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TRANSCRIPT: HON. BETO O’ROURKE AT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE FORUM HOSTED BY NALEO AT TELEMUNDO CENTER

This is a rush transcript and it’s subject to change.

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NALEO is hosting the presidential candidate forum in partnership with Presenting Sponsor Comcast NBCUniversal Telemundo as part of this year’s NALEO 36thAnnual Conference (June 20-22, 2019). Taking place on June 21 at Telemundo Center headquarters in Miami, the Forum is offering candidates a unique opportunity to engage Latino leadership on the issues that matter most to the Latino community. Next follows a transcript of Hon. Beto O’Rourke participation.

VANESSA HAUC: And now, it is my honor to introduce our first speaker of the day, former Congressman Beto O'Rourke.

BETO O'ROURKE: Vanessa.

VANESSA HAUC: Very nice to meet you, Congressman.

BETO O'ROURKE: Nice to meet you, as well. Thank you for having me.

ARTURO VARGAS: Hey, Congressman. Thank you for being here--

BETO O'ROURKE: Sure, yeah, of course--

VANESSA HAUC: Congressman, you have one minute for your opening remarks.

BETO O'ROURKE: Thank you. Buenos Dias. (SPANISH) And I was listening backstage to the mayor of West Hollywood talk about whose stories are included in our national story of America. And it made me think of my hometown of El Paso, Texas, a place (CHEERING) not well understood, except for the seven people who just clapped.

By most of the rest of the country, forgotten, if it was ever known in the first place-- but a community that compelled me to run for office, whose story I've always wanted to share. To say that we're one half, with Ciudad Juárez, of the largest binational community in the hemisphere, 3 million of us, from two countries, speaking two languages, joined, not separated, by the Rio Grande River, forming something far greater, far more powerful, than the sum of our parts or the number of people involved.

I tell my fellow Americans, in this administration, we are one of the safest cities in the United States of America, not despite the fact that we are a city of immigrants and asylum seekers and refugees, but because we are a city of immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees.

We have nothing to apologize for or be defensive about, everything to celebrate and set the example for the rest of the country. And when we include everyone's stories in this national story, there is no stopping us. There's no stopping the United States of America. And that's the way that I'm running to serve you, as the next president of the United States. Thank you for havin' us out today. Grateful. Thank you, Vanessa.

VANESSA HAUC: Thank you, Congressman. Thank you. So your first question, your immigration proposal includes a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants, including the Dreamers, the parents, the TPS beneficiaries. How are you planning to do this in an increasingly polarized Congress? And would you be willing to pass an executive order?

BETO O'ROURKE: We're talking about including everyone's stories. We need to make sure that we're tellin' the story of that child who's just survived 2,000 miles on the road, from Guatemala or Honduras or El Salvador, showing up here, trying to follow our own asylum laws, only to find herself in a cage or, if she came with her family, her mother deported back to the very country from which she fled.

On day one of our administration, we will reunite every single family that has been separated. We will no longer put children in cages. We will not build walls. We'll do all of this by executive order. But we'll also make sure that we're investing solutions in the northern triangle to reduce violence, to help farmers who are trying to survive historic droughts caused not by God, nor by Mother Nature, but by all of us in the climate change that we have produced.

I will make sure that the 9 million legal, permanent residents, green card holders, in America become U.S. citizens as soon as possible and that the millions more, including more than 1 million Dreamers, who live in a constant fear of deportation back to countries, which, in some cases, they have not been to in decades, are able to stay here, contribute to their full potential on a pathway to citizenship and making sure that this great country is even greater by their presence. It's economic success. It is strength. And yes, from the example of El Paso, Texas, it is our safety and our security. Doing the right thing makes us a better country. (APPLAUSE)

VANESSA HAUC: Thank you so much--

BETO O'ROURKE: Thank you.

VANESSA HAUC: Congressman. Your next questions will come from Arturo.

ARTURO VARGAS: Thank you, Vanessa. Congressman, we're asking this question of all the candidates, because of how important the issue is to the Latino community and to the mission of this organization. The nation is-- is about to experience a constitutionally required decennial census next year under circumstances and policies that researchers, practitioners, and three federal courts have even held will result in a severe undercount, especially of Latinos. If you are elected president, (THROAT CLEAR) what course of action would you take to remedy the 2020 census and to restore confidence and integrity in the Census Bureau?

BETO O'ROURKE: In my administration, there will be no citizenship question on the census. We will make sure that, if there has been an undercount in 2020, that we get back out there and count every single American whose voice and whose story needs to be part of the national conversation.

BETO O'ROURKE: If-- if we fail to count everyone, it is a lack of resources, a lack of federal representation, and a lack of representation in state legislatures. It's going to diminish the strength of the United States of America. And we know, from recently released documents, that this is racist in its design. It's intended to suppress the vote of Latinos, of people of color, those whose country of national origin was some other place, who came here to contribute to our greatness. Let's make sure that they can by counting every single one of them. (APPLAUSE)

VANESSA HAUC: Thank you so much, Congressman. Your last question is going to come from Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea. She's a democrat. She's right there.

NELLIE GORBEA: Hi. Good morning. Congressman, while the nation is experiencing a robust economy and historically low unemployment rates, for many Latinos, wages are not rising. And job opportunities, in a modern, technology-driven economy, are elusive. The situation-- for the U.S. citizens and residents of Puerto Rico is even worse. If elected president, what policies would you pursue to provide all Latino workers the opportunity to participate in this 21st-century economy-- in-- through good jobs and earn wages that help them realize the American dream?

BETO O'ROURKE: Nellie, thank you for the question. Let's make sure that everyone can participate in this economy, especially those who have been locked out of its success. In a capitalist economy, let's make sure that capital is accessible, that entrepreneurs, no matter where you live or your zip code, can access small business loans.

We call for, in our plan, doubling the size of community-based credit initiatives, so that more capital gets out into communities that have been denied it before. We make sure, in our plan, that everyone who's working can focus on just one job, because they're paid a living wage, $15 an hour as the floor.

And they can take time off to take care of themselves or their families or their children with paid family leave in every part of this country. And childcare, which is out of reach, because it is unaffordable for so many families, is made affordable under our plan, doubling the block grants that we send to states to make childcare affordable and ensuring that there's a fully refundable tax credit, to that tax code works not for corporations, who are sitting on record piles of cash, but folks who are already wealthy at a time of historic wealth and income division, but for working Americans (THROAT CLEAR) who need that to be able to get ahead.

And in those communities, and you mentioned Puerto Rico, who have been denied the investment, so that their infrastructure can sustain the success that we wanna see in every single part of America, are put first. For example, in our plan to confront climate change, not only do we call for freeing ourselves from a dependence on fossil fuels, embracing renewable-energy technology, ensuring that, by 2050, we are at net zero (THROAT CLEAR) greenhouse gas emissions and halfway there by 2030.

But those communities, like, Puerto Rico, like Houston, Texas, who are on the front lines of climate change today, who are bearing the brunt of the storms and the floods and the disasters that we are causing to one another, they're first in line to receive the investments to fortify those communities and to ensure that they are prepared for the next challenge that they face, to ensure that they're at the front of the line in embracing these economical changes that we want to bring to this country.

But lastly, when it comes to Puerto Rico, and when it comes to Washington, D.C., without having real voice and representation in the halls of power, it's gonna be hard for them to receive the resources that they merit as full American citizens.

So I wanna make sure that Puerto Rico can decide its fate. As president, I will follow the decision of the people on that island to decide how they will be represented, whether it is in the United States Senate, whether it is in some form of independence. I wanna make sure that they decide, and that we are able to support them. Thank you for asking the question. (APPLAUSE)

VANESSA HAUC: Thank you so much, Congressman. You have been very efficient for your time. So we have time for one more question. And I want you to elaborate a little bit more about your plan t-- on climate change. The United Nations scientists have been clear that we're living a climate emergency right now. How are you going to make sure that we have a very efficient transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, to a clean-energy future?

BETO O'ROURKE: I think it's really important that we understand that this is happening to us right now, not something for which we have to prepare-- not some abstraction that-- that we can debate. People are-- are living through this. People are dying from it.

We think about those historic wildfires in California that were preceded by historic droughts. I mentioned Houston, Texas, earlier. 58 inches of rain fell from the sky on that community, which is the landfall record for a single storm in the history of North America. And it was the third 500-year flood in that community in just the last five years.

So folks who were in the process of rebuilding from the last storm were hit by this next one. And it consumed not just their properties but, very often, their lives. Being in Iowa recently and going to the town of Pacific Junction, along the Missouri River, meeting farmers whose fields were lakes right now, farmers who were already underwater, in debt, with historic-low farm incomes, they're on the front lines of climate change.

They need us, all of us, to do everything that we can. We cannot meet it by half steps or half measures or only half the country. It's gotta be all of us. So you ask how we do this. We embrace wind and solar and the renewable-energy technologies that free us from a dependence on fossil fuels.

We invest in the next generation of technologies, like battery storage, that ensures that we can move this energy onto the grid at will, even when the sun is not shining, and the wind is not blowing. Those same rural communities on the front lines, we put them in the driver's seat to make sure that farmers are paid for the environmental services that they provide: planting cover crops to capture more carbon out of the air, precision till farming, regenerative grazing to make sure that more of that carbon stays in the soil.

So if every single one of us does our part, this country sets the example, then we can convene the other powers of the planet to ensure that, as a globe, we keep this world from warming another 2° Celsius. Because after that, if we fail in this task, our kids, our grandkids, the generations that follow, will see storms and floods and fires and droughts that pale in comparison to what we have right now.

I want those people of the future looking back on us, the people of 2019 and 2020, to be proud of what we have done, not to ask themselves, "Who were those pendejos who gave up (LAUGHTER) this great opportunity that we had?" So let us be great. Let us not be pendejos.

VANESSA HAUC: Congressman, you have one minute for your closing remarks.

BETO O'ROURKE: Vanessa and Arturo and to the members of NALEO-- especially my friends from-- from Texas and El Paso, (CHEERING) thank you for the-- thank you for the honor of allowing me to come and-- and speak to you today. From some of the topics that we briefly got to talk about today, it is very clear that this country is at a defining moment of truth.

And we will either define ourselves, forever after, by our fears and our pettiness and our smallness, walls, cages for kids, Muslim bans-- a level of partisanship that we have not seen before in this country, or we can ever-- forever be known by our ambitions and our aspirations and the work and the determination and resolve that we will employ to make sure that we achieve them. I wanna make sure it is the latter, not the former. That is why I'm here with you today and why I'm running to serve you as president of the United States. Thank you all from havin' us out.

VANESSA HAUC: Thank you so much--

BETO O'ROURKE: Thank you.

VANESSA HAUC: Thank you so much.

ARTURO VARGAS: Thank you so much.

BETO O'ROURKE: Thank you.

ARTURO VARGAS: Thank you for being here.

BETO O'ROURKE: Very grateful, yeah.

VANESSA HAUC: Thank you so much, Congressman--

BETO O'ROURKE: Thank you guys so much. Very grateful.

VANESSA HAUC: Thank you. Great to have you--

BETO O'ROURKE: Thank you you all. Appreciate it.

END OF TRANSCRIPT