WASHINGTON – Joe Biden, the former vice president of the United States and favorite to win the Democratic Party nomination for the White House, was on Wednesday the focus of attacks by his party mates during the second night of televised debate.
Biden shared the platform at Detroit’s Fox Theater with senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Michael Bennet and Kirsten Gillibrand, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, former Housing Secretary Julian Castro, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and Businessman Andrew Yang.
On stage, the former vice president of the Barack Obama administration was pounced on when the conversation turned from health care to immigration.
Castro, who was a part of the Obama cabinet along with Biden, defended decriminalizing the entry of undocumented immigrants to the US, which the former vice president is opposed to.
“I found that Julian, excuse me, the secretary, we sat together in many meetings,” Biden said. “I never heard him talk about any of this when he was the secretary.”
“It looks like one of us has learned the lessons of the past. One of us hasn’t,” replied Castro, the only Latino in the race, who said they need “guts” on immigration issues.
“I have guts enough to say his plan doesn’t make sense,” Biden retorted.
De Blasio then reproached Biden for the number of deportations of undocumented immigrants during the Obama administration, higher than those of the current president, Donald Trump, during the first two years of his term.
The mayor of New York asked an elusive Biden if he did anything to stop the deportations.
“I was vice president ... not the president. I keep my recommendation in private, unlike you. I expect you would go ahead and say whatever was said privately with him. That’s not what I do,” Biden said, while underlining that Obama tried to find a way to grant citizenship to the beneficiaries of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Approved in 2012 by Obama, DACA has curbed the deportation of some 750,000 undocumented people who entered the country as children, and referred to as “Dreamers.”
Booker was next to join the bandwagon of critical voices against Biden.
“You invoke President Obama more than anybody in this campaign. You can’t do it when it’s convenient and then dodge it when it’s not,” Booker said.
Immigration then gave way to justice when Booker pinned down Biden over the 1990 Criminal Justice Act, which he helped enact, and which is now regarded as the source of mass incarceration, particularly of racial minorities.
“All the problems that he is talking about, that he created,” said Booker.
Biden was also set upon for his current and past positions on climate crisis, trade agreements, racial discrimination and abortion.
Harris, who scores highly in polls and did well in the first debate in June, this time did not make much of a mark and even received attacks from Gabbard for her stint as California’s attorney general.
“There are too many examples to cite but she put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana,” Gabbard said.
“She blocked evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row until the courts forced her to do so. She kept people in prison beyond their sentences to use them as cheap labor for the state of California,” Gabbard added.
Wednesday marked the conclusion of the second Democratic presidential debate, after the 10 other candidates – among them progressive senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren – took part in the first round on Tuesday.