Eight of the Democratic presidential candidates speaking to NALEO members. Photo: Samuel J. Navarro Vallenilla. 
Eight of the Democratic presidential candidates speaking to NALEO members. Photo: Samuel J. Navarro Vallenilla. 

NALEO members get a preview of eight Democratic Presidential Candidates


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The first Democratic presidential debates take place in Miami tonight, June 26, and tomorrow, June 27, and will feature 20 candidates. Members of the National Association of Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) got an early preview last week when eight of the Democratic presidential candidates participated in a forum at Spanish-language Telemundo headquarters in Doral, Florida. 

The eight who spoke to NALEO members were: Julian Castro, the only Latino and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Obama; Beto O’Rourke, a former house representative from Texas; U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Bernie Sanders; U.S. House of Representative Eric Swalwell;, former governor of Colorado John Hickenlooper; and Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

The candidates were asked three questions:  one on immigration reform, another on the citizenship question being included in the U.S. Census and a third that varied from candidate to candidate. Immigration also will be one of the questions asked tonight and tomorrow along with questions on health care, trade, foreign policy, climate change and race policies.

At the NALEO forum last week, the eight candidates all agreed the citizenship question should not be included but had varying strategies towards handling the issue. Here are excerpts from the candidates’ responses to the other two questions. To see the full Democratic presidential forum go to

BETO O'ROURKE, former house representative from Texas
Photo by Samuel J. Navarro Vallenilla
Immigration reform: On day one of our administration, we will reunite every single family that has been separated. We will no longer put children in cages. We will not build walls....I will make sure that the 9 million legal, permanent residents, green card holders, in America become U.S. citizens as soon as possible and that the millions more, including more than 1 million Dreamers...are able to stay here, contribute to their full potential on a pathway to citizenship and making sure that this great country is even greater by their presence. It's economic success. It is strength...Doing the right thing makes us a better country.
If elected president, what policies would you pursue to provide all Latino workers the opportunity to participate in this 21st-century economy?

...We make sure, in our plan, that everyone who's working can focus on just one job, because they're paid a living wage, $15 an hour as the floor. And they can take time off to take care of themselves or their families or their children with paid family leave in every part of this country. And childcare, which is out of reach, because it is unaffordable for so many families, is made affordable under our plan, doubling the block grants that we send to states to make childcare affordable.

JOHN HICKENLOOPER, former governor of Colorado
Photo by Samuel J. Navarro Vallenilla
Immigration reform: I believe that what I would say with the 11 million people that are here now, that we should give them a ten-year visa immediately. Put them on a pathway to citizenship. And make sure that if it takes longer, they can have extensions....the priority should be to allow people to come out from the shadows.
What are you going to do for the United States to lead on climate [change]?
I recognize that we've gotta go-- beyond the Paris Accords. And as president, the first thing I would do is re-up the-- or resign the Paris Accords. And the second thing I would do is pledge to go beyond them...But also recognize what we do here is a template for what has to happen around the world.
JULIAN CASTRO, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Development
Photo by Samuel J. Navarro Vallenilla
Immigration reform: I will use my executive power in any way that I can-- for instance, immediately expanding DACA, providing protections...And if I'm president, I'm gonna use my executive authority as much as we possibly can to protect these hardworking immigrants.
How will you fix the nation’s rumbling infrastructure as an economic strategy?
I've said that we need to do a big investment in infrastructure, not only in traditional infrastructure like roads and bridges-- or airports, but also 21st century infrastructure...We need to continue to extend broadband into rural communities so that both with traditional infrastructure and 21st century infrastructure, America is poised to succeed.
PETE BUTTIGIEG, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana
Photo by Samuel J. Navarro Vallenilla
Immigration reform: My responsibility, as a mayor, is, in fact, not only to citizens but to [all] residents. And what we realized is we had many residents who were not able to access things that the rest of us take for granted...I realized that we didn't have to wait on the federal government or the state government-- to solve this problem. We could establish a local, municipal ID card-- not only for undocumented residents, I've got one myself-- but something that would be very useful for undocumented residents. And yes, I do believe it is the responsibility of the federal government [to] make sure anyone who lives here, regardless of their immigration status, has a means to demonstrate that they are who they say they are.
If elected president, what policies would you pursue to provide all Latino workers the opportunity to fully participate in the 21st-century economy?

Some of these solutions will be complex...But some of the solutions are abundantly simply, like, people need to get paid more. And that's why we've gotta raise the minimum wage to $15, as a beginning. And when we do, that will disproportionately benefit Latino workers, so many of whom are in those jobs. 

ELIZABETH WARREN, U.S. Senator from Massachusetts 
Photo by Samuel J. Navarro Vallenilla
Immigration reform: We want to have an immigration policy that's good for our economy, that keeps us safe, and that is in alignment with our values. We start with the fact that in America immigration makes us stronger, not weaker. And we need to have an immigration system that capitalizes on that...The first part obviously is we need to deal with the people who are here, and that means a pathway to citizenship. We need to protect our Dreamers. We need to keep families together...But we also need to look at the systematic problems in the immigration system....Right now there are giant companies that profit off this system. Seventy-three percent of the people who are currently detained on immigration status are held in for-profit detention centers...You've just created a group that makes its money by seeing more people locked up.
ERIC SWALWELL, U.S. House of Representative from California 
Photo by Samuel J. Navarro Vallenilla
Immigration reform: Where this president has brought showmanship, I will bring leadership. I'll start by convening the president of Mexico and the president of the Central American countries where most migrants are coming from and we'll invest there...It will cost us less if we provide economic security in their countries.  So you can't just go to the border n this issue. Leadership commands going beyond the border. And I would do that immediately.
How will you address the federal government's growing deficit, while maintaining critical safety nets in place for vulnerable populations?

Invest in the future. And see that those investments will have a return that will bring down our debt and expand opportunity for more people. I come from a town called Dublin, California...It was right smack in the middle of the middle class. And we didn't really have too many high paying jobs. We had mostly just fast food restaurants. And when I graduated high school, only a third of us went off to college. But over a 15 year period, we invested in rail and connected us to the greater San Francisco Bay Area. We rebuilt the high school. We're able to entice businesses to come in. If they were able to create jobs, we returned their sales tax dollars to them. We grew out of the great economic recession.

BERNIE SANDERS, U.S. Senator from Vermont
Photo by Samuel J. Navarro Vallenilla
Immigration reform: “We cannot have real immigration reform unless we have people from the immigration community at the table helping to work out that comprehensive immigration reform....Literally on the first week that we together are in office, we are going to use all of the powers of the presidency, all of the executive orders that we can, to undo the fear and the damage that this president has done.”
There are numerous examples of socialized medical care around the world. We know what you believe the benefits of this approach are. What are the weaknesses and how would you remedy them in your health plan for this country?

I believe that healthcare is a human right. I will not allow 30,000 Americans every year to die because they don't have access to a doctor. And I will end the insanity of...people going bankrupt because they come out of a hospital with an outrageous bill they cannot pay. 

AMY KLOBUCHAR, U.S. Senator from Minnesota
Photo by Samuel J. Navarro Vallenilla
Immigration reform: I would not support an amendment...any longer, to make English the official language. Because I understand now what that would mean to people in the community...We all stand on the shoulders of immigrants. Look at the facts. Seventy of our Fortune 500 companies are led by people from other countries. We have 25 percent of our U.S. Nobel Laureates were born in other countries....Again, immigrants don't diminish America. They are America.
The next president is going to have to address persistent economic and disparities facing Americans of different races and ethnicities. How does your particular background and experience inform your ability to ensure that the American dream is within everyone's reach?

So my problem with this president right now, when you look at this tax bill...that added $1 trillion to the debt, where most of those benefits go to the wealthiest at the top. That does not help Americans move ahead... you look at the kind of playing field that you need for people to succeed, if they come from nothing. It's not the world that Donald Trump envisioned. It's not the world that he wants to see for all of us.

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