Donald Trump

Healthcare, Immigration Spark Liveliest Debate Among Democrats

Here’s a look at where candidates disagreed

At night one of the Democratic debate in Miami Wednesday, the 10 candidates largely agreed on what the Democratic platform should be during the 2020 presidential election. But a few major differences divided them on hot button issues that will likely define their campaigns as the primaries approach.

Here’s a look at where candidates diverged:

When moderators asked point blank which candidates supported abolishing private health insurance — often seen as an eventuality of Medicare for All — only two candidates raised their hands: New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. But others, including Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, said during the discussion that they supported the expansion of Medicare to all Americans.

“Healthcare is not just a human right, it should be an American right, and I believe the best way to get there is Medicare for All,” Booker said.

Others, such as Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, advocated for a public option, which would give more Americans access to a public insurance plan (possibly Medicare or Medicaid) but would also allow for private insurance.

“I am just simply concerned about kicking half of America off of their health insurance in the next four years,” Klobuchar said.

No candidates openly advocated for keeping healthcare as it is today, and all seemed to agree that the current system is not working.

The debate turned into a shouting match when an emotionally charged viral image of a father and toddler who drowned this week trying to cross the Rio Grande became the context for a discussion about one of the most polarizing issues in America: immigration.

Julián Castro, the former secretary of Housing and Urban Development and the first Democratic candidate to release a comprehensive immigration plan, said he would sign an executive order on day one to end President Donald Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy, as well as practices that require migrants to wait in Mexico until their immigration court hearings and metering at the border that caps the daily number of migrants who can apply for asylum. He blamed metering for the deaths of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his nearly 2-year-old daughter Valeria, whose corpses were photographed when they drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande. 

Details of the extent metering may have played in the Salvadoran migrants’ deaths are unclear. 

Journalist Julia Le Duc, whose photo of the pair was first published by Mexican newspaper La Jornada, has said the family was frustrated because they couldn’t present themselves for asylum.

Martínez’s mother in El Salvador told the AP that the family had left the country in April in the hope of being able to raise money in the U.S. for a home and first spent two months in a shelter near Mexico’s border with Guatemala. A Tamaulipas government official told the AP the family arrived in Matamoros early Sunday and tried to get a date to request asylum at the U.S. Consulate. It’s not clear if they arrived. 

According to the Washington Post, they were turned back at an international bridge where hundreds were waiting in line and told to return on Monday. Another migrant told the AP the family had said they would come back then. 

But they would instead try to cross by river the same day.

Julian Castro states that if he were president, he would sign an executive order to remove some of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies on his first day.

Castro also called on all of his colleagues to pledge their support to repeal Section 1325 in Title 8 of U.S. Code. The section criminalizes crossing into the United States without proper documentation, as well as marrying someone or creating a commercial enterprise to evade immigration laws.

Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke refused to say that he would decriminalize crossing the U.S.-Mexico border for unauthorized immigrants who are not asylum seekers or refugees, and has previously said he does not support decriminalizing border crossings. “A lot of folks who are coming are not seeking asylum,” Castro fired back. Both Texans were soon talking over one another, their words largely drowned out.

Migrants who apply for asylum at a legal port of entry are not breaking U.S. law. Most unauthorized immigrants in recent years have overstayed visas that allowed them to enter the country legally instead of crossing the border illegally. Though their immigration status is the same as migrants who cross the border illegally, they have committed a civil instead of a criminal offense and it's usually easier for them to legalize their status. 

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