Democrats unite at debate in endorsing health care to undocumented immigrants

Christopher Wilson
Senior Writer

All 10 candidates on Thursday night’s Democratic debate stage said their health care plans would provide coverage for people in the country illegally, a show of unity on what had been a contentious night between the candidates.

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden were given the opportunity to elaborate.

“Our country is healthier when everybody is healthier,” said Buttigieg. “We’re talking about something people are given the opportunity to buy into in the same way that there are undocumented immigrants in my community who pay. They pay sales taxes, they pay property taxes directly or indirectly. This is not about a handout, this is an insurance program and we do ourselves no favors by having 11 million undocumented people in our country be unable to access health care.”

Buttigieg then criticized the current immigration legislation and said there needs to be a path for citizenship for people in the country illegally.

Moderator Savannah Guthrie then turned to Biden and asked why he had not raised his hand. Biden explained that he had, and then elaborated.

“You cannot let as [Buttigieg] said, you cannot let people who are sick, no matter where they come from, no matter what their status, go uncovered, you can’t do that,” said Biden. “it’s just got to be taken care of, period. You have to, it’s the humane thing to do.”

From left, presidential hopefuls Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

“But here’s the deal, the deal is [Buttigieg’s] right about three things,” added Biden. “Number one, they in fact contribute to the well-being of the country but they in fact increase the lifespan of Social Security because they have a job, they’re paying a Social Security tax. That’s what they’re doing, it’s increased the lifespan. They would do the same thing for reducing the overall cost of health care by them being able to be treated and not wait.”

Biden also suggested that insurance executives could be prosecuted for their misleading representation of opioids.

President Trump’s Twitter account — perhaps not the president directly, as he is in meetings at the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan — promptly criticized the position.

“All Democrats just raised their hands for giving millions of illegal aliens unlimited healthcare. How about taking care of American Citizens first!? That’s the end of that race!” he exclaimed.

Although Trump’s tweet Thursday night declared that the 2020 race was over, his own stance on health care once drew widespread backlash: The Trump-backed Obamacare repeal plan in 2017 was found to have knocked millions of Americans off their health care. One MIT professor found it to be the least popular legislation in three decades.

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