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TRANSCRIPT: MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG 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 Mayor Pete Buttigieg participation.

VANESSA HAUC: Our next speaker will be South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. (APPLAUSE) Mayor, welcome.

PETE BUTTIGIEG: Thank you.

ARTURO VARGAS: Thank you, Mayor.

PETE BUTTIGIEG: Thank you.

VANESSA HAUC: You have one minute for your opening remark.

PETE BUTTIGIEG: All right, buenos dias!

AUDIENCE: Buenos dias.

PETE BUTTIGIEG: Good morning. (SPANISH) And-- thank you so much for the opportunity and for the work that you do. I'm running for president, because I believe we are living at a moment of such seriousness and such opportunity that we've gotta do something completely different, that's what's at stake right now is not just the next three or four years, but that’s what happens in the next three or four years will decide how America functions for the next 30 or 40.

And in that context, I think, more than anything, we need to fall back on our values, values like freedom. (APPLAUSE) We can clap for freedom. Security, democracy, but also that my party must insist that these values do not belong to one party.

PETE BUTTIGIEG: So, in that spirit, we're organizing a different kind of campaign. And I believe this moment calls for a different message and a rather different messenger, which I recognize that I am-- a middle-class mayor from the American industrial Midwest, from a new generation, at a moment when America needs a new generation of leadership to step forward-- when my party needs to demonstrate that it can speak to every part of the country, including a hometown like mine, whose story is living proof that there is no such thing as an honest politics built around the word, "again." And I think that we can do that and, in so doing, be more likely to win, as a party, than if we try to play it safe.

VANESSA HAUC: Wonderful, Mayor Buttigieg. So, when you were the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, a city with a Latino population of just 13%, you made sure that-- undocumented immigrants that were living in the city got a community resident card. Basically, this is an ID that serves as a legal form of identification. Why was this a priority for you? And would you consider a measure like this nationwide, if you become the president?

PETE BUTTIGIEG: Yes, thank you. This was a priority for me, because it was a priority for so many in the community. We have a growing and vibrant Latino community in South Bend. As you said, it's approaching 15% now. And not all of those individuals are documented.

And as a city, my responsibility, as a mayor, is, in fact, not only to citizens but to residents. And what we realized is we had many residents who were not able to access things that the rest of us take for granted, just the ability to-- pick up a prescription, the idea-- that-- that you can verify that you were the parent of a child that you're picking up from daycare.

And in an interaction with the police, the ability to establish who you are, something so important for residents, but also, for law enforcement to be able to do their job. And so as residents came to us and activists said-- "You can help us here," I realized that we didn't have to wait on the federal government or the state government-- to solve this problem.

We could establish a local, municipal ID card-- not only for undocumented residents, I've got one myself-- but something that would be very useful for undocumented residents. And yes, I do believe it is the responsibility of the federal government other make sure anyone who lives here, regardless of their immigration status, has a means to demonstrate that they are who they say they are.

VANESSA HAUC: Wonderful. One quick reaction, before we go to-- to Arturo. Yesterday, Telemundo had an exclusive interview with the president. And when Jose Diaz-Balart told him that-- you were up in the polls and-- that you could be a great adversary, he-- his answer was that he just didn't believe it. What's your reaction to that? (LAUGHTER)

PETE BUTTIGIEG: Well, as a general rule, when the president says something, the opposite tends to be true. So, I guess it's very good news for my prospects. (APPLAUSE)

VANESSA HAUC: Thank you. Thank you, Mayor. Your next question is going to come from Arturo.

ARTURO VARGAS: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. We're asking the same question of everybody, because how important this issue is to the Latino community and to the mission of this organization. The nation's about to experience a constitutionally required census next year under circumstances and policies that practitioners, researchers, and even three federal courts have said will result in a dramatic undercount-- especially of Latinos. Now, if you become president of the United States, the census already will have been taken. But what steps will you take to remedy the 2020 census? And how will you restore integrity and credibility in the Census Bureau?

PETE BUTTIGIEG: Well, this is such an important question. And-- I'm glad that you're shining a light on it. Because it's one of those process things that, maybe, is considered unglamorous and doesn't get the attention that it deserves. But I know, as a mayor, how important it is to have an accurate census.

I spoke to the growing Latino community in South Bend. We are proud, as an industrial city, one that lost so many jobs after the factories left a generation ago. We are proud that we are growing today. If you removed the role that immigration has played-- that growth, that modest growth that I'm so proud of in our city, would be zero. It would be flatlined.

And if we don't properly count-- the people living in our community, then the people living in our community will be shortchanged in a thousand ways that rely-- on the census. And so, this is vitally important for communities like ours.

Plus, we know, from evidence in some of these court proceedings, that this manipulation of the census has been motivated racially and politically. It is wrong. And we must resist that. But as you said, by the time the new president takes office, it will have taken place.

There are certainly measure, on a forward-looking basis, that the next president can undertake, beginning with enshrining, in law, the principle that you cannot manipulate the census for political advantage and that you would never introduce a question that is likely to distort or diminish the accuracy of the census. (APPLAUSE) And by the way, we-- we don't have to wait every ten years to make a difference. Because the Census Bureau also does so many other c-- forms of community counts in between, the estimates, the numbers, that-- that are just the lifeblood of a lotta the decision making that we make in local government.

But the other thing is that we can act right now to make sure that people understand the importance of being counted. That's why this Hazte Contar initiative is so vitally important. And I pledge to use whatever visibility that I have, as a candidate-- to help make sure that everyone understands the importance of making themselves counted, to dilute the distorting effect of these manipulations, no matter what the courts decide. (APPLAUSE)

ARTURO VARGAS: Thank you.

VANESSA HAUC: Thank you, Mayor. And your last question is going to come from Colorado State Senate President Leroy Garcia, a democrat. Your question.

LEROY GARCIA: Mayor, from one veteran to another, thank you for your service. While the nation has experienced a robust economy and historically low unemployment rates, for many Latinos, wages are not rising. And job opportunities in modern, technology-driven economies, remain elusive.

And the situation for U.S. citizens and residents from Puerto Rico is even worse. If elected president, what policies would you pursue to provide all Latino workers the opportunity to fully participate in the 21st-century economy and a workforce, through good jobs, that earn wages that can help them realize the American dream?

PETE BUTTIGIEG: Thank you. And thank you for your service to the country and to the people in Colorado, where-- your chamber and your state is doing remarkable work. This is so important. And, I wish we had hours to dig into it. But let me mention-- a few things that I think are at stake. Because we have to ask ourselves, how is it, if GDP is rising, that life expectancy is not?

It asks us what it is we're counting and who the economy is working for. And as you've said, so many are left out of this economic growth. We, as policymakers, need to find ways to make the 21st-century economy work for a generation of-- if you're my age or younger, a generation that is likely to wind up changing professions more often than my parents changed job titles.

Some of these solutions will be complex, finding ways to have portable and prorated benefits, so that if you have a combination of gigs and part-time jobs, you have as much of a contribution to your retirement and your health and your ability to have paid time off, as if you were a full-time worker. But some of-- (APPLAUSE) and we can work on that.

But some of the solutions are abundantly simply, like, people need to get paid more. And that's why we've gotta raise the minimum wage to $15, as a beginning. And when we do, that will disproportionately benefit Latino workers, so many of whom are in those jobs.

But it's not only workers in minimum-wage jobs that can benefit everybody. We also need to strengthen labor. It's not an accident that we've seen inequality rise, opportunity fall, the American dream slip away at the same time, over those same years, in which membership in organized labor has fallen.

We need labor to defend not only pay and wages but working conditions and rights for workers. (APPLAUSE) And a foundation of access to the American dream, once we can get the economy working better, with fair working conditions and better pay, is education. And that's why we need a secretary of education who actually believes in public education.

ARTURO VARGAS: Puerto Rico.

VANESSA HAUC: Thank you so much.

ARTURO VARGAS: There was a reference to Puerto Rico.

PETE BUTTIGIEG: Yes, for Puerto Rico. Sorry. So, America must welcome the decision of the people of Puerto Rico. And if that decision is statehood, America must welcome that. And we must no wait for that. (APPLAUSE) But as a matter of principle, we must not wait for statehood to see our fellow U.S. citizens, in Puerto Rico, treated equally and represented properly.

I believe the kinds of things we saw, like the embarrassingly poor response to the hurricane, would not have happened, if Puerto Rico were afforded-- electoral votes. And I believe that we don't have to wait for statehood in order for that to happen. (APPLAUSE)

VANESSA HAUC: Thank you, Mayor. You have one minute for your closing remarks.

PETE BUTTIGIEG: Well, thank you. Again, I thank you for the work that you're doing at every level of government. I stand before you as a presidential candidate. But I also think the time has come for-- my party and-- politics, in general, to stop treating the presidency like it's the only office that matters.

Because the work that you are doing-- at every level, and especially in state and local governments, where so many of these issues cash out. And one of the things that you see at NALEO-- as you see in the U.S. Conference of Mayors, is a room full of people, elected officials, from both parties, who get along not by submerging their values-- but through good-faith discussion, who like each other.

Imagine if we could get the United States Congress to look like that. And my point is that part of the idea of stepping up as a candidate who is not traditional, not only in terms of the age and the background that I come from, but-- also the idea of-- sending a mayor out there, is that-- got some fellow mayors in the house.

The point is that we would be well served, if we could get Washington to look more like the community of U.S. mayors, the if we could get Washington to look more like our best-run cities and towns, before the reverse starts to happen. We need change. We need profound change. we don't need to change the values of our party. At least I don't believe we do. But we do need new kinds of messengers, new kinds of outreach-- a new recognition of the moment that we're in, that there's no going back to normal, that we are where we are.

Because normal let so many people down, under republican and democratic administrations across my lifetime. And that's why we have an opportunity to do something different. We can't spend all our time talking about this president. When he lies, we will call it out. When he does something wrong, we will confront it. But the more we are talking about him, the less we are talking about you, about the people that you and I serve. (APPLAUSE)

And that's why, as a matter of political strategy but also just as the right thing to do for this country, we're not gonna go on his show, this gameshow or horror show or whatever (LAUGHTER) you wanna call it. If you're on his show, you're losing. And so instead of going on his show, we have the opportunity to change the channel. Thank you very much.

VANESSA HAUC: (APPLAUSE) Thank you so much, Mayor. Thank you.

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