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— New Republic (@NewRepublic) March 10, 2016
Possibly the biggest star of Wednesday night’s Democratic debate in Florida was not one of the two candidates on stage.
Instead, it was a middle-aged Guatemalan immigrant who asked the Democratic presidential hopefuls one of the toughest and most emotional questions of the evening.
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While the candidates were taking questions from the audience, Lucía Quiej, an undocumented immigrant whose husband was deported in 2011 because of an expired driver's license, asked the candidates in Spanish: "What will you do to stop deportations and reunite families?"
Quiej’s husband, Andres Jiménez, was denied political asylum in the U.S. and was forced to leave his wife as the only breadwinner in the five-children family. All six members of the family, who live in Homestead, Florida, attended the debate.
“I was one month pregnant and they deported him only because he didn’t have a driver’s license,” Quiej told Progreso Weekly in 2014. “There’s a lot of people here with ankle monitors, many children whose parents were taken away by Immigration. In Homestead, there’s nothing; only despair.”
Speaking before the debate, Quiej and her family said that they live in a constant state of fear that they or somebody they know will be picked up by immigration officials and deported. The morning of the debate, Quiej said that she received a text from a friend that immigration agents were in her town.
"Homestead is becoming a ghost town,” she told Univision. “We all struggle with fear."
Quiej’s question during the debate was praised by the crowd and social media, and both candidates applauded her courage.
"It is time to bring families together. More Americans need to know the human cost of these policies are," said Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
She added: "I will do everything I can to prevent other families to face what you are facing.”
“The essence of what we are trying to do is to unite families, not to divide families,” said Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. “The idea that a mother is living here and her children are on the other side of the border is wrong and immoral.”
He added: “That is beyond comprehension and policies that should not be allowed to exist.”