At the Democratic debate last night, Beto O’Rourke started answering some questions in Spanish. Before long, Cory Booker and Julián Castro joined in. This extended show of bilingualism was not limited to the candidates. Telemundo’s José Díaz-Balart, one of the debate moderators, chose to ask O’Rourke a question in Spanish about what he would do on day one about the border situation.
Spanish no doubt played an unusually large role at the debate last night. But it was not too surprising. Although the debate was televised and intended for a national audience of potential voters, the candidates were also addressing the Miami-area audience that hosted them, which is home to a large Spanish-speaking community. Most importantly, the debate took place as the Trump administration’s handling of immigration at the southern border has been reaching new shameful heights.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi revealed on Monday that when she called Trump on Friday to delay the ICE raids he was planning, she let him know he was “scaring the children.” The truth is that Trump is scaring us all with his toxic mix of cruelty and incompetence. New reports of conditions in detention centers are revealing how dangerous and deplorable they are, and at least seven innocent children have died since last year under Trump’s watch. A highly disturbing photo, released hours before the debate, of a Salvadoran father and daughter found dead in the Rio Grande after trying to seek asylum, is just one instance of migrant deaths that “happen with grim regularity,” according to a recent report in The New York Times.
Comprehensive immigration reform has long been a challenge, and reasonable people may disagree about the best path forward. But America has no place for reckless policies fueled by deep-seated depravity. Donald Trump, who can barely speak or write in his native English, used Spanish in a 2016 presidential debate to paint immigrants with a broad, ugly brush, promising to get the “bad hombres” out of the country. By contrast, Democratic candidates who spoke Spanish at last night’s debate were trying to redirect dignity toward asylum-seekers and tell Americans that whether they prefer goodbye or adios, they need to vote to get this incompetent bigot out of office.