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Activists Demand a Migrant Justice Platform as Democratic Candidates Discuss Immigration in Debate

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Image Credit: Twitter: @ArribaLasVegas

Protesters for immigrant rights demonstrated outside the Democratic debate Thursday in Los Angeles, displaying a banner that read “Migrant Justice on Day One” and demanding a moratorium on deportations and immigrant worker protections. We look at how the candidates responded, with Erika Andiola, chief advocacy officer for RAICES, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services. “I’m really happy that immigration came up this time around,” she notes. “In the past few debates, the issue didn’t even come up.”

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

AMY GOODMAN: But I wanted to go to the issue specifically of immigration, to turn to a clip of Senator Bernie Sanders addressing his plans for immigration reform.

AMNA NAWAZ: Senator Sanders, a related question to you.


AMNA NAWAZ: Actually, Senator Sanders — 


AMNA NAWAZ: Senator Sanders, I have a new question for you. You can respond to Mr. Yang’s comments, as well.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I can’t respond to the immigration question?

AMNA NAWAZ: This is related, sir. But there are estimated to be as many as 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. — 


AMNA NAWAZ: —more than 2 million right here in California. If you have a chance to forge a bipartisan immigration reform plan, would you insist on a path to citizenship for all 12 million or just a segment of that population?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: No, this is what I would do. Day one, executive order, restore the legal status of 1.8 million young people in the DACA program. Day one, we change border policy so that federal agents will never snatch babies from the arms of their mothers. Day one — day one, we introduce bipartisan legislation, which will in fact be comprehensive, which will result in a path toward citizenship for all of the 11 million who are undocumented. That is what the people of our country want.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Senator Bernie Sanders answering the question of PBS moderator Amna Nawaz, who’s the first Muslim American to moderate a presidential debate. She also asked former Vice President Joe Biden if he supports reparations for the children who have been separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border. This was Biden’s response.

AMNA NAWAZ: Vice President Biden, do you support reparations?

JOE BIDEN: Look, let me — since I haven’t spoken on this, got a chance. Number one, the reason we’re the country we are is because of immigration. We’ve been able to cherry-pick the best from every single continent. The people who come here have determination, resilience. They are ready to stand up and work like the devil. We have 24 out of every 100 children in our schools today is Hispanic. The idea that we are going to walk away and not provide every opportunity for them is not only stupid and immoral, but it’s bad for America. They are the future of America, and we should invest in them. Everybody will benefit from it, every single American. And you should get used to it. This is a nation of immigrants. That’s who we are. That’s why we’re who we are. That’s what makes us different. And we should invest in them.

AMY GOODMAN: Erika Andiola, chief advocacy officer for RAICES, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, in Phoenix, can you respond to both of these issues?

ERIKA ANDIOLA: Yeah, absolutely. I would say, first of all, that I’m really happy that immigration came up this time around. In the past few debates, the issue didn’t even come up, and if it did, it was, you know, a very tiny question to Elizabeth Warren that didn’t really get much of an answer, as much as we needed.

And I would say that Bernie is in the right direction. I think Bernie is absolutely right. We cannot wait, you know, to ask for comprehensive immigration reform right away, as soon as, hopefully, a Democratic presidential candidate wins and we have a different administration. We don’t want them to focus just on passing a big bill as soon as they come into office, because they can do a lot on day one. And that’s what Bernie said. You know, on day one, he would do a lot of what he can to change the policies that, first, the Trump administration has enacted, but also that the Obama administration had also had in place, you know, deporting millions of people.

And so, at the same time as this was happening, there was immigrant rights organizations outside of the debate, pushing for what we’re calling the migrant justice platform. And it’s really a push for a new direction on immigration, that we’re not just stuck talking about, you know, passing this big bill as soon as the Democrats get elected, because Obama did that. You know, he promised this really big bill, and he also deported a lot of people. And so, we need a new direction. We need — day one, as Bernie said, we need executive action. And we need the migrant justice platform to be enacted as soon as possible.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s interesting to point out that December 18th, the day President Trump was impeached, was National Migrant Day. Erika, also outside, the protest outside the debate yesterday, immigrants were protesting.

ERIKA ANDIOLA: That’s correct. There was people who were there to ask and to pressure the Democratic Party to take, again, a new direction on this issue. There has been a lot of conversations, again, about what can we do as a nation with immigrants. And I know that Democrats have a lot to apologize for. I think they should be apologizing, especially Joe Biden, you know, working in the Obama administration, because the fact was that they did — of course, they give us, you know, Trump — not Trump, I’m sorry — Obama gave us DACA because we pressured him so much as undocumented youth and DREAMers, but, you know, a lot of people also got deported. There were millions of people who got deported, and this was a Democratic president.

And so, we need, again, a promise from Joe Biden and from other candidates that they’re not going to do the same and that they’re going to push for all the policies that Trump has enacted right now, that has hurt so many people, to be undone, and all the harm to be undone, but also, yes, of course, reparations to the children who were separated, and, you know, make sure that we bring back all the people who were deported unjustly under the Obama administration and the Trump administration.

AMY GOODMAN: Erika Andiola of RAICES, thanks so much for being with us. As we continue our roundtable, we’re going to look at the issue of war and peace, coming back, as we look at the last debate that’s taking place this year of the Democratic presidential candidates. Stay with us.

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