He wasn’t sitting behind the president for the State of the Union Tuesday night, the way he maybe should have had he won as Hillary Clinton’s running mate, but Virginia U.S. Senator Tim Kaine was in the audience on Capitol Hill, and brought a stinging criticism, especially of the immigration component, of President Trump’s speech to the Eden Center in the City of Falls Church Wednesday.
His message to Eden Center’s Vietnamese-American civic and business leaders, built around a casual tour of many of the Vietnamese-American retailers in the center and lunch at the Little Viet Garden restaurant, was that all Americans hurt by what President Trump is doing need to think about running for office, whether it’s at the local, regional or wider level.
He cited, to the delight of his roving audience, the case of the election of Vietnamese-American Kathy Tran from Fairfax, a former refugee, to the state legislature in November, one of 19 newcomers to the Virginia legislature. He added a reference to Del. Elizabeth Guzman, another first-time elected delegate, who delivered the Spanish-speaking version of the Democratic Party rebuttal to Trump following his address Tuesday night.
Kaine said he hadn’t had a chance to watch the Democratic reply by U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III because, being a fluent speaker of Spanish, he was focused on what Guzman had to say. “When I was governor of Virginia, I remember working with her, an articulate Peruvian single mom, against a lot of discriminatory stuff coming out of Prince William County at that time. I am so proud that she was chosen for Tuesday’s rebuttal speech even as a first-term elected official,” Kaine said. She’d rousted out an entrenched Republican to get herself elected.
If there was anything about Trump’s speech that upset him, it had to do with immigration, he told the News-Press at Eden Center.
“I was really disappointed that he added another terrible obstacle to reaching a bipartisan way forward on an immigration policy,” he said. It was Trump’s insistence that families would have to be broken up to permit some Dreamers to stay. “Now family integration is his target. He wants to allow some immigration at the expense of families,” Kaine noted. “He wants to do violence to family unification.”
He added that Trump was wrong to characterize Dreamers (children of illegal immigrants who’ve been allowed to stay in the U.S. as part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program) as illegals, because under DACA they have legal protection.
The speech, Kaine said, was consistent with Trump’s efforts to divide the American people. He said he’s working with 25 other U.S. Senators to craft permanent protections for Dreamers and other immigration issues.
Kaine also took questions from a reporter for the Asian-American cable channel, SBTN-TV.
He said that Tran’s election in November, one of 19 new Democrats to get elected to the Virginia legislature, “has created great hope.” Northern Virginia is key, because it is one of only nine areas in the U.S. that has a large enough Vietnamese-American population to justify the mandated printing of ballots in Vietnamese.
“That’s why it’s important that you put up candidates at every level,” he emphasized.
Kaine is involved in his own re-election campaign for the U.S. Senate this year, which will gear up when the GOP figures out who, among about four potential candidates, it decides to endorse in the spring to run against him.