Democratic presidential candidates talk immigration, gun reform at Long Beach forum

Immigration and gun reform dominated the conversation among the eight Democratic candidates participating in the Real America forum hosted by Univision in Downtown Long Beach Saturday evening.

The forum—which started off shaky with audio issues—was co-hosted by the California Democratic Party during its endorsing convention at the Long Beach Convention Center this weekend.

The candidates took turns sitting down with a rotating moderating team of Univision reporters to answer questions specific to their platforms, among other issues.

While the top two leading Democratic candidates, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, declined to participate in the forum, guests seemed especially enthusiastic for Bernie Sanders through loud cheers and numerous signs of support.

While Sanders is trailing behind Biden and Warren, he has garnered the most contributions from Latino supporters among the candidates and is even endearingly called tío Bernie, or uncle Bernie.

The forum also featured Sens. Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar as well as Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer.

Presidential candidate Cory Booker takes questions from the media while in the spin room at the California Democratic Convention at the Long Beach Convention Center In Long Beach Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

Here are the highlights from each candidate:

Kamala Harris

The junior California senator said as president she would resort to executive action on gun reform legislation if Congress doesn’t get “their act together and put a bill on my desk.” Her action would include a requirement for comprehensive background check and a ban on the importation of assault weapons.

Julian Castro

The former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development also supports a ban on assault weapons and would install a waiting period for gun purchases. His plan to eliminate homelessness by 2028 includes investing in a national trust fund and making sure people can continue to afford rent to drive down homelessness.

Pete Buttigieg

The Indiana mayor who was deployed to Afghanistan as an officer in the US. Navy Reserve said he would consider sending troops abroad if it meant saving American lives, if there was a belief that no reasonable alternatives exist and that there was a network of alliances. He believes certain cartels should be labeled terrorists and that the country’s drug policy should be reconsidered in order to “reduce the financial rewards that fuel these cartels.”

Amy Klobuchar

The Minnesota senator said her plan to address student debt includes doubling Pell grants to up to $12,000 a year and to change the capital gains rate. She would also change the loan repayment program and make it easy to refinance student loans “like millionaires refinance yachts.” She said she would take executive action in removing the so-called “boyfriend loophole” in order to prevent boyfriends in abusive relationships from getting guns.

Andrew Yang

The entrepreneur said he would rewrite the rules of the economy through a freedom dividend program that would give Americans $1,000 a month. It would “help the country move forward and feel like participants in the gains of the economy instead of feeling left behind.” With regards to immigration, he would create a pathway to citizenship to help integrate immigrants. “We can’t pretend we can deport 12 million people without collapsing economies and being inhumane.”

Tom Steyer

The self-funded billionaire defended his candidacy against claims that he is “buying” this election. He said he is for a wealth tax and acknowledges income inequality. He said climate change would be his top priority and in order to address environmental justice he would make sure to get leadership from low-income black and brown communities to author bills that can help address pollution.

Cory Booker

The New Jersey senator said his baby bond proposal would help close the wealth gap between white, black and brown communities. He would do this by bringing an estate tax to 2009 levels and ending lobby loopholes that can pay for the program. As president, he would make sure every DACA recipient and their families would have a pathway to citizenship.

Bernie Sanders

The Vermont senator said he would make immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship his top priority, promising that “on day one I will undo the damage that Trump did.” If the Supreme Court kills the DACA program, as president he would re-establish the legal status of DACA recipients and their parents.

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Stephanie Rivera is the immigration and diversity reporter for the Long Beach Post. After graduating from CSULB with a degree in journalism, Stephanie worked for Patch Latino and City News Service before coming to the Long Beach Post in 2015.