Democratic presidential candidates brawled it out ahead of the Nevada caucus. (Photo credit: MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images)
The Democratic presidential debate moderators seemed to have forgotten that they’re sitting in Nevada, a state in which nearly 20 percent of the residents are foreign-born and a state which has the largest proportions of illegal immigrants in the U.S. Unbelievably, only once during a 90-minute debate was a question about immigration posed. And even that one question was predictable and journalistically lazy.
When Telemundo senior correspondent Vanessa Hauc touched on the subject of immigration, it was to ask Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar the specifics of her “plan to protect the Dreamers permanently” should the Supreme Court rule Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) an unconstitutional program.
Oh, wait, Klobuchar was questioned by Hauc about not knowing the name of Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, but the real grilling was done by Klobuchar’s competitors. And that was as close as the moderators would get to the issue again. The fact is all voters deserve to hear from the potential Democratic presidential nominee about a subject that consistently falls in the top three most important issues to voters in Gallup polls.
Part of the media’s blindness to immigration stems from their tendency to view immigration in narrow terms. Immigration is about DACA, the border and the Statue of Liberty. But, it is also about concerns Americans have about the impact of foreign-worker visas on the domestic workforce and wages. And fears about a STEM worker crisis. In fact, the impact of immigration is felt by every voter in every part of the nation.
Moderators could have gone “local” by getting candidates to react to a Las Vegas Review-Journal investigative report last summer that determined as many as 1 of every 14 inmates in the state is an illegal alien and that those immigrant felons are costing Nevada taxpayers north of $21 million a year.
Or they could have addressed health care, which rates as a top concern for Democratic primary votes. But not one moderator followed-up on the scrutiny given to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-all plan with a question to all candidates about proposals to extend health care coverage to all illegal immigrants. It was posed in the first debate when the candidate field was much larger and more ideologically diverse.
Or what about education? The Democratic candidates have rolled out plans to forgive all or most of the $1.6 trillion of student loan debt and provide tuition-free college. Would those plans extend to illegal immigrants now or in the future? Should all states give in-state tuition to illegal immigrants and foreign students, as some states have?
If we are going to fix an immigration system that everybody acknowledges is broken, then why not start by asking the question: What is an appropriate level for the nation’s current and future economic needs, and what is the impact of doing absolutely nothing? Las Vegas may be known for showcasing great entertainment and sporting events, but last night’s debate was neither and the American voter was sadly left wanting a refund.
Jennifer G. Hickey is a Web Content Writer at the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in immigrationreform.com.