Transcript: Beto O'Rourke on "Face the Nation," June 30, 2019

O'Rourke: "Remain in Mexico" fuels "suffering and death"

The following is a transcript of the interview with Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke that aired Sunday, June 30, 2019, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. We are now joined by 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke who joins- joins us from El Paso. Congressman, we've had this breaking news overnight and I'm wondering if, as president, you would continue the diplomacy with Kim Jong Un, and would you accept North Korea as a contained nuclear threat if it refuses to give up its nuclear weapons? 

BETO O'ROURKE: You know, I would continue diplomacy contingent on progress that keeps this country and our allies safe. Despite three years of almost bizarre foreign policy from this president, this country is no safer when it comes to North Korea. They have removed none of their nuclear weapons or their potential to deliver them to the United States. And, in fact, in contravention of the United Nations they have launched other missiles flouting the diplomacy that this president has attempted so far. So, we've added legitimacy to Kim Jong Un.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But it sounds like you're saying you would continue to talk to Kim Jong Un.

O'ROURKE: I want to make sure that we pursue diplomatic, peaceful, nonviolent negotiations to resolve the challenges that we face on the Korean Peninsula--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.

O'ROURKE: --and to ensure that we denuclearize that area. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: I- We know from your team that you plan to go to Mexico today. What is the purpose of that visit?

O'ROURKE: Me going over to Ciudad Juarez today, our- our sister city across the border from El Paso, to meet with asylum seekers who have traveled hundreds, in some cases thousands, of miles fleeing the deadliest countries on the face of the planet coming to this country trying to follow our asylum laws and through a program that effectively shuts them out of this country and our laws are forced to stay in Ciudad Juarez, where they are prey to criminal organizations, where they are penniless and where they are suffering and where too many feel like they are forced to try to cross in between our ports of entry. As we saw earlier this week, a picture of Oscar and Valeria, who died trying to do that from what the Matamoros to Brownsville. This inhumane policy is causing suffering and death, and I want to call attention to what we are doing. So going to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and meeting with these asylum seekers is a great way for the American public to know what is being done in our name right now. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: So do you believe that asylum seekers should be able to apply for asylum from other countries or from Mexico?

O'ROURKE: Yes. I- I think we should follow our- our own asylum laws that are on the books, our obligations to those people to whom we are connected by land and language and culture and for whom we have some responsibility, given our involvement in the Western Hemisphere that has produced some of the challenges that they face that would cause a family to flee hundreds or thousands of miles to come here. So when we follow our own asylum laws, those people are safer. We live according to our traditions and in a program that we've proposed, a family case management program, no family is separated. They're not detained in these border patrol stations--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But that's if they cross into the United States.

O'ROURKE: --they're able to be released into the community and to follow our own laws.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What- what you're proposing is when they cross into the United States. I'm asking if they're applying as, now, from Mexico or from a third country. That is one of the proposed changes, also, to immigration law now. 

O'ROURKE: Yes, I- I think that asylum seekers should be able to apply from their home countries. So--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. 

O'ROURKE: --from Honduras or Guatemala or El Salvador to the United States, without having to make that journey by foot in the first place, it'll ensure that they are following our laws and it will guarantee greater safety and reduce suffering for them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We are just about a month out from the next debate. During the one this week you were hit by your colleague from Texas, Julian Castro, who said, "you need to do your homework." Are you going to change your strategy for the next debate?

O'ROURKE: What I'm going to do is get across what I think we can do as a country. And on the particular issue that you're referring to on- on immigration, under my administration day one we are going to stop family separation. We're going to reunite those families who have been separated. We're going to make sure that- that no one who is fleeing persecution or violence is criminally prosecuted. And we're going to follow what I was doing in Congress, where we helped to introduce legislation that would stop this and rewrite Section 1325 of U.S. code to make sure that those families who are at their most desperate and vulnerable moment do not face further fear when they get to the United States. And then in addition we're going to rewrite our immigration laws from the ground up, that the 9 million green card holders in this country, we're going to waive their citizenship fees so they can contribute even more to our success and our greatness. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: You'll be reliant on bending Republicans to your will on that.

O'ROURKE: Well, I- I'm not so sure that I'm willing to concede that point. There are a lot of great candidates running for congressional seats and U.S. Senate seats across this country. I'm confident that 2020 is going to produce a significant change, not just in the White House, but in both houses of Congress. I think that Democratic majority on immigration, on health care, on a more inclusive economy, on confronting the challenge of climate before it's too late is going to be able to show success for the American people at this defining moment of truth.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Wonderful, thank you so much Congressman O'Rourke.