(CNN) - Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke likened President Donald Trump to an "arsonist" on immigration, suggesting the President's policies are worsening the migrant situation on the US southern border.
"Donald Trump is the arsonist who gets the credit for putting out the fire," the Texas Democrat said in an interview on David Axelrod's show "The Axe Files" that will air Saturday.
O'Rourke argued that Trump's decision to cut off all US aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras will compound the migration crisis and asylum-seekers from Central America.
"What we need is someone who will not play games or politics with people's lives or the security of this country but will invest in the smart decisions and policies like investing in Central America to stop the outflow before it even begins," O'Rourke told Axelrod.
"We can try to address these problems at the US-Mexico border with walls or open arms, or we can address them in the countries of origin before they ever become a problem, and that's what I want to do," he continued.
O'Rourke told Axelrod that immigration is essential to economic prosperity, and that "revitalizing rural America" depends in part on "ensuring that immigrants can find a home in rural America."
"Our success as farmers, as an economy, as a country, as a democracy is necessitated upon new people coming in to reinvigorate this country," O'Rourke said.
As one of 18 Democrats seeking the 2020 nomination, O'Rourke has tried distinguishing himself from the pack by pointing to his time representing a border district in the US House.
Trump "says he's going to make immigration a centerpiece of his campaign and your answer is bring it on," Axelrod said to O'Rourke.
"Absolutely," O'Rourke replied. "There is this community of El Paso-Ciudad Juarez that is the positive example of why immigration matters, why it makes us safer, why it makes our economy stronger, why it creates more jobs. So I'm looking forward to sharing that message and talking about safety and economic growth and jobs in a positive way that includes all of us."
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