Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said she would issue an executive order to "reinstate" DACA protections for eligible persons and defer deportation for their parents and for veterans. She added that she would stop the practices of detaining immigrant children in cages and end private detention facilities.
Biden said he would unite immigrant families and send "billions of dollars worth of help to the region immediately," regarding the surge of women and child migrants to the U.S.-Mexico border.
When pressed on the deportation of "over 3 million Americans" by the Obama administration, Biden said those with "major" criminal records, but not ordinary undocumented immigrants, should be deported. He added that "we should not be locking people up", rather harboring asylum seekers until their hearing, and should address the root causes of migration.
Sanders said that the next president should "rescind every damn thing on this issue that Trump has done" and that the "root causes" of migration should be examined.
Almost all candidates supported decriminalizing border crossings without documentation, making it a civil offense.
South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg said this criminalization, as opposed to civil penalties, leads to practices such as the separation of families at the border. He used that issue to condemn what he called the religious hypocrisy of the Republican Party.
"The Republican Party likes to cloak itself in the language of religion," he said, noting that Democrats have staked out a different position because they "are committed to the separation of Church and state" and support everyone whether religious believers or not.
"We should call out hypocrisy when we see it, and for a party that associates itself with Christianity," he said, "to suggest that God would smile on the division of families at the hands of federal agents, to suggest that God would condone putting children in cages, has lost all claim to ever use religious language again."
On the topic of race relations, Harris attacked Sen. Joe Biden's (D-Del.) previous opposition to federally-mandated busing in school districts in the 1970s, as part of desegregation.
Harris interjected and said that the issue of race is not discussed enough "truthfully or honestly."
"I do not believe you are a racist," she said turning to Biden, but added that it was "hurtful" to hear him talk about working with segregationists and noted his opposition to federal busing for desegregation.
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Biden retorted that her comments were a "mischaracterization" of his position, saying, "I did not praise racists" and "I did not oppose busing in America." He said that he supported "breaking down these lines" on race and that he "ran [for Senate] because of civil rights," and that civil rights – including the rights of the "LGBT community" – need to be protected today.
Harris, however, said that federal intervention on busing was required because states were obstructing civil rights. "That's where the federal government must step in," she said, advocating for the need to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and pass the Equality Act.