Democratic debate: Second group focuses on Trump, immigration

Daniel Uria
Democratic presidential primary candidates are introduced prior to the NBC, MSNBC, Telemundo Democratic Debate at the Knight Concert Hall in Miami on Thursday. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Democratic presidential primary candidates are introduced prior to the NBC, MSNBC, Telemundo Democratic Debate at the Knight Concert Hall in Miami on Thursday. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

June 27 (UPI) -- The second group of Democratic presidential hopefuls weighed in on a number of issues in their first debate Thursday night, taking aim at President Donald Trump and issues like immigration and healthcare.

Thursday's debate featured a new group of 10 candidates -- former Vice President Joe Biden; Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders; California Sen. Kamala Harris; South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg; Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet; New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand; former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper; California Rep. Eric Swalwell; author Marianne Williamson; and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.


Biden was the first to evoke Trump's name, saying the president "thinks Wall Street built America. Ordinary middle-class Americans built America."

Sanders said Trump is a phony, a pathological liar and a racist that lied during his campaign by failing to "stand up for working families."

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Williamson made a direct appeal to Trump in her closing statements, saying he harnessed fear for political gain, while she will choose to harness love.



The criminalization of people attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border and living as an undocumented immigrant again took center stage.

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Buttigieg echoed Julian Castro's stance that making crossing the border a civil crime would solve the problem of family detention and separation.

"Criminalization is the basis for family separation," he said. "You do away with that, it's no longer possible."

Williamson said the act of separating and detaining children at the border is a "state-sponsored crime."

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"If you take a lot of children and you put them in a detainment center, thus inflicting chronic trauma upon them, this is called child abuse," she said.

Gillibrand said she would continue to invest in border security in a way that focuses on preventing terrorists and traffickers rather than detaining people seeking asylum.

"The worst thing President Trump has done is he has taken money away from cross-border terrorism, cross-border human trafficking, drug trafficking and gun trafficking and he's given that money to for-profit prisons," she said.

Hickenlooper said he would focus on ensuring that facilities are able to accommodate families to prevent separation and are stocked with food and clothing and have access to medical care. He also called for a reform of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to ensure its agents carry out their jobs in a humanitarian way.


Harris noted that while Biden served in the Obama administration it deported undocumented immigrants that committed no other crimes and pledged that she would reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and extend deferral of deportation for DACA parents and veterans.

Biden said he would take immediate action to reunite families and would "surge billions of dollars" to areas in Central America where migrants are fleeing to seek asylum.


Early in the night, the 10 candidates on stage were split between support of capitalism and more socialist policies.

Sanders opened the evening by calling for a tax on Wall Street to ensure that college and university tuition is free for all Americans.

Buttigieg called for a more limited plan that provides free college for low- and middle-income students.

"I think the children of the wealthiest Americans can pay at least a little bit of tuition," he said.

Harris proposed a change to the tax code that would add a $500 monthly tax credit for families who make less than $100,000 a year, while Yang championed his plan to pay a $1,000 subsidy each month for every American.

Yang said this subsidy would increase the quality of American life and decrease the need to spend on issues such as incarceration and homelessness.


"This the move that we have to make, particularly as technology is now automating away millions of jobs," said Yang.

Hickenlooper warned the candidates must make sure to avoid labeling themselves as socialists to prevent attacks from Republicans while Gillibrand made a distinction between capitalism and greed.

"In truth, we want healthy capitalism, we don't want corrupted capitalism," she said.


Candidates were also split on the issue of healthcare with only Sanders and Harris supporting eliminating private insurance while many supported a so-called public option between Medicare and private health insurance.

Sanders said that under his plan Americans will pay more taxes, but will ultimately pay less for healthcare while still receiving more services.

"Medicare is the most popular health insurance in the country," he said. "People don't like their private healthcare, they like their doctors and hospitals. Under our plan people go to any hospital they want any doctor they want."

Gillibrand said she believes that Americans will naturally choose Medicare over private insurance easing a transition to a single-payer system.


Both Biden and Bennet said the best path to achieving Universal Health Care is following through on the Obama Care model and creating a public option.

Williamson called for a focus on preventative care by focusing on chemical, environmental and drug policies.

"We need to talk about why so many Americans have unnecessary chronic illnesses," she said.


Swalwell stated that his plan to ban assault rifles and implement a government buyback program was the only one that would effectively eliminate ownership of such weapons.

"Keep your pistols, keep your rifles, keep your shotguns but take the most dangerous guns out of the hands of the most dangerous people," he said.

Harris said she would immediately give Congress 100 days to pass a gun bill or she would implement comprehensive background checks, call for the federal government to revoke the licenses of sellers who break the law and ban the import of assault weapons.

Sanders said he would focus on implementing universal background checks, closing the gun show loophole and banning the sale and distribution of assault weapons.

"Assault weapons are weapons for the military," he said.

2020 election: Democrats running for president debate issues in Miami

Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., are introduced prior to the NBC, MSNBC, Telemundo Democratic Primary Debate in Miami on Thursday. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

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