Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley stood firm Saturday in a spat with the White House over the fate of unaccompanied minors streaming over the border, telling a Democratic audience in Nebraska that the United States should help children “fleeing death.”
“I believe in American generosity and the compassion of our people,” O’Malley (D) said during remarks at a statewide Democratic party dinner near Omaha. “We do not turn our back on innocent children who arrive at our doorstep fleeing death.”
O’Malley’s comments came on a busy day of political travel for the potential 2016 presidential candidate. Earlier Saturday, O’Malley attended fundraisers in neighboring Iowa for a pair of state Senate candidates.
On Sunday, O’Malley is scheduled to return to the nation’s first presidential nominating state for a string of appearances with Jack Hatch, the Democratic nominee for Iowa governor this year. O’Malley also traveled to Iowa last month.
The governor’s clash with the White House on immigration began more than two weeks ago when O’Malley said that returning the children from Central America to their home countries, as President Obama has advocated, would send them “back to a certain death.”
His remarks, made at a Democratic Governors Association event in Nashville, prompted suggestions of hypocrisy from the White House, which leaked word to the media that O’Malley had opposed locating a shelter for some of the unaccompanied children in a conservative county in Maryland.
O’Malley, who says he is looking for more welcoming sites, made only a passing reference to the controversy in his speech, which largely mirrored those he has given in recent months to other Democratic audiences around the country, including in Iowa and New Hampshire.
On Saturday night, in his keynote address to the Nebraska Democratic Party’s annual Morrison Exon dinner, O’Malley also plugged an expected ballot measure in Nebraska this fall on whether to raise the minimum wage.
“Just recently we raised our minimum wage in Maryland because we know that no one who works full time should have to raise their family in poverty,” O’Malley said.
He also cited a recent report by the U.S. Labor Department showing that the 13 states that raised their minimum wages on Jan. 1 have added jobs at a faster pace than those that did not. The first in a series of wage increases under Maryland’s law has not taken effect yet so Maryland was not included among the 13 states cited in the report. Maryland’s minimum wage will rise from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 by mid-2018 under the new law.
As he has in speeches to other Democratic audiences, O’Malley devoted a segment to his tenure as mayor of Baltimore, relaying that he had inherited a city facing deep crime and drug addiction problems.
“Today, like Baltimore in 1999, we as Americans are going through a cynical time of disbelief,” O’Malley said. “A time with more excuses than action. … More fear and anger than progress. We seem to have lost the shared conviction we once had that we actually have the ability to make things better together.”
“I’ve had enough of the cynicism,” O’Malley said “I’ve had enough of the apathy. I’ve had enough of us giving in to self-pity, small solutions and low expectations of one another.”
He credited Obama with overseeing 52 months of private-sector job growth. But, O’Malley said, “urgent work remains to be done. And the cynical, hyper-wealthy few who have hacked our democracy are digging in.”
Besides passage of a minimum-wage increase, O’Malley also touted several other state initiatives approved during his tenure, including the legalization of same-sex marriage, passage of gun-control measures and the extension of in-state college tuition rates to some undocumented immigrants.
Before heading to Nebraska, O’Malley appeared at fundraisers in Iowa for state Sen. Rita Hart and Kevin Kinney, a local sheriff’s deputy seeking a state Senate seat. Both events provided exposure to Democratic activists who could prove helpful if O’Malley moves forward with a presidential bid.
Aides to O’Malley said about 50 people attended the fundraiser for Hart in Clinton, Iowa. About 30 people came to the event for Kinney, held in North Liberty. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) showed up unannounced at the Kinney fundraiser, an O’Malley aide said.
On Sunday, O’Malley is scheduled to appear with Hatch, the Iowa Democratic nominee for governor, at two fundraisers, in Council Bluffs and Sioux City, and a separate event in Sioux City for party volunteers.
O’Malley has said he is preparing for a possible 2016 White House bid without respect to whether Hillary Clinton decides to run. He been the most active Democrat traveling the country while Clinton weighs her decision.