Crist wonders who will be affected next by Trump's immigration policies
Congressman Charlie Crist joked Friday that the news coming out of the White House these days is so fast and furious that he has trouble keeping up.
“It’s challenging for us, your members of Congress,” Crist told several hundred people gathered for the 5th annual St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs at the University of South Florida at St. Petersburg. “I don’t get to see this stuff all day because I’m usually in meetings all day or hearings. And so, at the end of the day, I’ve got to find out what in the world went on over there. You know, what order was signed. Or what happened. And if I don’t get it that day I have to watch Saturday Night Live on Saturday night to figure it out.”
Crist, a Republican turned Democrat, never mentioned President Donald Trump by name in his brief remarks before a forum on immigration, but told the story of his Cypriot and Lebanese immigrant grandparents while holding a sepia photograph of his grandfather.
They had a chance to become Americans, he said, and he believes today’s immigrants deserve the same treatment .
“Today we call people like my grandfather Dreamers. And I support them and I believe they should be given their citizenship,” he said to applause.
Before his remarks, Crist told reporters that he supports St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s position on sanctuary status for undocumented immigrants, saying he thought it was the empathetic thing to do.
Kriseman, a Democrat, has sparred with Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, a Republican, over the issue. Gualtieri says the county has no plans to stop cooperating with federal authorities and that the mayor was sowing confusion with his comments.
“We need to make sure we keep our state, county and city safe. I understand that as a former law enforcement official as attorney general, I understand that. I think you have to find the right balance,” Crist said.
As an example, he cited Trump’s proposed temporary travel ban was too broad and discriminatory.
“That’s only what he’s tried to put in place so far. I mean, what country would be next? My grandfather’s country of Cyprus? My grandmother’s country of Lebanon?” Crist said.
Crist is serving his first term in Congress, told the crowd he hasn’t lost his faith that Americans are generous, kind, warm-hearted and gracious. And sometimes ticked off.
“This fall we saw a little bit of anger. And that’s okay. It’s democracy. It’s not always pretty. But it works,” Crist paused. “Usually.”