Beto O’Rourke delivers immigration-focused address at Ames house party


Grant Tetmeyer/Iowa State Daily

Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke addresses supporters at the house of Ames resident Joan Bolin-Betts on July 2. O’Rourke discussed immigration during his speech and took a few questions from the audience.

Jake Webster

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, was greeted by a packed house of supporters and scattered thunderstorms upon his return to Ames. He delivered a speech with a focus on immigration.

Joan Bolin-Betts hosted the presidential candidate at her home in Ames. According to the campaign, 160 people attended the event — making for a very hot room while attendees waited for the arrival of the candidate. O’Rourke was joined by his wife and their three children at the event.

“He reminds me of [the late-Iowa Gov.] Bob Ray,” Bolin-Betts said of why she is supporting O’Rourke. “He has a strong moral code; he’s a good family man; he cares about someone else besides himself; he respects other people’s rights — he’s moral through and through.”

Bolin-Betts said she does not believe President Donald Trump has a “moral core.” She added she changed parties in 2016. She supported then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

O’Rourke spoke in Bolin-Bett’s living room — taking his place in front of her fireplace — which had books on Robert Kennedy and the Mueller Report on it, among others.

The former congressman from El Paso said his hometown is “one of the safest cities in the United States of America” and has been for “20 years running.”

“Before there was a wall — after there was a wall — in fact, a little bit less safe after there was a wall,” O’Rourke said. “And we are safe not in spite, but because we are a city of immigrants and asylum seekers and refugees.”

O’Rourke was criticized during last week’s presidential debates by fellow Texan and presidential candidate former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro on the issue of immigration.

Several weeks ago, O’Rourke released an immigration plan saying he would “use executive authority to stop the inhumane treatment of children, reunite families that have been separated, reform our asylum system, rescind the travel bans, and remove the fear of deportation for Dreamers and beneficiaries of programs like TPS,” among other reforms.

On the decriminalization of border crossings, Castro suggested during the debate O’Rourke had not done his “homework” on the issue.

O’Rourke said the Trump administration does not allow migrants to follow “our own asylum laws.”

Speaking with reporters after the event, O’Rourke was asked about his debate performance and what he would change in coming debates.

O’Rourke said he wants to bring the stories from the people he met in Ames into future debates and to reflect their “energy,” “passion” and “commitment” to their country.