Immigration at the Nevada Debate: Hardly a Peep


Immigration at the Nevada Debate: Hardly a Peep

Published on February 23rd, 2020

Democratic presidential contenders traded their usual barbs at the latest DNC debate on February 19th. It was the ninth Democratic presidential debate to be held so far, with at least two more scheduled.

If you watched the debate, you would have heard candidates, including newcomer Michael Bloomberg, debate a range of issues including healthcare policy and the merits of democratic socialism; but noticeably absent was a substantive debate on immigration policy. Despite being held in Nevada, a state rife with immigration-related issues, and hosted by NBC News and Telemundo, immigration issues went mostly undebated. 

Immigration attorney, Paul Reyes, noted as much in a column in The Hill:

Yet for nearly the entire debate the candidates and moderators did look away from the issue of immigration. That was a shame, as immigration is a topic deserving of substantive discussion — especially in the most diverse state to vote in 2020 so far.

It’s surprising since the Trump administration took decisive action on states with sanctuary policies only weeks ago and immigration consistently ranks the top issue for voters. 

Reyes went on to document just how scarce the topic of immigration was in the debate on February 19th:

Immigration did not come up until the last 20 minutes of the debate. It ended up being a single question about how to protect Dreamers, undocumented young people brought to this country as children, if the Supreme Court strikes down DACA, the program that grants them temporary relief from deportation. Only Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) was given the opportunity to answer, and she reiterated her support for DACA and comprehensive reform. Other than former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg jumping in to criticize Klobuchar’s vote to confirm Kevin McAleenan as head of Customs and Border Protection, that was about it for immigration.

Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) has always encouraged both political parties to debate immigration-related topics in their presidential debates.  After all, it’s not often Americans get to see politicians give unscripted (that may be generous) answers to immigration-related policy questions.

Hoping to spur debate both on stage and with the public during the fifth presidential debate on November 20, 2019, CAPS ran a national TV ad asking, “Who Said That?” in regards to a recent national poll which found that 63 percent of voters want to reduce legal immigration by at least half.

With two more presidential debates currently scheduled, the candidates have an opportunity to distinguish themselves from each other and from President Trump, but one thing is clear: Americans need to hear immigration policy debated in the public square. 

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