This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JORGE RAMOS: Vice President Biden, as a presidential candidate in 2008, you supported the border wall, saying, “Unlike most Democrats, I voted for 700 miles of fence.” This is what you said. Then you served as vice president in an administration that deported 3 million people, the most ever in U.S. history. Did you do anything to prevent those deportations? I mean, you’ve been asked this question before and refused to answer, so let me try once again. Are you prepared to say tonight that you and President Obama made a mistake about deportations? Why should Latinos trust you?
JOE BIDEN: What Latinos should look at is, comparing this president to the president we have is outrageous, number one. We didn’t lock people up in cages. We didn’t separate families. We didn’t do all of those things, number one.
Number two — number two, by the time — this is the president who came along with the DACA program. No one had ever done that before. This is a president who sent legislation to desk saying he wants to find a pathway for the 11 million undocumented in the United States of America. This is a president who’s done a great deal. So I’m proud to have served with him.
What I would do as president is several more things, because things have changed. I would, in fact, make sure that there is — we immediately surge to the border. All those people are seeking asylum. They deserve to be heard. That’s who we are. We’re a nation that says if you want to flee and you’re fleeing oppression, you should come. I would change the order that the president just changed saying women who were being beaten and abused could no longer claim that as a reason for asylum.
And by the way, retrospectively, you know, the 25th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act is up. The Republican Congress has not reauthorized it. Let’s put pressure on them to pass the Violence Against Women Act now. But then we go back.
JORGE RAMOS: Yeah, but you didn’t answer the question. The question is: Did you make a —
JOE BIDEN: Well, yeah, I did answer the question.
JORGE RAMOS: No. Did you make a mistake with those deportations?
JOE BIDEN: The president did the best thing that was able to be done at the time.
JORGE RAMOS: How about you?
JOE BIDEN: I’m the vice president of the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: Later in the debate, Julián Castro criticized Biden’s response.
JULIÁN CASTRO: But my problem with Vice President Biden — and Cory pointed this out last time — is, every time something good about Barack Obama comes up, he says, “Oh, I was there, I was there, I was there. That’s me, too.” And then, every time somebody questions part of the administration, that we were both part of, he says, “Well, that was the president.” I mean, he wants to take credit for Obama’s work but not have to answer to any questions.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Julián Castro. Cesar Espinosa, you were at the debate last night. We’re talking to you in Houston. Can you talk about their response?
CESAR ESPINOSA: Well, we were very — once again, we were very disheartened by Joe Biden’s response, because he did not take responsibility for what he did and what he and Obama did under the Obama presidency. It is important to point out that up until this point — even though Trump is well on his way to surpass the number of deportations, up until this point, Obama is still the sitting president that has deported the most people in U.S. history. So, it is important that we hold Biden accountable, because he did have a say when he was vice president under President Obama.
So, we want to applaud Julián for calling that out, for making sure that we hold all elected officials accountable. And later on in the debate, he said that we must hold people accountable for their actions. And that’s what we want to do. There’s been groups that have been calling out Biden for his record on deportations and for the fact that he cannot deny that there was 3 million people, 3 million families that were broken up, under the Obama-Biden presidency.
So, our fear is that if he does win the nomination, if he does make it into the White House, that it will be more and more of the same thing, more enforcement. And obviously, we — a lot of our folks in our community find it really disturbing that he actually supported the border wall, or building of a border wall, when he has criticized Trump for doing the same thing. So, we want to see more transparency. We want to hold — see more accountability. And we hope that different groups all over the country continue to raise this issue, and specifically with [Vice] President Biden, since he is the front-runner at this moment.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: During the debate, some immigration activists disrupted the discussion. They chanted, “We are DACA recipients. Our lives are at risk.” Unfortunately, they couldn’t be heard by the TV audience, and it also came later on in the debate.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: What’s the most significant professional setback you’ve had to face? How did you recover from it? And what did you learn from it? Vice President Biden?
JOE BIDEN: I never count any professional setback I have as a serious setback. There’s things that are important, things that are unimportant.
PROTESTERS: We are DACA recipients! Our lives are at risk! [inaudible]
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We’re going to clear the protesters now. Just one minute.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Those were the immigrant rights protesters. Cesar, you were there. What did you see? And what was the reaction of the crowd?
AMY GOODMAN: And what were they saying?
CESAR ESPINOSA: Well, it was a coordinated effort by an unknown group, to me, of folks who were — who just, all of a sudden, got up and started chanting. At first it was very difficult to hear. But when they started taking them off the stage, because they made it all the way up to the stage, we saw their shirts, that they talked about DACA. And they were, in fact, chanting that, to protect DACA, because if they were to be deported, their lives would be at risk.
And they did it at the moment when Vice President Biden started speaking, because, once again, we want to make sure that we hold Vice President Biden accountable for the fact that he has deported — and even though the DACA program did come under President Obama, the fact that 3 million people, 3 million families were separated does not outweigh the cost of providing 700,000 undocumented youth a work permit under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
So, they were escorted out at one point. We have petitioned the police chief. We don’t know the status of these young folks yet, but we have petitioned the chief of police, Art Acevedo, to not press charges, because even that could put their status at risk. They could lose DACA status if they were to be arrested. So, we hope that these folks were freed and let go. And once again, they just wanted to get a point across. They did no harm to anybody. And all they wanted was to hold Vice President Biden accountable for the fact that he deported 3 million people when he was vice president under President Obama.
AMY GOODMAN: Cesar Espinosa is executive director of FIEL, a Houston-based nonprofit that helps undocumented members of Houston’s Latino community — Houston, where the debate was held. Rashad Robinson is president of Color of Change. And we’re joined by Julian Brave NoiseCat, journalist who’s director of the Green New Deal strategy at the think tank Data for Progress. We’ll continue with them and with highlights of the debate in a minute.