For the second Democratic Primary debate in a row, the topic of immigration was virtually ignored. Despite the issue being at the top of voters’ concerns, and the intense criticisms of President Trump’s policies by Democrats on the campaign trail, there is a marked reluctance for the debate moderators to ask specific questions about the candidates’ positions on immigration, and the candidates themselves show no desire to state their positions in front of a national audience, however small that audience may be.
There were passing references to immigration in several opening statements, though they were dropped in as non-sequiturs, seemingly to satisfy the requirement that the candidate speak the “i” word while avoiding saying anything substantive.
Only one immigration-related question was asked the entire night, coming well into the debate from The Washington Post reporter Ashley Parker who asked Sen. Elizabeth Warren:
You've said that the border wall that President Trump has proposed is, quote, "a monument to hate and division." Would you ask taxpayers to pay to take down any part of the wall on the nation's southern border?
This question demonstrates no knowledge of immigration policy or politics, separation of powers, or Warren’s voting record.
Would a President Warren declare a national emergency at the border so she can direct tax monies to tearing down sections of border fencing authorized by Congress (since Trump has built fencing where previous barriers existed) because she is personally offended by them? What would Warren do to prevent illegal entry at the border after she took down barriers? Why did Warren vote in 2013 for a bill, commonly known as the Gang of Eight but officially entitled the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” which included billions of dollars for the construction of fencing?
Beyond the silly question asked by Parker, again the only one asked on immigration in the debate, why was Sen. Warren not asked about her statements just a couple of weeks ago that if elected President she would refuse to enforce immigration law and open the border as a strategy designed to force Congress to capitulate to her demands. She also plans under her “Medicaid for all” proposal to provide coverage to illegal aliens. (Biden, Buttigieg, Harris, Sanders, and Yang have also pledged to use tax dollars to pay for health care for illegal aliens)
These are serious and pertinent topics regarding immigration that Parker, or any of the other moderators, could have, and should have, asked Warren.
Warren did answer that she would take down barriers where they “are not useful in our defense” (where exactly?) and that Trump created the border crisis, which he somehow managed to do all on his own as a private citizen in 2014.
Warren then pivoted to her standard “kids in cages” talking point, this time referring to “a giant Amazon warehouse filled with cages” at the border that she visited (no doubt the American people would like to hear about what she saw in much more detail, and is Jeff Bezos available for comment?).
Now, any discerning journalist would have pointed out that the policy of family separation began under the Obama Administration as it struggled to deal with the border surge, somehow still inexplicably created by Donald Trump, according to Warren; and that the pictures used to demonize President Trump were taken when President Obama was in office and Joe Biden serving as Vice-President.
So, why did you, Senator Warren, not speak up about this issue until President Trump was elected? Why have you not introduced legislation that would allow families to be detained together? Should everyone who shows up at the border accompanied by a minor be immediately released into the United States? Do you agree with Senate Minority Leader Schumer that legislating on this issue “makes no sense?”
No doubt there would be much to pick apart in the other candidates' responses to immigration questions, if any more had been asked!
The only other passing reference to immigration policy was a joke Pete Buttigieg made at the end of answer to a question about military readiness. He mocked efforts to secure the U.S. border as “17th century security technologies, like a moat full of alligators or a big wall” (where have we heard that before?).
The moderators of Wednesday’s debate can be forgiven for not knowing that moats were obsolete by the 17th century due to the development of siege artillery, but could they not have asked a question about Mayor Pete’s immigration plans, which sure sounds like a Ponzi scheme designed to reward corporate donors hungry for cheap foreign labor (good luck finding specifics on his campaign website)?
While it’s easy to poke fun at our elected “leaders” and the establishment mouthpieces who call themselves journalists, it is a very serious matter that there is a coordinated effort to ignore an issue vitally important to the nation’s interest and of top concern to voters, while attempting to totally distort the record of President Trump and those of his predecessors when it comes to immigration.
Joe Biden has a decades-long record as a member of Congress and was Vice-President of the United States. He should be made to address his immigration record and, if the other candidates seem to be fixated on the fiction that the current President is putting kids in cages, Biden must answer for his role in what the Obama Administration did or did not do in that regard.
Rep. Gabbard has been the only candidate so far to acknowledge that the United States is a sovereign nation that must take serious steps to secure the border to limit the number of people coming into the country.
An entire debate could be, and should be, devoted to the topic of immigration. At the very least, it should be a subject that receives considerable attention every time the leading candidates are on a national stage together. The MSNBC moderators should be pilloried for failing to ask a single serious question about immigration, though, sadly, no one should be surprised.
Heaven forbid they allow an actual debate to break out.
ERIC RUARK is the Director of Research for NumbersUSA
Updated: Fri, Dec 6th 2019 @ 9:55am EST