Last night marked night two of the first Democratic 2020 Presidential debate and included many frontrunners like Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, and Joe Biden. Much more contentious than night one, last night's debate covered many issues from healthcare to foreign policy, but few answers were more shocking than the candidates' responses to immigration questions posed by the moderators. Below are excerpts of each candidate's statements on the topic of immigration, they are listed in the order by which the candidates responded during the debate.
José Diaz Balart, a moderator from Noticias Telemundo, asked the candidates, "On January 20th, 2021, if you are president, what specifically would you do with the thousands of people who try to reach the United States every day and want a better life through asylum?"
Kamala Harris, current Senator from California:
I will immediately by executive action reinstate DACA status and DACA protection to those young people. I will further extend protection for deferral of deportation for their parents and for veterans. I will also immediately put in place an immediate process for reviewing the cases for asylum. I will release children from cages. I will get rid of the private detention centers. And I will ensure that the—this microphone that the President of the United States holds in her hand is used in a way that is about reflecting the values of our country and not about locking children up, separating them from their parents.
John Hickenlooper, former Governor of Colorado:
Certainly the images we’ve seen this week just compound the emotional impact that the world is judging us by. If you had ever told me any time in my life that this country would sanction federal agents to take children from the arms of their parents, put them in cages, actually put them up for adoption—in Colorado we call that kidnapping. I would have told you it was unbelievable. And the first thing we have to do is recognize the humanitarian crisis on the border for what it is and make sure there are the sufficient facilities in place so that women and children are not separated from their families. The children are with their families. We have to make sure that—that ICE is completely reformed. And they begin looking at their job in a humanitarian way where they are addressing the whole needs of the people that they are engaged with along the border. And we have to make sure, ultimately, that we provide not just shelter, but food, clothing and access to medical care.
Marianne Williamson, author, lecturer and activist:
Yes, what Donald Trump has done to these children and it’s not just in Colorado, Governor, you’re right—it is kidnapping. And it’s extremely important for us to realize that. If you forcibly take a child from their parents' arms you are kidnapping them. And if you take a lot of children and you put them in a detainment center thus inflicting chronic trauma upon them that’s called child abuse. This is collective child abuse. This is collective child abuse. And when this is a crime—both of those things are a crime and if your government does it that doesn’t make it less of a crime. These are state-sponsored crimes. and what President Trump has done is not only attack these children, not only demonize these immigrants, he is attacking a basic principle of America’s moral core. We open our hearts to the stranger. This is extremely important and it’s also important for all of us remember
Kristin Gillibrand, current Senator from New York:
Well, one of the worst things about President Trump that he has done to this country is he has torn apart the moral fabric of who we are. When he started separating children at the border from their parents the fact that seven children have died in his custody, the fact that dozens of children have been separated from their parents and they have no plan to reunite them so I would do a few things. First, I would fight for comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship. Second, I would reform how we treat asylum-seekers at the border. I would have a community-based treatment center where you are doing it within the communities where asylum-seekers are given lawyers, where there is real immigration judges, not employees of the Atty. Gen. but appointed for life and have a community-based system. I would fund borders security. I would not be spending money in for profit prisons to lock up children and asylum-seekers.
Moderator José Diaz Balart then shifted the topic of discussion to whether candidates would decriminalize illegal border entry, and deport illegal aliens whose "only crime" was illegally crossing the border.
Pete Buttigieg, current Mayor of South Bend, Indiana:
Let’s remember that’s not just a theoretical exercise, that criminalization that is the basis for family separation. You do away with that it is no longer possible. Of course it wouldn’t be possible anyway in my presidency because it is dead wrong. We have got to talk about one other thing because the Republican Party likes to cloak itself in the language of religion. Now our party doesn’t talk about that as much largely for a very good reason which was we are committed to the separation of church and state and we stand for people of any religion and people of no religion. But we should call out hypocrisy when we see it in for a party that associates itself with Christianity to say that it is okay to suggest that God would smile on the division of families at the hands of federal agents, that God would condone putting children in cages has lost all claim to ever use religious language again.
Joe Biden, former Vice President of the United States:
The first thing I would do is unite families. I would surge immediately billions of dollars’ worth of help to the region. Now look, second thing we have to do, the law now requires the reuniting of those families. We would reunite those families period and if not we would put those children in a circumstance where they were safe until we could find their parents. And lastly the idea that he is in court with his Justice Department saying children in cages do not need a bed, do not need a blanket, do not need a toothbrush, that is outrageous
Diaz then pushed the former Vice President to answer if he would deport an illegal alien whose "only crime" was illegally crossing the border, after mentioning the more than three million deportations during the Obama Administration, to which Joe Biden responded:
Depending if they committed a—a major crime, they should be deported. And the President was left in his—President Obama I think did a heck of a job. To compare him to what-what this guy is doing is absolutely, I find—close to immoral. But the fact is that, look, we should not be locking people up. We should be making sure we change the circumstance, as we did, why they would leave in the first place. And those who come seeking asylum, we should immediately have the capacity to absorb them, keep them safe until they can be heard.
Unsatisfied, Diaz gave Vice President Biden another 15 to seconds to actually answer the question, V.P. Biden responded:
That person should not be the focus of deportations. We should fundamentally change the way we deal with things.
Bernie Sanders, current Senator from Vermont:
I want to suggest Suggest that I agree with a lot of what Kamala just said, and that is on day one we take out our executive order pen and we rescind every damn thing on this issue that Trump has done. Number two, picking up on the point that Joe made, we got a look at the root causes. And you have a situation where Honduras, among other things, is a failing state, massive corruption. You got gangs who are telling families that if a 10-year-old does not join their gang, their family is going to be killed. What we have got to do on day one and invite the presidents and the leadership of Central America and Mexico together. This is a hemispheric problem that we have to address.
Eric Swalwell, current Representative from California:
No, that person can be a part of this great American experience. That person can contribute. My congressional district is one of the most diverse in America, and we see the benefits when people contribute and they become a part of the community and they’re not in the shadow economy. Day one for me, families are reunited. This president, though, for immigrants, there is nothing he will not do to separate a family, cage a child, or erase their existence by weaponizing the census. And there is nothing that we cannot do in the courts and that I will not do as president to reverse that and to make sure that families always belong together.
Kamala Harris, current Senator from California:
I will say, no, absolutely not. They should not be deported. But on the secure communities issue, I was Attorney General of California. I led the second largest Department of Justice in the United States, second only to the United States Department of Justice, in a state of 40 million people. And on this issue, I disagreed with my president, because the policy was to allow deportation of people who, by ICE’s own definition, were non-criminals. So, as Attorney General and the chief law officer of the state of California, I issued a directive to the sheriffs of my state that they did not have to comply with detainers and instead should make decisions based on the best interest of public safety of their community. Because what I saw—and I was tracking it every day. I was tracking it and saw that parents, people who had not committed a crime even by ICE’s own definition, were being deported.
Michael Bennet, current Senator from Colorado:
When I see these kids at the border, I see my mom because I know she sees herself because she was separated from her parents for years during the Holocaust in Poland. And for Donald Trump to be doing what he’s doing to children and their families at the borders, I say this as somebody who wrote the immigration bill in 2013 that created a pathway to citizenship for 11 million people in this country that had the most progressive DREAM Act that’s ever been conceived, much less passed, it got 68 votes in the Senate, that had $46 billion of border security in it that was sophisticated 21st century border security, not a medieval wall. [Sic] The president has turned the border of the United States into a symbol of nativist hostility that the whole world is looking at when what we should be represented by is The Statue of Liberty, which had brought my parents to this country to begin with. We need to make a change.
In addition to these comments, when asked by NBC anchor, moderator Lester Holt to raise thier hand if they would support free healthcare for illegal aliens, all ten of the Democratic Presidential hopefuls on stage raised their hands.
For a full transcript of the immigration section of the first 2020 Democratic Presidential debate, please click here.
Updated: Fri, Jul 12th 2019 @ 3:15pm EDT