Gov. John Bel Edwards reveals in a new profile that he personally called the White House after hearing about immigrant children being separated from their parents on the U.S.-Mexico border earlier this year.
"I didn’t think it was necessary, and it didn’t strike me as particularly American to do that,” Edwards said in a feature America, a popular Catholic magazine published by Jesuits, published Friday.
Edwards, a Democrat who is up for reelection next year, has previously voiced his opposition to the controversial Trump administration policy of separating families who cross the border illegally.
Edwards previously had publicly condemned the Trump administration's policy, which prompted a national uproar. He had not previously revealed his personal contact with the White House about it, though.
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"It just tears your heart out because you know it's unnecessary," Edwards said in June of images of crying children in make-shift shelters and cages. "We understand the need to secure borders and make sure criminals are not coming in, but those children are not criminals, they're not terrorists."
President Donald Trump signed an executive order in June retreating from the policy, but recent reports have suggested that separations have continued.
The America profile of Edwards offers a peek into the governor's Catholic faith and the fine-line he walks being a Democrat who is against abortion rights and supports gun rights.
"I don’t like the labels because I don’t think that they’re accurate. I don’t like being pigeonholed," Edwards says in the profile, which is the inaugural story of a proposed annual feature for America. "There are people who say, ‘You’re pro-life on abortion, so that makes you conservative, but you’re for the Medicaid expansion. That makes you liberal.’ But it’s the exact same Catholic Christian faith, at least as I understand it, that pushes me into both of those positions."
Through the profile, Edwards offers insight into growing up Catholic in Tangipahoa Parish and how it led him to West Point for college.
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He also discusses his relationship with Republican President Donald Trump. Edwards has said in the past that Trump has called him his favorite Democrat, and the governor has been invited to multiple White House events since Trump took office. Edwards compared his treatment of Trump to how former Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, treated Democratic President Barack Obama.
"[Jindal] was very gratuitous in his commentary about President Obama. And it was always taking on the president and not giving him the benefit of the doubt on anything," he said. "It’s not that I don’t ever disagree. I just don’t go out in public and blast the president, because I don’t think it would be helpful."
Edwards took office in January 2016 and is seeking re-election in 2019. Two Republicans, Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone and U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham of Alto, have announced plans to challenge him. Others could also get into the race.