O'Rourke rallies at border, putting new Trump threats in spotlight

Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke will officially launch his White House campaign on Saturday in El Paso, Texas, a border city thrust into the spotlight this week after President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeWine tests negative for coronavirus a second time Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Beirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally MORE renewed his focus on what he calls an immigration crisis.

O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman who served six years in the House representing El Paso, will hold three rallies across Texas on Saturday, a launch that comes one day after the president threatened to shutter the border to grapple with a rise in illegal crossings. 


The El Paso rally has been scheduled for weeks, but its timing draws a striking contrast with Trump, who has threatened to close the border before but said on Friday that "there’s a very good likelihood" he will do so next week, providing a firmer timetable than any past warning.

"If Mexico doesn’t immediately stop ALL illegal immigration coming into the United States through our Southern Border, I will be CLOSING the Border, or large sections of the Border, next week. This would be so easy for Mexico to do, but they just take our money and 'talk.' Besides, we lose so much money with them, especially when you add in drug trafficking etc.), that the Border closing would be a good thing!" Trump said in a Friday morning tweetstorm.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said earlier this week that the immigration system has reached a "breaking point" over illegal border crossings.

"CBP is facing an unprecedented humanitarian and border security crisis all along our Southwest Border and nowhere has that crisis manifested more acutely than here in El Paso," he said at a news conference.

Saturday will not be El Paso’s first time in the immigration spotlight. O’Rourke and Trump held dueling rallies in the border town in February while the Texas Democrat was still mulling a presidential run.

O’Rourke's office released a statement at the time that said the event was intended "to show the country the reality of the border — a vibrant, safe, binational community that proudly celebrates its culture, history, diversity and status as a city of immigrants."

"While some try to stoke fear and paranoia, to spread lies and a false narrative about the U.S.-Mexico border and to demand a 2,000 mile wall along it at a time of record safety and security, El Paso will come together for a march and celebration that highlights the truth," the statement continued.

While O’Rourke has been criticized for lacking firm policy positions, he has been an outspoken critic of Trump’s proposed border wall and has made his opposition to additional barriers and other White House immigration policies a cornerstone of his nascent presidential campaign.

He has promised to lay out more campaign platforms Saturday, and his camp said it has facilitated over a thousand watch parties across the country to amplify his message. 

O’Rourke shattered fundraising records and electrified the Democratic base when he first shot to national prominence last year after an insurgent effort to unseat Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzPat Fallon wins GOP nomination in race to succeed DNI Ratcliffe The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Negotiators 'far apart' as talks yield little ahead of deadline Wary GOP eyes Meadows shift from brick-thrower to dealmaker MORE (R-Texas). He announced his presidential bid earlier this month.

He is running against more than a dozen Democrats seeking the party's 2020 presidential nomination. His high name recognition from his Senate campaign helped him raise $6.1 million in the first 24 hours after declaring his White House bid, the largest haul of any candidate thus far.