Immigration: “The Forgotten Issue” In The Presidential Debates

Latinos in the media are criticizing the lack of questions in the first and second presidential debates about what was expected to be an “issue of contention”: immigration. Latino journalists have pointed out that opposition to immigration has “been a centerpiece of Donald Trump’s blustery campaign for more than a year,” yet moderators have not asked “one specific question” about the issue.

Latino Journalists Criticize The Absence Of Immigration-Specific Questions During First And Second Presidential Debates

Telemundo Correspondent Julio Vaqueiro: “The Big Absent” In The First Presidential Debate Was “The Topic Of Immigration.” In Telemundo’s post-debate analysis, Los Angeles correspondent Julio Vaqueiro noted that jobs, the economy, and national security -- topics that are important to Latinos -- were discussed at the first debate, but that immigration was “the big absent.” Translated from the September 27 edition of Telemundo’s debate programming La Gran Batalla:

JULIO VAQUEIRO (CORRESPONDENT): There were some personal attacks, but without a doubt what most concerned people was discussed in the first 30 minutes of the debate, and like it’s usually said about these encounters, that’s where the definitive stuff is. They discussed the economy. Here on the West Coast, in California specifically, José, although -- María Celeste, although this growth in the economy over the past eight years has been talked about, many people haven't experienced those benefits that came with economic growth. Here in California, 5.5 percent of people are unemployed. In Los Angeles, the biggest city in the state, unemployment has increased in the last few months, and there are places where the statistics are even worse. That's why it's so important to hear the economic plans of the two candidates. On the one hand, Hillary Clinton talked about reducing taxes on the working class. On the other, Donald Trump was talking about giving incentives for the upper class, to, in this way, generate jobs. The big absent: the topic of immigration. It wasn't expected to be discussed in this debate, but they didn't even talk about Donald Trump's wall -- which is perhaps the central issue of his campaign -- and they didn't discuss it, not even during the economy part, when Trump guaranteed that he would create many jobs. They also didn't discuss it during the subject of national security. This is an important topic here on the West Coast because we are talking about close to 1 out of every 3 residents in California are immigrants born in a different country, and this is something very sensitive. It was not discussed, and it was the big absence. Nevertheless, as you said José and María Celeste, it was a special night because it was the opportunity for voters to see the candidates in a situation that they had not seen them before.

JOSÉ DÍAZ-BALART (CO-HOST): Thank you from Los Angeles.

MARÍA CELESTE ARRARÁS: Well, you know one thing that we were going to talk about, one of the good points I want to -- that Julio made was that they didn't mention the wall, they didn't mention immigration, and in large part this was because neither in this debate nor in those coming after was it considered to have a Hispanic journalist to bring this issue that is important to our community to the mat, so that is something there.

DÍAZ-BALART: It would have been a big difference. [Telemundo, La Gran Batalla, 9/26/16]

Univision’s Enrique Acevedo: “That’s Two Full Presidential Debates Without [A] Specific Question About Immigration. Also, Nothing On Climate Change Or Gun Control.”

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MSNBC’s Mariana Atencio: Inexcusable That Not A Single Question Has Been Asked About Immigration, The Border Wall, DREAMers In 90+ Minutes.”

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Fusion’s Jorge Ramos: “After Two Debates, Not A Single Question About Immigration Or Latin America.”

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Univision’s Maria Elena Salinas: Lack Of Immigration Questions Is “Why We Needed/Need A Latino Moderator.”

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Fusion: “There Were Lots Of Issues That Were Also Ignored,” But Immigration “Is An Unpardonable Omission.” National Affairs correspondent Jorge Rivas explained that immigration policy is “one of the most burning questions haunting millions of viewers at home” and has “been a centerpiece of Donald Trump’s blustery campaign,” yet “the moderators ignored it.” Rivas lamented that moderators prioritized a question about Clinton’s paid speeches, which received a mere 13 votes on, over a question about deportation that received 37,000 votes. From the October 10 article:

One of the most burning questions haunting millions of viewers at home had to do with deportations and immigration policy. It’s an issue that’s been a centerpiece of Donald Trump’s blustery campaign for more than a year, but one he’s managed to avoid discussing in any detail during the first two presidential debates.

A 6-year-old could have done a better job getting the candidates to talk about immigration last night. In fact, one volunteered for the job. Sophie Cruz, a 6-year-old daughter of undocumented Mexican immigrants, submitted the question: “What happens to me if you deport my parents?”

Cruz’s question, submitted online to, received more than 37,000 votes, making it the 9th most popular suggested question for last night’s presidential debate. But the moderators ignored it.

Instead they asked Secretary Clinton about her paid speeches—a question that received only 13 votes on the website (so at least a dozen people could sleep a little better last night). We also got to hear more—without learning anything new—about deleting emails, destroying Isis and Trump on women.

There were lots of other issues that were also ignored. In fact, of the 3.6 million votes cast for 15,800 proposed questions, the top two were about gun control, another topic that went undiscussed last night. The whole debate was “an unfortunate example of cherrypicking by moderators to give their own questions the veneer of representing the public,” according to a statement sent to Fusion by the founders of the Open Debate website.

Immigration, however, is an unpardonable omission. It’s an issue that has defined the election. The debates are literally the only times in the entire campaign that Trump hasn’t been talking about immigration or deportations. [Fusion, 10/10/16]

Univison’s Jaime Garcia: “A Question About Immigration Was Among The 10 Most Suggested To The Moderators On Sunday, But Just Like [In] The First Presidential Debate, It Was Not Brought Up.” In a segment from Univision’s Noticiero Univision: Edición Nocturna, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) Director Angelica Salas pointed out that immigration has only been brought up by the candidates themselves, meaning it was discussed “from the perspective of Donald Trump where he is talking … about immigrants as criminals or people who should be deported.” Univision correspondent Jaime Garcia explained that the issue has “propelled” Donald Trump’s campaign, but moderators have failed to raise the question. Translated from the October 10 segment:

ENRIQUE ACEVEDO (CO-HOST): Well, we’ve had two presidential debates and although there have been multiple requests for specific questions about immigration to be included, the issue continues to stand out for its absence. The question is if this influences in any way the intention of the Hispanic voters, and Jaime Garcia responds to that question.

JAIME GARCIA (CORRESPONDENT): Mario Villa is one of 63 million viewers who followed the presidential debate on television in which, he says, the issue that is most important to him was not discussed.

MARIO VILLA (LOS ANGELES RESIDENT): What I wanted to hear concretely was what they are going to do about immigration reform.

GARCIA: According to the website Open Debate Coalition, a question about immigration was among the 10 most suggested to the moderators on Sunday, but just like the first presidential debate, the issue of immigration reform was not discussed thoroughly.

ANGELICA SALAS (CHIRLA DIRECTOR): The way which it has been brought up in both debates is from the perspective of Donald Trump where he is talking, right, again about immigrants as criminals or people who should be deported.

GARCIA: This Sunday, the Republican candidate claimed that millions of foreigners were entering without control through the borders, and he called the proposal of his Democratic opponent that seeks to raise the number of asylees [displaced] by the armed conflict in Syria a risk to national security.

SALAS: It’s Syrian refugees, but it’s also refugees from Central America. We’re not opening our doors to either, even when both [groups] need refuge.

GARCIA: There are those that warn that the issue of immigration should be discussed openly between the two candidates above all because this has been one of the issues of discussion that has propelled up to now the campaign of Republican Donald Trump.

JUAN JOSÉ GUTIÉRREZ (DIRECTOR OF MOVIMIENTO LATINO-USA): The election of this November 8 for the Hispanic electorate will be historic because there is the possibility that we vote in historical record [numbers] like never before. And the main motivation is the issue of immigration reform with a path to citizenship. [Univision, Noticiero Univisión: Edición Nocturna, 10/10/16]

Immigration Is Among The Issues That Concern Latinos The Most

Univision Poll Shows Immigration Is Among The Top Issues That Motivate Latinos To Vote. A July Univision poll found that immigration is the second most pertinent issue for Hispanic voters, while jobs and the economy topped the list. The poll found that terrorism and gun control are also of great concern to Latino voters. [Univision, Noticiero Univision, 7/15/16]

Pew: Immigration “Widely Viewed As An Important Priority For Hispanics” In Casting Their 2016 Vote. According to a July poll from Pew, 79 percent of Hispanics continue to mention immigration as one of the top issues guiding their 2016 vote, among others like the economy, health care, terrorism, and education. [Pew, 7/7/16]