By MEG CUNNINGHAM, ABC News
(PHILADELPHIA) — Flor Cruceta, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic who recently became a United States citizen, had an odd exchange with President Donald Trump at ABC News’ town hall Tuesday.
Cruceta asked the president a question on behalf of her mother, who recently died from breast cancer which had spread to other areas of her body. She asked Trump what he would to do allow more immigrants to become full U.S. citizens.
But Trump answered her question — about immigration — by talking, instead, about the coronavirus crisis, appearing to misunderstand the cause of her mother’s death, likening it to the pandemic which has killed nearly 200,000 Americans.
“I feel disappointed,” Cruceta said to ABC News Live Prime anchor Linsey Davis Wednesday night.
“He started talking about immigration and then he completely switched to COVID. I understand that that is the situation we are living right now, the pandemic, but I did not say that my mom died from the coronavirus. So, I didn’t know if he misunderstood me or he really changed my question to his benefit,” she said.
Cruceta said she wanted to correct the president, but couldn’t get the words out because she was crying “too much.”
“It’s not that it was inappropriate,” Cruceta said of correcting Trump. “It’s just that I’m in pain. I tried to speak.”
Cruceta’s family came to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic in 2006. Her mother worked at a meatpacking plant “for many years,” she said. “If she got sick, she never went to the doctor. She didn’t want to stop working.”
Cruceta began her question to Trump by describing her mother.
“She had breast cancer, but it made metastasis on her brain, bone and lungs,” Cruceta told the president, holding back tears. “She passed on the 19th. One of her biggest dreams was to become a citizen to vote. And she did [become a citizen], ten days before she died. And I did it, too. She pushed me so hard to do it, and I did it this past 28th.”
“I’m here because of her,” Cruceta said. “She was supposed to be here and ask you and thank you for this… during this epidemic, you made people closer. We lost our jobs but we learned how to love our family. So I’m saying that from her.”
Trump began answering her question by talking about the immigration system, but veered to speaking about the coronavirus pandemic in his answer.
“It’s a very sad story, but we want people to come into our country,” Trump told her. “We want them to come in — a lot of people — but we want them to come in through a legal system. Through a system that… they love our country. They work to come into our country.”
Trump also told Cruceta that his administration is taking care of the pandemic, apparently misunderstanding the cause of Cruceta’s mother’s death.
“We’ll have it taken care of,” he said of the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s going to get taken care of. The vaccines are going to make a big difference.”
Cruceta said that the president’s answer hasn’t swayed her one way or the other on who she will cast her first ballot for as a U.S. citizen.
“He’s making everything hard for us. I don’t know why we can vote for him… because he’s just pulling people apart, he’s just taking families apart. And we need him to understand that,” she said, adding that she came to the U.S. legally, with a J-1 Visa.
“The answer he gave me makes me think that if I vote for him, the immigrants that came here without papers — because we have many people like that — they’re not going to have any hope from him because what he wants, what he says he wants, is people to come here legally,” she said.
“But what about the ones that did not come here legally? What are you gonna do? Why are they just gonna be the foreigner? What about all the work they have done here? What about the families they bring here and the kids that are born here from immigrants? What about them?,” Cruceta added.
Cruceta told ABC News on Tuesday night, after the president misunderstood her question, that she was thankful for the opportunity to speak on behalf of Spanish-speaking, Hispanic and Latino communities across the country.
“It was a great opportunity to be open about what we think and what we want to hear about him,” she said.
ABC News offered to host a similar town hall with Biden, but the two parties were not able to find a mutually agreeable date.
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