The Bank United Center at the University of Miami featured for the first time a presidential forum in Spanish for the forty million Latinos in the United States of which there are a potential seventeen million voters.
However, Governor Bill Richardson (N.M.) wanted to respond to a question in Spanish about the issue of whether Spanish should be the second official language. He was cut off by Jorge Ramos of Univision who said the rules had been broken.
Even if the candidates spoke Spanish, they had to respond in English and have the answer translated. Before Richardson was cut off, he said in his own Spanish words, “I’m proud to be Latino and we should have no problem speaking our language.”
The two leading candidates for the Democratic Party, Senator Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) and Senator Barack Obama (Ill.) along with Senator Chris Dodd (Conn.) were asked about why the three voted to put up a wall along the Mexican border when the terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001 crossed the Canadian border. Obama said that he’d always been in favor of comprehensive immigration reform.
“Still, we need more security in the borders because you can’t have dozens of people coming without knowing who they are. We need an identification system that leads to citizenship,” Obama said.
Clinton mentioned how her ancestors were immigrants from Iceland and how she’s also in favor of comprehensive immigration reform.
“I’m in favor of more border control in both our borders; we may need a physical border in some parts. We need a bipartisanship effort to get this done. The federal government needs leadership and I’ll do that as president,” Clinton said.
Former Senator Mike Gravel (Alaska) started off great by giving condolences to the Soriano family who son Armando died in Iraq but his father received his deportation papers. He may have lost any chance of winning the election by saying that he did not consider Hugo Chavez a dictator.
“In fact, I would reach out to him. He’s not an enemy; we created him as an enemy. It’s the same thing with Iran. After 25 years, Cuba’s 29 miles away, we need to create friends not enemies,” he said.
Former Senator John Edwards (S.C.) said that he would act on comprehensive immigration reform immediately.“When you enter a Blockbuster, it can say ‘bienvenidos’ immediately. The reasons people come to the United States are poverty, educational issues, and health,” he said.
Senator Chris Dodd said that we need to encourage more languages and help those who don’t speak English to learn it. Dodd, a Spanish speaker said “the forum was for the 44 million with a Hispanic voice.”
Even the issue of Iraq was mentioned. Representative Dennis Kucinich said he was the only one who showed executive judgment four years ago becoming the first member of Congress to actively oppose the Iraq war.
“We need to stop stealing Iraq’s oil and have a program of reconciliation. This is the way, we can achieve peace. Bring the troops home,” Kucinich said.
Maria Elena Salinas of Univision said that no candidate of any party will be able to win the election without the Latino vote.
The Republican forum was canceled due to Senator John McCain (Ariz.) being the only candidate who said yes. However, the debate may be scheduled for another date with interest from the candidates, Jorge Ramos said at the end of the forum.