6 Moments That Could Only Have Happened At the Univision Debate

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The eighth Democratic debate, hosted by Univision and the Washington Post at Miami-Dade college in Miami, aired on Wednesday night, marking one of the last opportunities for candidates to make their case to Latinos before the Florida primary. Airing in Spanish on Univision, along with simulcasts in English on CNN and Fusion’s YouTube channel, the evening was peppered with moments that are difficult to imagine at any other hosted debate in the campaign: Moderators who speak in Spanish, a National Anthem performed by a young man dressed in a charro suit, and some of the most pointed audience questions about immigration policy to date.

Though the intention was to underscore that Latino culture is part of American life, it unsurprisingly stoked xenophobic, nativist sentiment from some:

Reports about the potential impact of the Latino electorate have been a hallmark of this campaign season, but out of eight debates, only one catered specifically to Spanish speakers (even though the United States has more Spanish speakers than Spain.) In fact, a 2015 Instituto Cervantes study found that at 41 million Spanish speakers, the United States is second only to Mexico in number of Spanish speakers in the world, according to The Guardian. The U.S.’ Spanish-speaking population will reportedly increase to 138 million by 2050.

Because of this change in format, the debate had a slightly different feel to it, with questions more closely focusing on immigration, Cuba, and student loans. Here is what went down on Wednesday’s debate:


Sebastien sang the national anthem in his charro suit

15-year-old Sebastien de la Cruz sang the national anthem in his charro suit. Sebastien first made headlines during the 2013 NBA Finals when haters called the San Antonio-born young man hateful names because he sang the anthem in a charro suit.

“For those that said something bad about me, I understand it’s your opinion,” he said in 2013, according to Raw Story. “I’m a proud American and live in a free country. It’s not hurting me. It’s just your opinion.”

This time around, people still found it offensive that he wore a charro suit to perform the national anthem. (Maybe they should check out Eva Longoria’s inspiring 2015 short doc, ¡Go Sebastien Go!.) Funny how the people who take offense at this seem to take no issue with dressing up as “Mexicans” come Halloween…


Hillary Clinton tries some Spanglish.

WaPo moderator Karen Tumulty asked Clinton whether she thought Donald Trump was a racist. “I’m going to follow my friend Senator Sanders’ model here,” she said, according to Bustle. “If I’m fortunate enough to be the Democratic nominee, there will be a lot of time to talk about [Trump]. I was the first one to call him out, I called him out when he was calling Mexicans rapists, when he was engaging in rhetoric that I found deeply offensive. I said, ‘¡Basta!'”

Google noted a 2,550% search increase for basta, but it didn’t go over too well.

In July, Hillary Clinton also used the word basta, according to MSNBC.


Maria Elena Salinas asks Hillary if she's Hispandering

Salinas asked Clinton about her plans to expand President Barack Obama’s executive action, given her track record (i.e. going on John Gambling’s radio show and speaking out against undocumented immigrants.) “So, are you flip-flopping on this issue?” Salinas asked. “Or are you pandering to Latinos, what some would call Hispandering?”

Clinton replied, “In 2003, I sponsored the [DREAM] Act. I sponsored I think in every Congress after that. I have been consistent and committed to comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. I think our best chance was in 2007, when Ted Kennedy led the charge on comprehensive immigration reform… Just think, imagine where we would be today is we had achieved comprehensive immigration reform nine years ago. Imagine how much more secure families would be in our country, no longer fearing the deportation of a loved one; no longer fearing that they would be found out.”


Guatemalan immigrant Lucia Quiej asks a heartbreaking question.

Univision is not known for being the most inclusive network. Just like other mainstream channels, the network favors people with lighter skintones. The debate was a chance to see some people who rarely have a platform. Like Guatemalan immigrant Lucia Quiej, who shared her deeply personal and heartbreaking story.

Her husband – a hardworking man – was deported for driving without a license. She and her children haven’t seen in him in three years, so she asked the candidates what they would do to reunite families.

Sanders said, “Well, I absolutely support that. At the heart of my immigration policy and I should say that the New York Times editorial board called my immigration policy the most progressive and the strongest of any candidate running. But to answer your question, the essence of what we are trying to do is unite families, not to divide families.”

Clinton replied, “You are doing your very best to support your children. But it is time to bring families together. And I don’t think there’s any doubt that we must do more to let stories like yours be heard more widely so that more Americans know what the human cost of these policies are. And I will do everything I can to prevent other families from facing what you are facing. And I will do everything I can to pass laws that would bring families back together.”

As Hillary and Bernie answered her question, a reporter live translated their responses in her ear.


Will you be the next deporter-in-chief?

Jorge Ramos said Obama – current holder of the deporter-in-chief title – has deported more than 2.5 million immigrants. Ramos wanted Clinton and Sanders to pledge they would not deport children or undocumented immigrants who don’t have a criminal record.

Ramos pushed Clinton, who wouldn’t give him a clear answer before about asylum.

She said, “I will not deport children. I would not deport children. I do not want to deport family members either, Jorge. I want to, as I said, prioritize who would be deported: violent criminals, people planning terrorist attacks, anybody who threatens us. That’s a relatively small universe.”

Clinton still wouldn’t say that she would grant Central American refugees asylum, something Sanders pounced on.

“Let me just say this,” he said. “I don’t think that the secretary fully answered your question, and I think the proof may be in the pudding. Honduras and that region of the world may be the most violent region in our hemisphere. Gang lords, vicious people torturing people, doing horrible things to families. Children fled that part of the world to try, try, try, try, maybe, to meet up with their family members in this country, taking a route that was horrific, trying to start a new life.”



Lalo Alcaraz had his own sets of questions.

A lot of the best stuff happens on Twitter during debates, aka the alternate debate. Lalo Alcaraz won during Wednesday’s debate.


Anderson Cooper apologized for all the Miaminess.

During the post-debate analysis, Anderson Cooper apologized for the cheering crowd. “I just want to acknowledge to our viewers what’s going on,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who have been in the audience, who have gone up to the stage and they’re yelling for Bernie, some are yelling for Hillary Clinton. That’s the noise you’re hearing so we apologize for any conflict if you’re hearing it, hard to hear.”