After watching the second presidential debate on Sunday, I realized I had learned nothing new from 90 minutes of staring at the television.
What was billed as a watershed political event quickly became a rehash of old arguments fueled by tired accusations and familiar insults. Despite the promises of a democratic town hall format, the questions seemed cherry-picked to trigger heated exchanges rather than actually challenging either candidate to explain policies or define positions.
While some viewers tuned in for spectacle, many wanted substance. Questions submitted online to the bipartisan site OpenDebateCoalition.com showed that people wanted to hear questions about guns, social security, government reform, student debt, and immigration reform. But all those serious topics went untouched.
One of the most burning questions haunting millions of viewers at home had to do with deportations and immigration policy. It’s an issue that’s been a centerpiece of Donald Trump’s blustery campaign for more than a year, but one he’s managed to avoid discussing in any detail during the first two presidential debates.
A 6-year-old could have done a better job getting the candidates to talk about immigration last night. In fact, one volunteered for the job. Sophie Cruz, a 6-year-old daughter of undocumented Mexican immigrants, submitted the question: “What happens to me if you deport my parents?”
Cruz’s question, submitted online to OpenDebateCoalition.com, received more than 37,000 votes, making it the 9th most popular suggested question for last night’s presidential debate. But the moderators ignored it.
Instead they asked Secretary Clinton about her paid speeches—a question that received only 13 votes on the website (so at least a dozen people could sleep a little better last night). We also got to hear more—without learning anything new—about deleting emails, destroying Isis and Trump on women.
There were lots of other issues that were also ignored. In fact, of the 3.6 million votes cast for 15,800 proposed questions, the top two were about gun control, another topic that went undiscussed last night. The whole debate was “an unfortunate example of cherrypicking by moderators to give their own questions the veneer of representing the public,” according to a statement sent to Fusion by the founders of the Open Debate website.
Immigration, however, is an unpardonable omission. It’s an issue that has defined the election. The debates are literally the only times in the entire campaign that Trump hasn’t been talking about immigration or deportations.
Sophie’s question represents a serious concern for thousands of kids in this country. Trump and Clinton have talked about deportations, but never addressed how those policies would affect the rest of the family. What do the candidates have to say about dividing families, and what do they tell the children who are left behind?
There are at least 5,500 kids who have been stuck in foster care situations in the U.S. because their parents were deported, according to a 2011 investigation by the think tank Race Forward. The number is likely much higher today. Some kids have even been put up for adoption because their parents were detained or deported. These are families that want to be together. These are families that deserve an answer.
The next debate will take place Oct. 19 in Nevada, a state where the Latinx vote could decide whether the state goes red or blue. Hopefully, someone will remember Sophie’s question and get an answer for the millions of people living in similar situations.