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Kentucky's Democratic governor refers to Trump's anti-immigrant language as dangerous, dehumanizing

Gov. Andy Beshear speaks at the Paducah Chamber of Commerce's gubernatorial forum on Oct. 12. Beshear outlined some of his goals for his next term in office on Wednesday.
Hannah Saad | WKMS
Gov. Andy Beshear speaking at the Paducah Chamber of Commerce's gubernatorial forum earlier this year.

Republican Donald Trump's anti-immigrant language in his quest to win back the White House is dangerous and dehumanizing, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear said Tuesday, warning that the rhetoric makes it more difficult for Congress to reach a meaningful U.S. border security deal.

Beshear — whose resounding reelection last month in solidly Republican Kentucky raised his national profile — said a balanced approach is needed on immigration: one that protects the nation's borders but recognizes the role legal immigration plays in meeting business employment needs.

The governor has largely refrained from openly criticizing Trump, who remains popular in Kentucky, during his tenure and has repeatedly declared “a strong national security requires strong border security.” Beshear also authorized the deployment of Kentucky National Guard soldiers to the nation’s southern border during his first term.

But in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, Beshear pointedly criticized Trump's recent anti-immigrant remarks, in which the former president and current GOP presidential front-runner for 2024 talked about “blood” purity, echoing Nazi slogans of World War II.

“They’re poisoning the blood of our country,” Trump said about the influx of immigrants coming to the U.S. without immediate legal status, drawing on words similar to Adolf Hitler’s book “Mein Kampf.”

Asked to respond Tuesday, Beshear said: “I think the rhetoric is dangerous and it’s uncalled for. We can have strong opinions on illegal immigration. It is illegal first and our laws have to be protected, and we have to come together and do better about finding a long-term solution.”

“But those are still people, and we shouldn’t dehumanize human beings,” he added. “We should be able to talk about even the toughest issues without talking about them that way. That’s the only way, in the end, that Democrats and Republicans are going to be able to reach a viable solution that stops the flow of illegal immigration, that fills the jobs where we need immigration.”

In Washington, White House and Senate negotiators have been trying to reach a border security deal being demanded by Republicans in Congress to unlock President Joe Biden’s request for military aid for Ukraine and other national security needs.

A comprehensive immigration deal should include language offering a path toward citizenship for hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, Beshear said, adding: “Now what that path looks like would require people come together and figure it out.”

“I think we’ve got to acknowledge that they are more American than they are anything else,” he said. "They are human beings, and this has been their home. So I think that we’ve got to have the empathy for someone that’s lived in this country their entire life and find the right path for them.”

Asked whether he plans to take a more active role in national politics, Beshear said “we may have some news soon on different ways we can assist others here in Kentucky and around the country."

He reiterated his pledge to serve his entire second four-year term, which started last week. Beshear laid out his latest two-year budget priorities i n a speech on statewide TV Monday night. He pitched big pay raises for public school employees and state-funded preschool for every 4-year-old in Kentucky.

"My focus is on Kentucky and being the best governor that I can be and doing the most I can in this time for our people.” the governor said.

Still, speculation about the 46-year-old Beshear's future beyond the governorship has percolated. In his inauguration speech last week, he railed against the politics of division in ways that seemed aimed as much at the national landscape as the situation in Kentucky, where he has had a strained relationship with the GOP-led legislature. A Louisville Courier Journal writer summed it up in a column topped by the headline: “Andy for president? Beshear’s inaugural address sounded like a campaign speech.”

Asked Tuesday what a winning message could be for national Democrats up-and-down the ticket in 2024, Beshear said the focus should be on improving people's lives.

“On cable news every morning, it’s Democrat vs. Republican or Biden vs. Trump,” he said. “That’s not what people wake up thinking about. You think about your job and are you making enough to support your family. You’re thinking about the road you’re driving on to get there, to get your kids to school. You’re thinking about the public education your children are getting. And the safety of your community.”

“If Democrats or anyone want to not only win but then to do important things that help people, you’ve got to meet people where they are.” he added. "Focus on the issues that matter most to all Kentuckians, all Americans, and then show up every day and do your best to make their lives better.”