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It Was the Longest Debate So Far, But CNN & NYT Asked No Questions on Climate Crisis & Immigration

StoryOctober 16, 2019
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Image Credit: CNN

Despite ongoing climate chaos and a sustained humanitarian disaster at the southern border, The New York Times and CNN failed to ask candidates directly about immigration or the climate crisis at Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential debate. We speak with Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, who says the lack of attention to immigraton “was a major gap in the three-hour debate.” We also speak with journalist Kate Aronoff about the debate’s failure to address the climate crisis.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to another issue that wasn’t talked about. Well, it was raised by one of the candidates, former HUD Secretary Julián Castro.

JULIÁN CASTRO: I also want people to think — the folks this week that saw those images of ISIS prisoners running free — to think about how absurd it is that this president is caging kids on the border and effectively letting ISIS prisoners run free.

AMY GOODMAN: So, I’d like to bring in Marielena Hincapié into this conversation, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. She’s speaking to us from Montgomery, Alabama. Marielena, you know, we booked you early to talk about all the issues that would be raised around immigration. I’m playing one of the candidates, Julián Castro, not one of the questioners, the moderators, on the issue of immigration, because there was no question. If you can talk about the fact that this was a three-hour debate without a question on immigration?

MARIELENA HINCAPIÉ: Yes. Thank you, Amy. Yes, I mean, completely agree with Mehdi and Kate, who earlier mentioned — right? — we are talking about defining issues of our time — immigration, climate change, so many others that weren’t raised — and The New York Times and CNN, frankly, missed an important opportunity. On the very day of the debate, October 15th, one of the Trump administration’s signature policy changes, the public charge rule, was scheduled to go into effect yesterday, affecting 26 million people in the nation. This is a radical reform to our legal immigration system. And fortunately, we’ve been successful in blocking it in the courts. Just last Friday, we had about four different courts, federal courts, that have blocked, temporarily blocked, the administration from implementing this. But this was a major gap in a three-hour debate, as you just mentioned. We expect much more, not just from the media, but also from the candidates.

AMY GOODMAN: And on the issue of the latest news, the Border Wars book that’s coming out from the two New York Times reporters, that raised President Trump in the White House pushing for migrants to be shot. When his staff told him, “That would be illegal, sir,” he said, “Well, what about just shooting them in the legs?” They said that, too, would be illegal. And then his push for moats along the border wall, filled with alligators and snakes?

MARIELENA HINCAPIÉ: Yeah. I mean, it is every single day, Amy, we are hearing new developments from this administration, from this president, who believes he is above the law, who is governing based on fear and chaos, and, frankly, dehumanizing and criminalizing immigrants. And it’s not just folks who are here undocumented. It’s people who are seeking asylum and refugee status in our nation. It is people who are long-term residents, people who are losing their immigration status — right? — whether it’s young immigrants like DACA recipients or people with temporary protected status who have been here for 10, 15, 20-plus years.

So, again, the fact that there was a three-hour debate with no questions about this — this could have been part of the foreign policy questions. It could have been part of the healthcare conversation, about the future of labor. Immigrants and immigration issues affect all parts of our society. And Donald Trump is running on it. He knows this is his signature issue. He knows it will rile up his base. And Democrats cannot continue to simply be afraid to lean in into this issue. They can’t be simply anti-Trump. They actually need to be pro-America and share what their vision is for a 21st century immigration policy in our nation.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Kate, talking about an issue, again, that was not discussed at all by the questioners: the issue of climate change. We’ve got about a minute left. Your sense of the continued failure of the media to deal with this as a pressing and a key issue of this presidential race?

KATE ARONOFF: Sure. I mean, I think the cable news networks just have a pitiful record on this, right? They don’t cover climate change. They only bring it up when it’s the most convenient for them. They take money from corporate advertisers. The last post-debate show — the last debate was sponsored by BP, for instance. This is totally absurd and, again, a missed opportunity — right? — because we have — you know, we have issues like immigration and climate change, which are so interconnected. And to just ignore all of them, to pretend this isn’t sort of what the 21st century is going to be about, and talk about electability, is just absurd. And I think, you know, we need to have a real discussion about whether these networks are responsible hosts for these debates.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, and the fact that Bernie Sanders is coming back strong, large rally in Queens. AOC is going to be there, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Ilhan Omar just endorsed him. Rashida Tlaib is reportedly going to endorse him. The significance of the AOC endorsement, all three, “the Squad,” except for Ayanna Pressley at this point?

KATE ARONOFF: Yeah, just briefly, I mean, Bernie Sanders’s critics have spent years trying to smear him and his supporters as just representing sort of white male voters. And I think that’s a very hard argument to make when you have three women of color who are endorsing him because they trust him to build a multiracial, working-class Democratic Party. And that is the party that they want to fight for and that they think, you know, he is the best ally to help build. So I think that’s — yeah, it’s an incredible win for the Sanders campaign.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you all for being with us, journalist Kate Aronoff; Dr. Steffie Woolhandler of Physicians for a National Health Program; The Intercept's Mehdi Hasan, speaking to us from Washington; and Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter David Cay Johnston, founder and editor of; as well as, from Montgomery, Alabama, Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Thanks so much for joining us.

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