If Maria Elena Hernandez could vote, she would back Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland.
“There are two things I really liked that he said: that he would build less jails and more schools for everyone,” said the Mexican woman, who has lived in the country for the past 16 years. “That sounds to me like less criminals and more young people with college degrees.”
That’s important to Hernandez, a Canoga Park resident and mother of three. All are DREAMers, children who were brought to the country when young and who meet the general requirements of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. One is a student at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) and the others attend Pierce Community College.
“We need to understand that our country has been made stronger in every generation by immigrants,” O’Malley said, during the Democratic Presidential Candidates debate in Las Vegas. O’Malley shared the stage with other top contenders including former Secretary of State and New York Senator Hillary Clinton, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, and lesser known candidates like former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, and former Rhode Island Governor and Senator Lincoln Chafee.
Hernandez joined several other people who watched the Oct. 13 debate at the offices of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA).
An undocumented immigrant who works cleaning houses, Hernandez was disappointed in all candidates because little was said about the most important subject for her and her family: immigration.
“I expected more about immigration. They all said they would support the President’s Executive Action, and that’s great so that they don’t take it away. But that’s not the solution, and it’s not what I expected,” she said.
President Obama’s Executive Action on immigration, which includes an expansion of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and DAPA (Deferred Action for Parental Accountability), was stopped from taking effect after 26 states filed a lawsuit against the federal government claiming the President was in fact changing immigration laws, something that only Congress can do.
Those measures, which would have benefited nearly five million undocumented immigrants, remains mired in a legal battle and no one knows when it will be resolved.
Hernandez waited to hear one candidate pledging for full immigration reform.
“I was waiting for Bernie Sanders to offer that, but he didn’t say anything to help the 11 million (undocumented immigrants) here,” she said.
When questioned on the issue, Sanders was forced to explain why he opposed the attempt at immigration reform in 2007.
He said he rejected President George W. Bush’s immigration overhaul that year because of its provisions regarding guest workers. He explained that guest workers are “working under terrible conditions, but if they stand up for their rights, they’re thrown out of the country.”
Hernandez was also unimpressed with Clinton’s performance.
“I had heard good things about her, but she spoke about things that had already been done, expanding things from Obama. I expected more from her,” Hernandez said.
Still, it was better than what she heard in the Republican debates, she said.
“It’s better here with the Democrats. Over there, (Republicans) definitely were saying that they were going to take everything away, including DACA,” Hernandez said.
That sentiment was shared by Carolina Moran, also from Canoga Park, who watched the Democratic debate at CHIRLA. Moran has lived in this country for 11 years and has five children, one of them born in the USA.
Moran recently walked 100 miles with other women from Pennsylvania to Washington D.C. to see the Pope during his visit there, and ask him to help with the immigration issue.
“The one I liked the most was O’Malley because he at least mentioned comprehensive immigration reform. The others sort of evaded that answer,” Moran said. “Clinton spoke more about what Obama has done, but she didn’t really say what she would offer.”
Clinton did say undocumented immigrants should be able to receive in-state college tuition if the states allow it.
And all the candidates seemed to favor allowing undocumented immigrants access to Obamacare, something they’re currently prohibited from receiving.