On Wednesday night, 10 of the 20 Democratic presidential candidates met in Miami for the first debate of the 2020 election.
Beto O’Rourke and Julián Castro got into a scuffle over immigration. When asked what he would do during his first day in office about the humanitarian crisis at the border, O’Rourke said he would not send migrants back or put children in cages.
“But your policy would still criminalize a lot of these families,” Castro said, interrupting O’Rourke.
O’Rourke responded by laying out his immigration plan, which includes a path to citizenship for undocumented residents and a $5 billion investment in Central America.
“Let’s be very clear, the reason they’re separating these little children from their families is that they’re using section 1325 of that act which criminalizes coming across the border to incarcerate the parents and separate them,” Castro said.
“Some of us on this stage have called to end that section, to terminate it. Some, like Congressman O’Rourke, have not, and I want to challenge all of the candidates to do that,” Castro said.
The vast majority of the candidates didn’t mention Trump until near the end of the debate when asked by moderator Rachel Maddow. O’Rourke reiterated his call for impeachment.
“If we set another precedent now, that a candidate who invited the participation of a foreign power, a president who sought to obstruct the investigation…then we will have set a new standard,” O’Rourke said.
Several barbs were launched at O’Rourke by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Castro.
Leading up to the debate, both O’Rourke and Castro have struggled to gain traction among a crowded field of candidates. Recent polling aggregated by RealClearPolitics shows O’Rourke polling around 3 percent and Castro polling under 1 percent.
Elizabeth Warren, who is surging in the polls and nipping on Joe Biden’s heels, was one of the only candidates to raise her hand when asked who would abolish private insurance, backing a Medicaid for All proposal. Other candidates don’t go that far, allowing people who want to keep their private insurance to do so.
Warren buffed her “little guy” credentials by railing against big pharmaceutical and oil companies.
The two-hour debate Wednesday was a reminder the Democratic Party is the party of the little guy and gal. The other 10 candidates take the stage tomorrow night.