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Former Secretary of State Colin Powell has a challenge for GOP hopeful Donald Trump: Try running hotels without immigrant workers.

Speaking with president and CEO of The Aspen Institute Walter Isaacson as part of the Washington Ideas Forum, co-hosted by the Institute and the Atlantic, Powell shared his views on immigration. "I think the American people have to understand we're an immigrant nation," he said, adding, "it is our history, it is our tradition… we have been built on the backs of immigrants."

The conversation turns to immigration soon after the 16:30 mark.

He added that candidates like Trump, who says he has a plan to significantly curb immigration into the U.S., should think through what that would mean for American business. Powell said: "If I was around Mr. Trump, Donald, who I know rather well, I would say you know Don, let's see what happens. Let's tell all the immigrants working in Trump hotels to stay home tomorrow. See what happens."


Powell's comments, on legal immigration, may also refer to Trump's notoriously harsh stance on undocumented immigrants—despite reports that he may employ them.

Powell added that audience members, who responded to the statement with applause, might also want to consider the positive impact of immigrant workers:

Are you kidding me? When these folks leave here to go to lunch, look who's serving you. Guess who's cooking in the back. Next time you walk through Dulles or Reagan, look who's manning the counters. Look who's cleaning the place up. These are first generation American immigrants who will raise children who will go up to higher things.


Well said.

Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.