South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, still in the running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, told an audience in Des Moines, Iowa over the weekend the American “economy needed 11 million” illegal immigrants to stay functioning.
During his speech, Buttigieg was asked by a member of the audience, “Do you think illegal immigration is a problem in the United States?”
“There’s no question we have to fix the system — for sure. But part of the problem is we’ve got an economy that really needs people, especially rural areas: I don’t think it’s a mystery to people in rural areas why there are a lot of undocumented workers,” the Indiana mayor said.
Buttigieg argued that the problem isn’t illegal immigrants but rather an immigration system that will not allow in a sufficient number of legal migrants into the country.
“We have a system that wasn’t actually set up to have that many people come in lawfully. The reason there’s 11 million undocumented folks here is that the economy needed 11 million more people than the system was prepared to let in,” he said.
He also said he supports a “pathway to citizenship” — which has become a Democratic buzzphrase — for anyone in the U.S. illegally.
“There are over 10 million people who are undocumented immigrants in this country who don’t fall into [the DACA] category and the reality is we can’t have comprehensive immigration reform that works unless it addresses the status for those 11 some million undocumented immigrants,” Buttigieg said during a CNN town hall forum.
Buttigieg said his own city of South Bend could accommodate at least 30,000 migrants.
Political analysts have said one of the reasons why President Donald Trump won in 2016 was his pledge to combat illegal immigration.
Trump has attempted to work with Democrats and reluctant Republicans to provide a citizenship pathway for tens of thousands of “DACA recipients,” illegal aliens allowed to remain in the country under an Obama-era program.
But so far he hasn’t convinced enough members of Congress to back his plan.