Appearing on the The Daily Show with host Trevor Noah, it was pointed out to Mr O’Rourke that polls showed that a majority of Texans support the actions of Texas governor Greg Abbott, and Florida’s Ron DeSantis.
“I actually think this extremism that we see in our current governor and government in Texas, is reflective of the fact that we have a badly broken democracy,” said Mr O’Rourke, who is challenging Mr Abbott for the governor’s job. “Seven million Texans did not vote in the last election.”
Mr O’Rourke said the opinion polls may reflect an immigration system that is broken, and that people feel the need to “do something”.
“What I propose is instead of these stunts, which are so cruel and unkind, not just to those migrants, but to those of us who live in Texas, to the border patrol agents, who we put on their backs this entire immigration system that is so badly broken…” he said.
“What if instead, we had a Texas based guest worker programme or the ability to join family and not wait 20 years in line?”
He added: “What if Texas led the way in rewriting our immigration laws to reflect our values, our interests and our needs, and we said, ‘Look, if you want to come to this country, you must follow our laws’, but our laws will follow our values”. I want Texas to lead on that.”
A sheriff in Texas is currently investigating last week’s migrant flights, which Mr DeSantis chartered to move immigrants from the southern border to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. Florida taxpayers footed the bill for two planes to fly about 50 Venezuelans to the island, a move denounced by Democrats but supported by many Republicans, including Mr Abbott who has been bussing migrants to places such as Washington DC.
Polls show Mr O’Rourke, 49, trailing Mr Abbott, 64, by as much as nine points, and many commentators feel the former congressman will not be able to repeat the kind of turn-out he managed in 2018, when he narrowly managed to beat incumbent Republican senator Ted Cruz.
Mr O’Rourke has claimed that his numbers will be boosted by Mr Abbott’s embrace of some of the harshest anti-abortion rules in in the nation. He thinks that women of all political stripes will come out, along with men who oppose Mr Abbott’s hardline views.
“Instead of succumbing to the temptation to despair or submitting to this, Texans are rising up and they’re volunteering on this campaign,” Mr O’Rourke said on Wednesday night’s show.
“They’re knocking on doors. They’re turning out in record numbers and they’re going to win this election in November, which is really a referendum on all these issues - are we going to be defined by this extremism and our hatred and the way that we make each other afraid of one another? Are we going to come together and do big things together.”