The first Democratic Party debate was held on Wednesday night with ten of the top twenty candidates. The debate was aired on NBC News and featured Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.
The hands down winner of the debate was Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Warren was the lone representative of the top-five polling candidates in tonight’s debate. The other top-four candidates will be part of tomorrow night’s “day two” of the debate.
Warren answered solidly every question she was asked. She didn’t back down on the issues of income inequality, climate change, immigration or healthcare. She is indeed an educator and has a distinct way of connecting with the American people on a level that I have never seen before. I would keep my eyes on her, if I were you.
While I think Warren is the winner of tonight’s debate, Julián Castro stood out to me. He advocated, among other things, for climate change, income inequality and LGBTQ rights. During a segment of the debate about immigration, Castro spoke up about the need to repeal Section 1325 of Title 8 of the US Code. This specific section of the US Code has been used by the Trump administration to criminalize unlawful entry into the United States. It’s the basis for the Trump administration’s “family separation policy.”
Following the debate, I’ve seen some folks (all non-Latinx) saying that Castro should have “not have made an issue” or that he was “out of line” when he spoke up to challenge Beto O’Rourke. Some called Castro “rude for speaking out of turn.” I wonder how many of those who have this point-of-view, actually paid attention to what he was saying rather than being put off by the fact he was saying it?
O’Rourke has refused to adopt a policy that would eradicate Section 1325, often citing the need to prevent human trafficking as the need to keep the law in place. Castro did his homework and came to tonight’s debate set to clearly articulate that O’Rourke — who speaks fluent Spanish — is not a leader on the issue of immigration.
Castro challenged O’Rourke for claiming that Section 1325 was needed to prevent human trafficking, by citing three other instances in US Code where human trafficking is already criminalized. Castro’s point was that the repeal of Section 1325 would have no effect on the ability to bring criminal charges against someone for human trafficking.
“Your policies still criminalize these families,” Castro said while interrupting O’Rourke. “Let’s be very clear. The reason they’re separating these little children from their families is they are using Section 1325 of that Act to incarcerate the parents and then separate them. Some of us on this stage have called to terminate that section to end it. Some, like Congressman O’Rourke have not.”
I think Castro has rightful anger and passion on an issue that is having impacts on his community. Look at the recent photo of Oscár Ramirez and his daughter Valeria — photographed face down on the banks of the Rio Bravo river where they drowned trying to cross. “It should also piss us all off,” Castro said. He’s right!
Tomorrow night’s debate will feature 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, writer and spiritual guru Marianne Williamson and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.