As Republican presidential candidates prepare to take the stage in the only RNC-sanctioned debate on a Spanish-language network, here’s what I believe the debate moderators must keep in mind on Thursday night:
- Hold candidates accountable for their anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies. Just in the last week, Ted Cruz echoed Donald Trump’s call for mass deportation and Rubio solidified his opposition to DACA, the critical program that protects DREAMers from deportation, by announcing that he would end DACA on Day One of his administration. And when the subject of immigration came up in earlier debates and on the campaign trail, Rubio repeatedly called for treating all immigrants first as potential terrorists. If, on Thursday, candidates use different rhetoric than they’ve used previously, moderators should call the candidates out for that. They must not let candidates get away with telling different stories to different audiences.
- Ask why the candidates oppose economic policies that would particularly help Latinos. On the minimum wage, for example, leading up to the Republican debate in Wisconsin, I joined local activists with Black Lives Matter, Voces de la Frontera, and others for a Fight for $15 rally. At that debate, Trump, Rubio, and Carson were all asked if they supported our efforts to push for a $15 minimum wage, and they all staked out strong positions against raising the minimum wage even though doing so would help almost 6.8 million Latinos. Moderators should ask all the candidates about this and other issues that help Latino workers and families, like equal pay for equal work and paid family and medical leave.
- Challenge candidates on climate change and the environment. An overwhelming majority of Latinos support government action to curb climate change. And given that Latinos disproportionately suffer from air and water pollution, it’s no surprise that most Latinos support Congress and the President taking action to protect our environment. So why do the Republican candidates deny the science of climate change and denounce important actions from the President, like the Clean Power Plan, that would especially help Latino communities?
- Ask about the Supreme Court. The Constitution is clear that it is the job of the President to appoint Supreme Court justices, and that it’s the Senate’s job to give fair consideration to the President’s nominees. The fact that there are cases on the Court’s docket that will have such significance for Latino communities, like the case examining DACA+ and DAPA, only underscores how critical it is that all seats on the Supreme Court are filled. Moderators should ask Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz in particular about why they’re ignoring their Constitutional responsibilities by flat-out rejecting any nominee that President Obama puts forth.
- Correct misinformation. On the campaign trail and in previous debates, candidates have too often gone unchallenged when they put forth incorrect information. For example, one of Ted Cruz’s ads portrays immigrants as taking jobs away from other Americans and hurting the economy, even though economist after economist has found that immigration reform would help the economy. Marco Rubio said that undocumented immigration is on the rise, when the exact opposite is true. And it’s hard to keep up with the latest lies from Donald Trump about refugees. If a candidate says anything that is demonstrably false, moderators should correct the misinformation.