AUSTIN, Texas — On Saturday, it was a packed house at the AFL-CIO COPE Convention as six of the 12 U.S. Senate candidates made the case why they should be the next U.S. senator to represent Texas.
In attendance were Chris Bell, Amanda Edwards, MJ Hegar, Sema Hernandez, Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez and Royce West.
During the debate, they spoke about a variety of topics, including education, healthcare and immigration.
One topic that got a little heated was immigration. When asked how they plan to fix our immigration policy, all six agreed there should be a better path to citizenship for immigrants who live in the U.S.
Activist Hernandez, a daughter of immigrants, went further, saying the government needs to put a stop to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
"What I would do is end the immigration policies we have right now," Hernandez said. "We need to abolish the ICE agency that was created by Homeland Security in 2003 and insulate the immigration process."
West, a current Democratic Texas state senator, said the border wall needs to go.
"Yes we need to make sure there is border security, but we don't need a wall," West said. "We need to make sure we have the necessary technology to protect our people."
Hegar, who served in the military, agreed.
"We need to protect Dreamers. We need to secure our border without building a wall," Hegar said. "That is a child's answer to what we are looking at, and it belongs in China and Berlin but not in Texas."
The topic of immigration got a little heated when Hegar and Hernandez accused Bell of "mansplaining."
"I stepped up to liberate someone detained by ICE [and] coerced to give away his citizenship," Hernandez said. "I didn't see any of you doing that, especially you, Chris Bell."
"Having served in Congress, I have found having a sense of humor was a very valuable asset," Bell said.
"People in detention centers is not something you can make fun of," Hernandez said.
The group was asked their plan to get more health care for the people of Texas. Ramirez said every American should have quality healthcare.
"We have not created only the most expensive health care system in the world, but one with some of the worst health care outcomes of any industrialization," Ramirez said. "I support Medicare for all but I also know my brothers and sisters have negotiated for some of the best healthcare."
Bell, a former U.S. representative, said he supports access to Medicare for all but his plan looks a little different. He said he wouldn't want to take away private policies.
"We would create a public option so people can opt-out or buy-in before they reach the age of 65," Bell said. "I think that is the only way to get private insurance companies to play fairly."
The group was asked if they were willing to put a stop to the spread of charter schools. Houston Councilmember Edwards said lawmakers need to focus on public schools and sure they are being adequately funded.
"In our school systems we see what it means when a child doesn't have access to a third-grade level education or reading level," Edwards said. "That is where that school-to-prison pipeline begins."
She added, "We have to make sure we are prioritizing our public schools with teachers and support services."
The deadline to register to vote in the primaries is Feb. 3. Whoever wins the primary will run against U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in November.
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