At debate, only O'Malley talks about our issues
Latinos who tuned in to the Democratic presidential candidate debate Sunday night were in for a surprise — namely, that the journalists asking questions and candidates answering them completely ignored issues of surpassing importance to Latino voters. Everyone, that is, except the candidate who is polling in the single digits and who was given the least time to speak: Martin O’Malley.
Martin O’Malley — who was rarely asked a direct question by NBC interviewers Lester Holt and Andrea Mitchell, and often left out of the questioning altogether — kept bringing up issues you see us write about frequently on our website and in the pages of the print edition of AL DÍA: immigrant detention, deportation, the need for comprehensive reform of our disastrously unjust immigration system.
And in his closing statement — a 60-second uninterrupted space of time he hadn’t been allowed at any point in the debate — O’Malley not only led with a statement about detention centers, but followed up with a statement about the economic violence being done to Puerto Rico. Here is his statement in whole:
“There are so many issues that we haven’t been able to discuss here. We have not fully discussed immigration reform, and the deplorable number of immigrant detention camps that our nation’s now maintaining. We haven’t discussed the shameful treatment that the people of Puerto Rico, our fellow Americans, are getting treated with by these hedge funds that are working them over.
“We haven’t discussed the fact that in our hemisphere we have the danger of nation-state failures because of drug traffickers; and Honduras, and Guatemala and El Salvador.
“I guess the bottom line is this, look, we are a great people and the way we act at home and abroad based on the beliefs that unite us. Our belief in the dignity of every person, our belief in our own common good. There is no challenge that is too great for us to overcome provided we bring forward in these divided times, new leadership that can heal our divides here at home and bring our principles into alignment abroad.
“We’re on the threshold of a new era of American progress and I believe we have only need to join forces together and cross that threshold into a new era of American prosperity.”
Immigration was mentioned three times during the two-hour debate, twice brought up by O’Malley, once by Clinton. Puerto Rico got only O’Malley’s mention. (Read full transcript here.)
Given that Sanders got 30 minutes of speaking time, Clinton got 27 minutes and O’Malley only got 14, the number of mentions of issues of special importance to Latinos gains even more significance.
If you think Latinos didn’t notice, think again. Gaby Pacheco, the renowned DREAMer who years ago marched from Florida to Washington D.C. to draw attention to the concerns of young undocumented persons, wrote about it for LatinPost, and at least one of AL DÍA’s journalists’ Twitter timeline was replete with mentions of the pointed and deliberate lack of talk about immigration from not only Latinos but African Americans and white news wonks watching the debate as well.
The lack of mention in the debate only points out how hypocritical the Democratic Party’s stance on immigration has become. There have been no official party disavowals of the inhumane home raids taking place under secretary of DHS Jeh Johnson’s plan of expedited deportations for Central Americans escaping violence — a plan that started in earnest Jan. 4 and immediately racked up triple-digit detentions, including some in which the ICE agents allegedly lied to and violated the rights of their targets.
There have been no responses to the fact that detention preceding deportation has been at family detention centers that have come under scrutiny for abuses and have been ordered by the courts to release detained children and women.
Latino legislators were painfully (and shamefully) slow to condemn the raids which have terrified — and terrorized — immigrant communities throughout the nation.
And the Democratic candidates...
Clinton’s response to all of this has been very weak (and until very recently, issued only through spokespeople). Sanders’ response — though much more strongly worded and far prompter than Clinton’s — also lagged.
Who was the first of the Democratic candidates to raise his voice against the raids? O’Malley. And he persisted with his critical questions until the other two candidates had to issue some response.
O’Malley’s polling numbers are ridiculously low. There was talk he wasn’t going to be invited to the Democratic debate at all. It is in Latinos’ best interest to see that he continues in the primary battle — because no other candidate is willing to address these topics in substantive and genuine ways. No matter the foregone conclusions the NBC moderators denoted with their lopsided questions; no matter the party machine manipulation so that ongoing coverage favors the favored — Latinos don’t have to play along.
In fact, it behooves us not to. It behooves us to make sure that those who are addressing matters of grave concern to us stay in the fight long enough to make those who barely see us or think of us (when they aren’t baldly pandering) reconsider their routine erasure of us and ours.
And to O’Malley we say: We hear you. We’re listening. You got our attention.