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Democratic Party Candidates Debate Immigration

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LOS ANGELES – The week leading up to the final debate between the Democratic presidential candidates were nothing short of historic and filled with suspense. The day before the debate, the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump, an act that has taken place only two other times in American history. 

Two days before the event, the largely immigrant work force in the small but mighty UNITE HERE Local 11 union, who work at Loyola Marymount University (LMU), host of the final debate, ratified their historic contract with a 100% YES vote. The 150 cooks, dishwashers, cashiers, and servers who prepare and serve meals for LMU students, faculty, and staff, had been earning less than $15 an hour. The Local had been in negotiations with Sodexo since March for a collective bargaining agreement. In November, workers and students began picketing on campus to voice their concern for a fair agreement. Prior to the agreement, all of the Democratic presidential candidates who had qualified for the debate pledged on Twitter that they would not cross a picket line to attend the debate scheduled for Thursday, December 19.

It takes courage and tenacity to stand up and fight for what you deserve, and that is what these cooks and dishwashers at LMU did. We can all learn from their courage.

State Senator Maria Elena Durazo.

On the night of the actual debate between entrepreneur Andrew Yang, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, and businessman Tom Steyer, PBS NewsHour senior national correspondent Amna Nawaz turned their attention to immigration during the last half of the debate. Senator Sanders said he would restore the legal status of 1.8 million young people in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but Mr. Yang said he would move on a permanent legislative fix for Dreamers, children who were brought to the United States without immigration papers. Both Senators Sanders and Klobuchar addressed comprehensive immigration reform, with Sanders saying he would introduce bipartisan legislation which will result in a path toward citizenship for all of the 11 million who are undocumented; and Klobuchar pledging, “I would get this done”.

But these campaign promises did not go far enough for Desiree Diaz, who attended the debate. Diaz, a Junior at Loyola Marymount University, told Revolution English,

They have a lot to talk about, but anti-immigration rhetoric is arguably the biggest scapegoat used by Trump during his campaign for presidency the first time around, and he’s made good on it. He’s instated a reality of perpetual horror that immigrants, DACA students, have had to live with since he became the leader of the “free” world. Children are dying, people are being put in cages,  and I’m angry about it, so why aren’t the people who I’m supposed to vote for [talking about how] to stop it in a year?

Mr. Steyer also commented on immigration, calling out the President for racializing the immigration issue and “vilifying non-white people”; and Senator Sanders said he would change border policy so that federal agents “will never snatch babies from the arms of their mothers”.  Mayor Buttigieg committed to financial compensation for the thousands of children separated from their families at the southern border who will likely suffer lifelong trauma. Diaz says of Mayor Buttigieg’s response, “This was the closest to something I was looking for, a HUMAN response to what’s happening NOW. Because this isn’t abstract, this isn’t a talking point they can theorize about, or selfie with a hashtag that does nothing. This is life and death, “the fight of our lives”, like the mayor said, and I need all of the candidates to wake up and realize that.”

Veronika Geronimo is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Revolution English. Veronika founded Revolution English to reach a large scale of immigrants and as a way to get critical news, information and resources directly into the hands of immigrants. She is the author of several reports related to immigrant health and social services policy and is a former Columnist for the Fil-Am Courier, Hawaii's Leading Filipino Publication.