as well.

Now that the protest is over and has been largely effective, in terms of being quiet, when it comes to casualty numbers and violence, we'll see how those talks progress.

Back to you, Fred.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Michael Holmes, thank you so much.

So much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM right after this.

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