Last night's Democratic 2020 Presidential debate, the first of two this week in Miami, 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 each candidate's statements on the topic of immigration, they are listed in the order by which the candidates responded during the debate.
Note: Oscar and Valeria are the names of the father and daughter who tragically drowned while trying to cross the Rio Grande in an attempt to illegally enter the United States. Their story was the centerpiece of the moderators' immigration questions and is referenced multiple times by the presidential candidates.
Julián Castro, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development:
Watching that image of Oscar and Valeria, is heartbreaking. It should also piss us all off. If I were president today, I would sign an executive order that would get rid of Trump's zero-tolerance policy, the remain in Mexico policy, and the metering policy. I would follow that up in my first 100 days with immigration reform that would honor asylum claims, that would put undocumented immigrants, as long as they haven't committed a serious crime, on a pathway to citizenship. And then we'd get to the root cause of the issue, which is we need a Marshall Plan for Honduras and Guatemala and El Salvador. [Secretary Castro also promoted decriminalizing illegal immigration by repealing section 1325 of the Immigration and Nationality Act which makes crossing the border not at a port of entry a crime]
Corey Booker, current Senator from New Jersey:
(Speaking in Spanish) On day one, I will make sure that number one, we end the ICE policies and the Customs and Border policies that are violating human rights. (Speaking in English) When people come to this country, they do not leave their human rights at the border. Number two, I will make sure that we reinstate DACA, that we reinstate pathways to citizenship for DACA recipients, and to make sure that people that are here on temporary protective status can stay and remain here. Finally, address the issues . . . by making major investments in the Northern Triangle, not like this president is doing. . . .
Bill De Blasio, current Mayor of New York City:
[After referring to the photo of Oscar and Valeria] Every American should feel that in their heart, every American should say that is not America, those are not our values. But we have to get under the skin of why we have this crisis in our system because we're not being honest about the division that been fomented in this country. The way that American citizens have been told that immigrants somehow created their misery and their pain and their challenges, for all the American citizens out there who feel you're falling behind or feel that American dream isn't working for your, the immigrants didn't do that to you. The big corporations did that to you. the 1 percent did that to you. We need to be a party of working people, and that includes a party of immigrants.
Beto O'Ruarke, former Congressman from Texas:
(Speaking in Spanish) We would not turn back Valeria and her father, Oscar. We would accept them into this country and follow our own asylum laws. We would not build walls. We would not put kids in cages. And we would not criminally prosecute any family who is fleeing violence and persecution. We would not detain any family fleeing violence, in fact, fleeing the deadliest countries on the face of the planet today. And then we would rewrite our immigration laws in our own image, free Dreamers forever from any fear of deportation by making them U.S. citizens here in this country.
John Delaney, former Congressman from Maryland:
Can we talk about the conditions about why people are coming here? But rather than talking about specific provisions, we really have to talk about why these people are coming to our country . . . and what we're going to do to actually make a difference in these countries. [Followed by Savanah Guthrie: "Congressman, you'll get your chance."]
Amy Klobuchar, current Senator from Minnesota:
Immigrants, they do not diminish America. They are America. But I do think you want to make sure that you have provisions in place that allow you to go after traffickers and allow you to go after people who are violating the law. We have a situation right now where we need workers in our fields and in our factories. We need them to start small businesses. We need their ideas. And this president has literally gone backward at a time when our economy needs immigrants. And so my proposal is to look at that 2013 bill that passed the Senate with Republican support, to upgrade that bill, to make it as good as possible and get it done.
Tim Ryan, former Congressman from Ohio:
If you go to Guantanamo Bay, there are terrorists that are held that get better health care than those kids that have tried to cross the border in the United States. That needs to stop. What kind of country are we running here where we have a president of the United States who's so focused on hate and fear and division? And what has happened now, the end result is now we've got kids literally laying in their own snot, with three-week-old diapers that haven't been changed. We've got to tell this president that is not a sign of strength, Mr. President. That is a sign of weakness.
Jay Inslee, current Governor of Washington:
There is no reason for the detention and separation of these children. They should be released, pending their hearings, and they should have a hearing and the law should be followed. That's what should happen. And we should do what we're doing in Washington state. I'm proud that we've passed a law that prevents local law enforcement from being turned into mini-ICE agents. I'm proud to be a person who's not only talked about Dreamers but being one of the first to make sure that they get a college education so that they can realize their dreams. These are some of the most inspirational people in our state. We welcome refugees into our state. We recognize diversity as a strength. This is how we've built America. That tradition is going to continue if I'm president of the United States.
For a full transcript of the immigration section of the first 2020 Democratic Presidential debate, please click here.
Updated: Wed, Jul 31st 2019 @ 10:50am EDT