LAS VEGAS (CN) – Two former undocumented immigrants who once worked for President Donald Trump and his family warmed up the crowd at a food-service union’s town hall meeting Monday in Las Vegas, where Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren vowed to create a path to citizenship for workers from other countries.
Nearly 350 people packed a meeting room just off the Strip for the event hosted by the Culinary Workers Union Local 226, which will host another event Tuesday with Senator Bernie Sanders and one Wednesday with former Vice President Joe Biden.
Nevada went to Hillary Clinton in 2016, but just barely. President Donald Trump garnered 45.98% of that vote, while 47.5% voted for Clinton. That narrow margin makes Nevada a target state for both Democrats and Republicans in 2020.
Twenty-nine percent of the state’s population is Hispanic or Latino, according to U.S. Census Bureau 2018 population estimates.
The culinary union is the largest minority organization in the state, according to Gianconda Arguello-Kline, secretary-treasurer of the union, which represents about 60,000 workers.
The union is 54% Hispanic, 19% white, 15% Asian and 10% Black. Its members include immigrants from more than 100 countries who speak more than 40 languages, according to Arguello-Kline, who is an immigrant herself.
Sandra Diaz and Victorina Morales – who worked as housekeepers for President Donald Trump and his family – spoke before Warren addressed the crowd.
Morales, who came to the U.S. from Guatemala in 1999, called the president a liar and said she was at the town hall to speak out for more than just herself.
“I am here for all immigrants,” she said through a translator. “We are not rapists. We are not liars. We are here for everyone. Let’s come out of the shadows and tell the truth.”
As she answered questions from the audience, Warren said that if she became president she would expand legal immigration and create a path to citizenship for undocumented workers, she said.
“We need to get families back together,” Warren said.
She said would also increase aid to Central American countries, where a lion’s share of immigrants to the U.S. are coming from now.
Warren told the crowd that the middle class has been “hollowed out, leaving a rocky, tough road.
“And for people of color, even rockier and even steeper,” Warren said.
She said that corporations are “stealing the great wealth and dignity of the country,” and that the government works great for them.
“Well I don’t want a government that works for giant multinational corporations,” Warren said. “I want one that works for families.”
Bobby Kirkpatrick, an airline catering company worker for more than 38 years, has never made more than $16 per hour, he said.
“And during that time those corporations profited billions,” Kirkpatrick said, asking how Warren would ensure workers make a living wage.
“The best way to do that is to make it easier to join unions,” Warren said, adding that right-to-work laws that stunt unions in some states should be repealed.
Christian Barneon, a cook in Las Vegas, has not yet made up his mind as to who will get his vote. Barneon didn’t have health care for years. Now he has it, because of the union, he said, and he asked Warren how she will ensure other people can.
“What you’ve got is something I want to see replicated all over America, so my plan surrounding health care is what you see,” she said. “The part that changes is the money. We need to ask people at the very top to kick in a little more, so we can afford health care for everyone.”
A recent poll from Emerson College had 30% of Nevada voters supporting Biden, 22% supporting Warren, and 19% backing Sanders. Support for other candidates drops sharply after that, with Andrew Yang, Kamala Harris and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg all drawing 5% support.
That’s a big shift for Warren since March, when she was tied with Beto O’Rourke, who is no longer running for president, at just 10%. That poll had Biden leading at 26% and Sanders at 23%.
Nevada is especially important for Biden because polls show his support is weak in Iowa and New Hampshire, according to Emerson Polling director Spencer Kimball.
“As Nevada is the third state in the nomination process, Biden needs a firewall there or in South Carolina if he struggles in the first two contests in order to propel him on to Super Tuesday on March 3,” Kimball said.
No Democrat was a clear leader over President Donald Trump in head-to-head match-ups in the state. Sanders tied the president and Warren polled at 49%. Biden led the president at 51% to 49%, reflecting other recent polls that have the former vice president leading the president.