- The Washington Times - Monday, July 13, 2015

Former Gov. Martin O’Malley blasted “hate-spewing” GOP presidential candidates Monday as he made his own appeal to win over Hispanics, vowing to expand on the record he amassed in Maryland, where he said he “forged a new consensus” behind pro-immigration policies.

During his two terms, Maryland granted driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, extended to them in-state tuition rates, elevated Hispanics to positions of power and increased government contracts going to Hispanic businesses.

“Anyone can talk about it. But we actually did it,” Mr. O’Malley, who is seeking Democrats’ presidential nomination, said in a speech to the National Council of La Raza, the country’s largest Hispanic umbrella advocacy group.

Mr. O’Malley said he’ll lay out a broader immigration agenda Tuesday, but he joins fellow candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, Sen. Bernard Sanders and the rest of the Democratic field in believing Hispanics present a major opportunity for their party in a general election.

Few differences stand out among the candidates’ positions now — though that wasn’t always the case. Mrs. Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, signed one of the toughest immigration laws in modern political history, and called for a crackdown on illegal immigration.

But Mrs. Clinton said she backs President Obama’s own more lenient policies instead, including his deportation amnesty that could protect as many as 5 million illegal immigrants from being ousted, instead granting them work permits and tax benefits.

“I will defend President Obama’s executive actions and stand up against any attempt to expose Dreamers to deportation,” Mrs. Clinton told the NCLR conference. “And if Congress continues to refuse to act, as president I would do everything possible under the law to go further. There are more people with deep ties … who deserve a legal chance to stay and not worry about their family being broken up because of deportation.”

Republicans, meanwhile, are conflicted — so much so that none of their large field of candidates is speaking to the NCLR’s annual convention in Kansas City, Missouri, this week.

The Democratic National Committee highlighted their lack of attendance by issuing press releases claiming to have the text of several top candidates’ speeches — followed by blank emails.

One of those candidates the DNC highlighted, businessman Donald Trump, has inflamed the immigration debate with his recent comments that Mexican illegal immigrants are often rapists who bring violence and crime to the U.S.

Some Republicans have repudiated those claims while others have said they capture a fear of rampant illegal immigration at a time when President Obama is moving to cut back on enforcement efforts.

Mr. Trump, meanwhile, has stood by his claims — and said this weekend’s escape from a Mexican prison by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the second such escape by the convicted drug cartel kingpin, is proof of his claims about Mexico.

“I told you so!” he said in a Twitter message.

NCLR officials said they invited most of the GOP field to come to speak at their convention, but none of them accepted. Clarissa Martinez de Castro, deputy vice president at the NCLR, said that did not extend to Mr. Trump, however, who she said “has deeply offended and insulted us on a personal level.”

Mrs. Clinton took aim at the businessman: “I have just one word for Mr. Trump: Basta. Enough.”

Mr. O’Malley said the entire GOP field should be embarrassed by Mr. Trump.

“The real problem isn’t that the Republicans have such a hate-spewing character running for president. The problem is that it’s so hard to tell him apart from many of the other candidates they have in their field,” he said.

Mr. O’Malley also said he deserves credit for how he handled last year’s surge of illegal immigrant children from Central America, saying he was proud that Maryland took in more of those children per capita than any other state.

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