Last night's Democratic 2020 Presidential debate, the first with just two candidates, covered many issues from climate change to gun control, but none were more shocking than the candidates' responses to immigration questions posed by the moderators. Below are excerpts of Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders's statements on the topic of immigration, they are listed in the order by which the candidates responded during the debate.
The first mention of immigration came during a heated back and forth between Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders on the topic of healthcare. Posed to Joe Biden Ilia Calderón asked, "Many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants, and now even many legal immigrants in the United States, are afraid to seek medical help. How do you ensure they feel safe enough to get treatment to help stop the spread of Coronavirus?"
Joe Biden responded:
Any woman who crosses the border or is here and being beaten by her husband, but she’s an undocumented, she cannot be deported because she reports. There are certain things you cannot deport an undocumented person for and that would be one of them. We want that. It’s in the interests of everyone. And those folks who are the xenophobic folks out there, it’s even in their interest that that woman come forward or that man come forward, because it deals with keeping the spread from moving more rapidly. They will not, should not, under any circumstances, be held accountable and be deported for that purpose, period.
Bernie Sanders followed up:
I have been criticized because the proposal for Medicare for All that I introduced includes making sure that undocumented people are also covered....So one of the things that we have to do is to make sure that everybody feels comfortable getting the healthcare that they need. That should be a general principle, above and beyond the Coronavirus....Second of all, we’ve got to end these terrible ICE raids which are terrorizing communities all over this country. And thirdly, to answer your question, the time is long overdue for this country to move to comprehensive immigration reform and a path towards citizenship for those 11 million undocumented. And furthermore, on day one as President, I would restore the legal status of the 1.8 million young people
Later on in the Debate the topic of immigration came up in its own regard, Ilia Calderón asked VP Biden, "you recently said for the first time that the Obama-Biden administration made a big mistake in deporting millions of immigrants, but you didn’t publicly speak out against it at the time. What commitment will you make tonight, that as President, you won’t deport millions again?"
Number one, I said that it took much too long to get it right and the President did get it right by DACA as well as making sure that it tried to protect parents as well and by the way, moving on an immigration bill as well. The fact is that we already had a vote on an immigration bill, by the way, and Bernie voted against it, the immigration bill. Had he voted forward and had passed, we’d already have 6 million undocumented would be citizens as I speak right now.But I will send to the desk immediately a bill that requires access to citizenship for 11 million undocumented folks, number one. Number two, the first hundred days of my administration, no one, no one will be deported at all. From that point on, the only deportations that will take place are commissions of felonies in the United States of America. Is, it’s about uniting families. It’s about making sure that we can both be a nation of immigrants, as well as a nation that is decent.
Senator Sanders shot back:
Let me respond to Joe’s comments about the 2007 immigration bill. That bill was opposed by LULAC, the largest Latino organization in America. The Southern Poverty Law Center called it’s guest-worker programs akin to slavery. There wasn’t really a vote on the bill. It was killed because there was a vote on the Dorgan amendment, I think it was 49-48. And you know who voted with me on that one Joe? Barack Obama. He understood that that proposal was a bad idea. We don’t need slavery in America where workers, guest-workers are forced to stay with their employers.
Sanders then responded to Calderón's question:
Day one, we restore the legal status of 1.8 million young people and their parents in the DACA program. Number two, immediately, we end these ICE raids, which are terrorizing communities all over this country. Three, we changed the border policy, under my administration, no federal agent will ever grab little babies from the arms of their mothers. And fourth, I think we can pass what the American people want and that is comprehensive immigration reform, path towards citizenship for the 11 million undocumented.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta then asked Senator Sanders, "critics suggest, positions like this send a message that when a Democrat is in the White House, the border is open. Do they?"
Sanders rejected the notion:
No. That’s just… I mean that’s what Trump says and that is a total lie. What we’re talking about is a humane, sensible policy supported by the American people. Nobody is talking about open borders and of course Trump lies about that...These are good people and yet they are living in terror and we have got to end that terror and end the ICE raids and move toward a path towards citizenship.
Joe Biden, seemingly stuck on the previous question and exchange with sanders, responded:
Let me set the record straight on something that was said. You know the idea that it was slavery, Barack Obama supported that immigration bill. Teddy Kennedy supported that immigration bill. I supported it. I doubt whether those people think it’s slavery. And by the way, right after his vote against that, he went on the Lou Dobbs show and continued to canard, that they’re taking jobs. These immigrants are taking jobs from Americans, which is one of the Republican canards, right after that no vote. And so come on, this is… You think Ted Kennedy is for slavery? You think I was for slavery? You think people voted for it for slavery?
He then answered the moderator's question:
Look, we can deal with securing the border by national technical means. All the bad things are coming through ports of entry right now, we don’t need a wall. And by the way, I would immediately as President, surge to the border, I would end this notion for the first time in history that people seeking asylum have to be in squalor on the other side of the river, in a desperate situation. They should be able to come to the United States and have a judgment made is whether or not they qualify. I would also surge to the border immigration judges to make decisions immediately and no one, no one would be put in jail while waiting for their hearing.
So what we need is, at the border, hundreds of administrative judges. We need to deal with people who are seeking asylum, based on international law. We need not to be dividing children from their parents and dividing families up. We need a humane border policy.
In conclusion, Ilia Calderón asked Joe Biden, "Vice President Biden, you opposed sanctuary cities as a Presidential candidate in 2007, where do you stand now? Should undocumented immigrants arrested by local police be turned over to immigration officials?
Joe Biden simply responded:
Bernie Sanders responded:
Of course not... What we need to do is to end, and I will end this on day one, the ICE raids that have been so harmful to so many people. And we need to do, again, what the American people want us to do...This is a country significantly built by immigrant labor, built by slave labor and what we have got to do is appreciate each other...
Joe Biden chipped in:
Look, we are a nation of immigrants, our future rests upon the Latino community being fully integrated...The idea that any American thinks it doesn’t pay for us to significantly invest in their future is absolutely a bizarre notion, because if we do not invest everything that the very wealthy are concerned about and the xenophobes are concerned about, will in fact get worse, not better. We should be embracing, bringing them in,...xenophobia is a disease.
For the full transcript, please click here.
Updated: Wed, Mar 18th 2020 @ 7:50am EDT