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Pete Buttigieg: The U.S. Doesn't Have the Leadership to Reform Immigration

Renae Reints

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, an up-and-coming 2020 Democratic candidate, said Monday that the United States is at a moment “between eras in American history.”

“Our economic and political system has been letting people down I would say for my entire lifetime,” said Buttigieg, 37, at CNN’s town hall in Manchester, N.H., Monday night.

“We’re at the dawn of something new,” he continued. “As much as I care about replacing this president and winning this election, I think what’s at stake right now is how to win not just an election, but an era.”

Throughout the town hall, Buttigieg addressed issues such as immigration, the economy, and the possibility of President Donald Trump’s impeachment.

“I think he’s made it pretty clear that he deserves impeachment,” Buttigieg said of Trump. “I’m also going to leave it to the House and Senate to figure that out because my role in the process is trying to relegate Trumpism to the dustpan of history and I think there’s no more decisive way to do that—especially to get Republicans to abandon this kind of deal with the devil they made—than to have an absolute thumping at the ballot box.”

In terms of immigration policy, Buttigieg expressed frustration that while lawmakers know what needs to be done, no action has been taken. He said there’s an “American consensus” that the country needs a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, protection for Dreamers, reforms to clear up the “bureaucracy and the backlogs in the lawful immigration system,” and reasonable border security.

“We know what to do. It’s just that we don’t have the leadership in Washington to do it,” said Buttigieg. “And I’m afraid one of the reasons is we’ve got a White House that has actually computed that it is better off politically if this problem goes unsolved, so that Americans can continue to be divided around it for short term political gain. And that has got to end with the new president.”

As mayor of an Indiana town with a history of auto making, Buttigieg spoke personally of how the loss of manufacturing jobs can affect a community. He said the U.S. should “send our products, not our jobs,” overseas, but acknowledged that manufacturing is going to continue to become less labor intensive as technology develops.

“We’ve got to be honest about the fact that for every job in manufacturing that has been lost as a consequence of trade, there’s several more that have been lost as a result of technology and automation,” said Buttigieg. “That’s why we need policies that can get ahead of the economic shifts to come and recognize that our generation is not going to be able to count, as our parents’ generation often did, on the idea of a single relationship with a single employer, or a couple employers, across the course of your entire career.”

During a earlier portion of CNN’s five-hour town hall, which featured several 2020 Democratic candidates, Sen. Bernie Sanders argued that even convicted criminals in prison should be permitted to vote. Sen. Kamala Harris later said it’s an issue worth talking about, but Buttigieg was adamantly on the opposition side.

“Re-enfranchisement upon release is important,” said Buttigieg, “but part of the punishment when you are convicted of a crime and you are incarcerated is you lose certain rights. You lose your freedom. And I think during that period it does not make sense to have an exception for the right to vote.”