Ahead of the first democratic presidential debates in Miami this month, eight 2020 democratic presidential candidates addressed the fastest growing electorate on burning issues for them in a candidate forum Friday morning.
The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) hosted the event at the Telemundo Center in Miami as part of its 36th annual conference. The organization said they wanted to provide candidates a chance to answer questions from Latino policy-makers on issues that affect them, all of which revolve around immigration.
Participating in the forum were Julián Castro, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Eric Swalwell, Beto O’Rourke, John Hickenlooper and Pete Buttigieg.
According to the Pew Research Center, Latinos will be the largest minority of eligible voters in 2020, which means they can heavily affect the presidential election’s outcome.
O’Rourke began the forum reflecting the general views shared among the present candidates: pathways to citizenship for DACA recipients and undocumented immigrants; resolving the current immigration detention crisis and denouncing the 2020 Census citizenship question.
The former Texas congressman of the border region of El Paso shared how his immigration policy includes using executive orders to reunite families separated under the Trump administration and improving the conditions in Central America that cause mass migration.
O’Rourke said that he would ensure that “we’re investing solutions in the Northern Triangle to reduce violence, to help farmers trying to survive historic droughts, caused not by God or by mother nature, but by all of us in the climate change we have produced.”
Castro, the only Latino candidate of the race, spoke at length about his plans for immigration reform. His policies include reducing immigration enforcement, reversing the Muslim travel ban, and changing illegal border crossing to be a civil offense, among other things laid out in a "People First" policy.
He said at the forum that, as president, he would call for a population recount if the Supreme Court allowed a Census citizenship question. He said it was a Republican effort to undercount an immigrant population.
"Up to 4 million people could be undercounted if this question goes on the Census, and a lot of those are going to be Latinos,” Castro said. “The game is to scare people into not participating. I will remedy that.
The former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development also brought up the need to provide aid to Venezuelans escaping the crisis in their country in the form of Temporary Protected Status.
South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg highlighted supporting the local Latino immigrants of his city through allowing for municipal identification cards for undocumented residents.
Buttigieg voiced his support for Puerto Rican statehood, and called the Trump administration’s response to Hurricane María “embarrassingly poor”, which he says would not have happened if the island were afforded electoral votes.
The platform of policy-centered candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren includes eliminating immigration detention centers run by for-profit companies, such as the GEO Group based in Boca Raton who estimated that it would have revenues reaching $2.3 billion in 2018.
“There are giant companies that profit off this system,” Warren said. “73 percent of the people who are currently detained are held in for-profit detention centers.”
For his part, Sen. Bernie Sanders said that he would look to the Latino population for legislative guidance in working against President Trump’s immigration policies.
“We will bring the best minds in the immigrant community together to help us write the best laws,” Sanders said.
Before the first debates in the 2020 race for the White House, South Floridians can attend a town hall discussion on immigration with WLRN's Sundial on Monday, June 24.