Why wasn’t immigration a bigger issue in the debate?

The closer we get to Election Day, the more Donald Trump will work to turn the nation’s focus to the issue that was the beating heart of his 2016 campaign and has animated his time in office: immigration. The narrative Trump will push–at rallies and in targeted social media ads backed by millions of dollars–is that he has protected the American public from “dangerous” immigrants and secured the border, and that only he can keep us safe. Given how central immigration is sure to be in the coming months, why has it received only passing mention in a handful of the nine Democratic primary debates to date, even after last night’s contentious proceeding in Nevada, the first primary state with a sizable population of people of color.

Over the past three years, the current administration has conducted an all-out attack on immigrant communities living in the United States, including the more than 40,000 Dreamers and Temporary Protected Status holders who live in Nevada with their nearly 20,000 U.S. citizen children, as well as on our entire legal immigration system. With one illegal ban after another, he has spread dysfunction through our existing immigration channels. A ban on nationals from 13 mostly Muslim-majority countries. A ban on refugees. A ban on women who may be or may become pregnant. A ban on survivors of persecution and torture requesting asylum. A ban on working-class immigrants.

But it will take more than simply telling the American public what you are against and trying to shift the conversation to another topic in order to successfully rebut Trump’s claims. Because while it’s true that the majority of the country is revolted by his decision to separate thousands of children from their parents at the border and opposes his efforts to close our doors to refugees, they also understand that our immigration system has long had deep, fundamental problems. And while most people don’t agree with Trump’s immigration policies, they have a pretty clear sense of what he stands for. At the same time, polling tells us voters don’t have a strong understanding of what Democrats believe about immigration, despite the fact that many in the party have spearheaded efforts in Congress over the past 15 years to fix our broken system.

By Tom Jawetz for NEVADA CURRENT
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