Candidates address immigration, climate change at first Democratic debate


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Former Secretary of Housing Julian Castro speaks at the 2019 Forum on Wages and Working People in on April 27, 2019. Castro addressed the recent deaths of migrants Oscar Martinez and his daughter Valeria, adding that incidents like this “should piss us all off.”

At the first debate of the 2020 Presidential Election, 10 out of 20 democratic candidates took to the stage in Miami, Florida to address issues of immigration, climate change, health care, gun violence and more. The candidates included Elizabeth Warren, Julian Castro, Cory Booker, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, Bill de Blasio, Tim Ryan, Jay Inslee, John Delaney, and Tulsi Gabbard.

The debate was moderated by NBC and MSNBC news anchors Savannah Guthrie, Chuck Todd, Jose Diaz-Balart, Rachel Maddow and Lester Holt. Almost all of the news anchors have previously moderated debates during the 2016 election season.


Former Housing Secretary Julian Castro challenged former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke on his stance on immigration reform. Castro believes in decriminalizing the act of non-U.S. citizens crossing the border into the United States. He plans to solve this issue by repealing Section 1325 of the United States Code, a section that classifies illegal border crossing as a misdemeanor offense.

Castro urged his fellow candidates to challenge Section 1325, and stated that O’Rourke was in favor of keeping the section in order to prevent crime along the border, such as drug smuggling.

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New Jersey Senator Cory Booker testified for slavery reparations earlier this June. Earlier this year, the candidate introduced a 14-part plan to address gun violence that includes a gun-licensing program.

Many of the candidates were asked what they would do about immigration on the first day of their presidency. New Jersey Senator Cory Booker stated that he would tackle the problem by favoring a civil process over a criminal process, adding that criminalizing immigration, mental illness and addiction is not the way to go. “We cannot sacrifice our values,” he said.


When it came to healthcare, many of the candidates voiced their support for a government aid program such as Medicare or another public option. Only two candidates — Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker — were in favor of abolishing private healthcare. Other candidates such as O’Rourke and Klobuchar expressed that they would allow for both private and public insurance to remain an option in the U.S. Still, none of the candidates had a clear plan for how they would successfully get a public option like Medicare approved if Republicans keep the Senate.

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Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks at the California Democratic State Convention in San Francisco on June 1, 2019. Warren pushes for equality among Americans despite socioeconomic class.

Gun violence

Another issue discussed was gun violence. Senator Warren called it “a national health emergency in this country.” Cory Booker shared in Warren’s passion over the issue, saying gun violence is an urgent problem that won’t be solved by thoughts and prayers.

When asked about the issue, Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan said that often times, school shooters are students at the schools they attack. He proposed that the U.S. implement social and emotional learning to help students deal with trauma that may cause them to turn to gun violence.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed that the U.S. change their relationship with the police in regards to race relations.

Climate change

The candidates were also asked about how they would address climate change. Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington, emphasized that climate change is his top priority.

“We are the first generation to feel the sting [of climate change], and we are the last to do something about it,” Inslee said.

Maryland politician John Delaney proposed implementing a price on carbon and giving a dividend back to Americans.


On May 8, 2018, President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. This deal lifted sanctions on Iran while imposing limits on their use of nuclear power such as uranium. During the debate, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard voiced their support for signing the U.S. back onto the nuclear deal.

Klobuchar called the deal “imperfect,” but says she would work to negotiate the U.S. back into it. She added that Trump’s withdrawing from the deal has put the U.S. in danger.

“[Trump] has made us less safe than we were when he became president,” Klobuchar added.

Gabbard said she would also sign back onto the deal and find ways to improve it to keep the U.S. from going to war with Iran.

The next Democratic debate will be held on Thursday, June 27 and will include the second half of the 20 Democratic candidates running for President of the United States.


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