OPINION

Opinion: What Democrats are doing is not enough

Democratic presidential candidates take the stage before the CNN debate Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015, in Las Vegas.

Democratic presidential candidates take the stage before the CNN debate Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015, in Las Vegas.  (ap)

Five minutes. Democrats running for president of the United States had a total of five minutes – from a 120 minute hour debate – to win over immigrants, and they largely fell short. As an undocumented Latino with several citizen relatives, this is not enough for my family. 

According to the Center for American Progress’ 2012 report, there are 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. and 16.6 million families who have at least one undocumented member. 

On the right, poll numbers spike whenever Donald Trump or any GOP candidate takes an anti-immigrant stance. But the GOP's xenophobia is still less shameful than the Democrat candidates’ reluctance to support a far ranging pro-immigrant platform.

Secretary Clinton can’t be, and isn’t, for our community while denying health care to our parents and deporting our kids.

- Giancarlo Tello

Secretary Hillary Clinton, the current front-runner and presumed nominee, is the most culpable of this inaction. She promoted a policy to restrict immigrant access to health care and a college education. She failed to lean in when CNN host Anderson Cooper brought up her unfavorable positions, denying federal subsidies for undocumented immigrants in the Affordable Care Act Exchange and deferring to states’ discretion on the issue of in-state tuition for undocumented students. 

When given an opportunity, she displayed a lack of leadership for Latinos and the larger immigrant populations affected by our broken immigration system including thousands of immigrants from Asia and Africa. 

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As chair of Task Force on National Health Care Reform, Hillary Clinton once argued that all Americans deserve health care. It’s disappointing she now believes immigrants don’t deserve affordable and quality health care. 

At a town hall in Nevada this summer, Secretary Clinton argued that all children should have “the best chance to do well in school.” We expected continued leadership on our education, not a cop-out to states’ rights when it comes to college. 

Hillary’s current position on in-state tuition is similar to what she said about gay marriage as recently as 2006, in which she claimed it should be up to the states, before doing a further flop as presidential candidate to fully support it. 

Keep in mind this is also the same Secretary Clinton that advocated for the mass deportation of unaccompanied minors from Central America, despite legal groups saying virtually all of them would be eligible for some form of humanitarian relief. 

Secretary Clinton can’t be, and isn’t, for our community while denying health care to our parents and deporting our kids.

The rest of the candidates had an opportunity to distinguish themselves but largely failed to capitalize it. Senator Webb himself lost a good opportunity by bringing up the border without addressing the needless deaths and rampant misconduct by Border Patrol. 

Senator Sanders, considered the most "left" by many, was relegated to defending his 2007 vote against immigration reform. If he were truly passionate on this issue, then he would have turned it around and explained what specific executive actions he would take as president, such as expanding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, promoting in-state tuition for all states, and expanding Affordable Care Act coverage to all regardless of citizenship status. 

Governor O’Malley was the only standout, as he recounted passing the Maryland Dream Act and forcefully made a case for expanding the Affordable Care Act to include undocumented immigrants not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it makes economic sense for health insurance rates.

This contest is still in its early stages but candidates, and the Democratic Party itself, are still not doing enough. We remember the failure of the DREAM Act in 2010, the millions of deportations under President Obama, and see the campaign money candidates are receiving from private detention centers. 

It’s no longer enough to be left of Republicans — now it’s time to lead.

Giancarlo Tello is a Rutgers University, Newark student activist. He can be reached at Giancarlo.Tello@Rutgers.edu

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