President Donald Trump was praised by Republicans for his first address to Congress. But newly-elected Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez, a former labor secretary, and Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison told PBS NewsHour there’s a disconnect between what Trump says and the facts.
Ellison took particular issue with the way Trump framed immigration in Tuesday’s speech, he told the NewsHour in Statuary Hall.
Trump told lawmakers that “by finally enforcing our immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions and billions of dollars, and make our communities safer for everyone.”
Trump also said he ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office — called the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) — to serve American victims of crimes committed by immigrants.
But to Ellison, the speech “seemed to blame immigrants for crime,” he said. “It indicated that clamping down on immigration was going to increase wages and make our economy better. The fact is there’s no facts to support that.”
Perez and Ellison faced off this week in a race for chair of the DNC, one that highlighted the divide between the party’s establishment and an emerging, more liberal wing — many of whose members were energized by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential run.
Ellison, who lost to Perez but now serves as deputy chair of the DNC, invited Perez to the speech, which he called a show of unity among democratic leadership. Now is the time for Democrats to come together, he says.
“Our unity is our greatest strength and Donald Trump’s worst nightmare,” Perez told NewsHour.
He says it’s important for people participating in events like the Women’s March to channel energy into action.
That strength is already on display, Perez said, pointing to Delaware’s special election last weekend, when voters turned out to elect Democrat Stephanie Hansen and preserve their majority in the state senate.
It’s the start of what they hope is a democratic gain in other state elections, he said. Democrat Jon Ossoff will be running in Georgia’s 6th District — a seat left vacant by Republican Tom Price when he became the secretary of Health and Human Services. Regular off-season gubernatorial elections, like New Jersey and Virginia, are also must wins for democrats.
“People came out and channeled that energy into votes,” Perez said.