The two Democratic candidates running for Senate in Maryland told several hundred people gathered at a rally in Prince George's County on Wednesday that they support comprehensive immigration reform, but they offered few ideas for how that goal could become a reality.
Reps. Donna F. Edwards of Prince George's County and Chris Van Hollen of Montgomery County -- both of whom represent large Hispanic populations -- praised President Barack Obama's recent executive actions intended to defer the deportation of millions of immigrants.
But both Democrats also used the rally, which was organized by the immigrant advocate group CASA, to describe those measures as temporary.
"It's so important for us not to take our eyes off of the real fight. And the real fight is still comprehensive immigration reform," said Edwards, who repeatedly broke into Spanish as she spoke. "We will not stand in a country and have people picking and choosing their favorite immigrants, because that is a way to divide and conquer."
Van Hollen, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, noted that Democrats put forward an alternative federal budget that includes revenue and spending assumptions based on Congress approving an overhaul of immigration laws.
"It's the right thing to do for families and it's also the smart thing to do for our economy," Van Hollen said. "We need a permanent solution."
The Langley Park rally drew hundreds of people and a large contingent of politicians -- including some state lawmakers who are planning to run for the House next year. But despite the important and growing influence of the Hispanic vote in the state, it's not clear that Edwards and Van Hollen differ significantly on the issue.
The Senate passed a landmark, bipartisan immigration bill in 2013 that included a pathway to citizenship for some of the estimated 11 million people in the country illegally. But the Republican-led House did not take a vote on the measure and, since then, the GOP has also captured control of the Senate.
The rally was only the second time Van Hollen and Edwards have appeared together at a political event since announcing their candidacies to replace the retiring Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (they both spoke at a building association trade group breakfast late last month).