As U.S. congress members such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez denounce alleged concentration camp conditions for detained migrants in the United States, it is understandable why many people expected to hear solutions during last week’s televised debates featuring Democratic Party candidates for the U.S. presidency.
There was no shortage of opinion on this topic as expats watched the broadcasts in both Guadalajara and Lakeside.
“It’s an important issue for me and I really didn’t hear anything that stood out,” said Susan, an expat from Chicago, after an event organized by Democrats Abroad Guadalajara at the American Society of Jalisco. “The way immigration is set up right now, people are saying that the whole thing has to be redone. I think that’s obvious but I don’t think that’s realistic in the short-term. This is a human rights issue now, not an immigration issue.”
Over the past weeks, various Democratic lawmakers have visited migrant detention centers housing mostly Central Americans. Reports depict groups held in cramped prison-like conditions with some reportedly drinking out of toilets. Other accounts say that many detainees only speak indigenous languages and are residing in cages.
Adding to the controversy, ProPublica recently revealed that U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents had a secret Facebook group full of “disturbing social media activity.” Some agents stand accused of joking about migrant deaths and degrading Latina public officials. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has reportedly opened an investigation into the matter.
In spite of record-breaking asylum applications and ongoing family separations, many political analysts described the Democratic candidates’ immigration platforms as evasive. That is to say, no one offered a substantial alternative strategy to the current situation.
On the first debate night, the majority of the candidates agreed to restore DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), reform Immigration and Customs Enforcement, eliminate private detention centers, and ensure health care, as well as a pathway to citizenship, for undocumented migrants seeking asylum. However, the discussion on immigration seemed to lack substance, in contrast to the candidates’ better thought out positions on healthcare reform and other issues.
The debate only intensified when Julian Castro suggested downgrading illegal border crossings from a criminal to a civil offense, and slamming Beto O’Rourke for saying otherwise.
The following evening, eight of the presidential hopefuls, including Joe Biden, agreed to decriminalize illegal border crossings but, again, no one came up with any new immigration strategies.
Moreover, none of the candidates offered any solution to resolving the high number of asylum cases laying stagnant in the U.S. judicial system. At the current rate, cases are now taking an average of five years to resolve. And while Kamala Harris said that as president she would work ceaselessly to unite separated families, she provided no details on how she would legally accomplish this.
With rain intermittently stalling the first broadcast in Guadalajara, some viewers shared their critiques during the breaks.
“I don’t understand why Booker got so much air time,” opined one audience member.
Another chimed in: “I don’t think Castro has a chance in hell. He doesn’t have that magnetism. With a guy, you either need to have that JFK or that stupid Trump thing going on, one or the other”
By the end of the night, the focus shifted to Elizabeth Warren. Some expressed disappointment over the Massachusetts senator’s lack of participation.
“It’s too bad that Elizabeth Warren didn’t get more air time but I also think that if she had gotten shrill or insistent and interrupted, it would have undermined her terribly,” said one person during the group conversation.
“That’s the problem with women candidates,” interjected another. “That was Hillary’s problem, too. It’s like, men can speak up but when women get mad, they’re shrill.”