President Obama on Wednesday took a jab at Republican presidential candidate Donald TrumpDonald TrumpStowaway found in landing gear of plane after flight from Guatemala to Miami Kushner looking to Middle East for investors in new firm: report GOP eyes booting Democrats from seats if House flips MORE over his harsh rhetoric about immigrants.
Speaking at an event honoring Asian-American and Pacific Islander students and leaders, Obama called on them to vote to push back against a “rising tide of bigotry” toward immigrants.
“If you doubt what’s at stake, you obviously haven’t been reading the papers,” Obama said at the Asian Pacific American Institute of Congressional Studies gala in Washington.
The president said if Asian-Americans exercise their political power, they can help the country “move beyond today’s anti-immigrant sentiment” just like past generations did.
“We’ve got to push back against anti-immigrant sentiment in all of its forms,” he said. “Especially by those who are trying to stoke it just to seek political gain and just to try to get headlines.”
The president’s line about headline seekers, a clear shot at Trump, drew a raucous ovation from the crowd gathered at the Washington Hilton.
Obama’s comments came one day after Trump won the Indiana primary, becoming the presumptive GOP nominee.
His victory chased his two remaining rivals, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzBiden administration resists tougher Russia sanctions in Congress Republicans struggle to save funding for Trump's border wall GOP holds on Biden nominees set back gains for women in top positions MORE (Texas) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, out of the race.
The president has become an outspoken critic of Trump, repeatedly bashing his proposals on immigration. Obama is expected to wield an even larger megaphone against Trump when he begins campaigning for the Democratic presidential nominee.
Obama told the Asian-American leaders they have the power to push Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform if they vote in greater numbers, not only in presidential elections, but also in midterms and state and local races.
Trump won over Republican primary voters in part because of his blunt talk about cracking down on illegal immigration. He’s pledged to build a wall along the U.S.’s southern border and have Mexico pay for it. He’s referred to undocumented Hispanic immigrants as rapists and other criminals.
He also had an awkward moment last October when he asked an American-born student of Korean heritage if he was “from South Korea.”