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His Immigration Views Were Shaped By Time Abroad, Sen. Tim Kaine Says


Senator Tim Kaine has been talking to my colleague Steve Inskeep about a changing America. His presidential running mate, Hillary Clinton, provoked that discussion. She said last week that half of Donald Trump supporters were in a basket of deplorables for their racism or sexism. Clinton has rephrased that but held to her main point.

STEVE INSKEEP, BYLINE: Senator Kaine offered his own phrasing in an interview with NPR. Elsewhere on today's program, we hear him talk of Trump supporters. He says they have dark emotions, as they face what he called transition anxiety about this country's demographic change. Immigration is driving that change. And in this part of the program, we hear Kaine's views on immigration, which were shaped in part by his time working in a Catholic mission overseas.

Did your experience living for a time as a young man in Honduras in any way affect how you think of immigration to the United States now?

TIM KAINE: Yes. Yeah, it definitely did.


KAINE: Well, in a couple of ways. You know, Donald Trump said once during the campaign, Mexicans are rapists and criminals. I lived in Honduras in a very poor community.

But I basically came to see, after I developed a language fluency that enabled me to understand - I came to see the same values in the people that I lived with that my parents were telling me to follow, the values of family and faith and hard work.

And so when you see those basic values - good values - animating people, you never will tolerate somebody just using a broad brush to trash somebody because of their national origin.

INSKEEP: Some Americans will know that some pretty terrible things have happened in Honduras in recent years...

KAINE: Yeah.

INSKEEP: ...Criminal gangs - lots of people had to flee.

KAINE: Horrible things.

INSKEEP: The economy is not great at all.

KAINE: Yeah.

INSKEEP: Do you have some understanding for people who look at those news headlines - and what they see south of the border is a problem, is a threat - something they don't want here?

KAINE: Well - and I - and that's why I looked. I believe in a comprehensive immigration reform that includes things like, you know, better border protection. I was a - I voted proudly for a comprehensive immigration bill in June of 2013, three years ago.

INSKEEP: It included more border security, sure.

KAINE: Had we done that, a lot of borders - of course you need to do that. Of course you need to do it. But the other thing I know about Honduras - why are kids fleeing? They're fleeing because of violence in their neighborhood.

And so when a parent lets a child go to come here because they're so worried about their own neighborhood, it has to call a little bit on your humanity, especially because in Honduras, much of the violence is driven by a drug trade that's fueled by the United States' demand for drugs. We send the cash down, and the drugs come up.

And so that violence in these little neighborhoods in San Pedro Sula and El Progreso near where I lived, it's not unconnected with the United States. It is connected to the demand for illegal drugs in this country. And that's what's making so many of these neighborhoods dangerous. And so what it means is that we have to have a smart immigration policy.

But we also ought to do things to help these nations deal with their public security challenges. The president of Honduras said something really powerful to me. What nation would want to export its young people? We want to keep our young people here to build a future here. And that's what - and families and kids want to stay where they're familiar. But we need to do work together, obviously, to help.

INSKEEP: That's Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.