CNN Democratic debate night 2

By Veronica Rocha, Meg Wagner, Amanda Wills and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 11:59 PM ET, Wed July 31, 2019
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9:20 p.m. ET, July 31, 2019

A few hours before their tense exchange, Biden and Castro had a warm moment

From CNN's Keith Allen

The two exchanged sharp words over immigration on stage tonight, but just a few hours earlier Joe Biden and Julian Castro shared a warm moment outside the Fox Theater.

Their paths crossed at the stage door as Biden arrived for the walkthrough just as Castro was leaving.

The former vice president smiled when he saw his former Obama administration colleague, walked toward him and extended his hand. They shook hands, hugged and chatted briefly out of earshot.

9:13 p.m. ET, July 31, 2019

Protesters chanting "3 million deportations" interrupt Biden

Mark Peterson/Redux for CNN
Mark Peterson/Redux for CNN

Protesters began chanting in the debate hall after Vice President Joe Biden was asked about deportations under the Obama administration.

"Vice President Biden, in the first two years of the Obama administration, nearly 800,000 immigrants were deported — far more than President Trump's during the first two years. Would the higher deportation numbers resume if you were president?" CNN's Don Lemon asked.

"Absolutely not," Biden said.

That's when two women shouting “3 million deportations” — on each side of the hall —interrupted Biden. 

9:13 p.m. ET, July 31, 2019

Jay Inslee: "We can no longer allow a white nationalist to be in the White House"

CNN
CNN

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, in discussing his stance on immigration, blasted President Trump, calling him a "white nationalist."

"I think we're missing two central statements we should to we can no longer allow a white nationalist to be in the White House, number one," he said.

Inslee then described all the ways he's stood up to Trump on immigration.

"And number two — number two, we have to make America what it's always been, a place of refuge. We got to boost the number of people we accept. I'm proud to have been the first governor, saying send us your Syrian refugees. I proud to have the first governor to stand up against Donald Trump's Muslim ban. I'm proud to have sued him 21 times and beat him 21 times in a row. I'm ready for November 2020."

Watch the moment:

9:10 p.m. ET, July 31, 2019

Castro to Biden: "It looks like one of us has learned from the lessons of the past"

Julián Castro criticized Joe Biden's position on border crossings.

After Biden said that illegally crossing the border should remain a crime, Castro responded with this:

"It looks like one of us has learned from the lessons of the past and one of us hasn't."

Some background on the law: Right now anyone who crosses the border illegally can be charged with a misdemeanor.

Part of the Immigration and Nationality Act, known as Section 1325, says illegally entering the United States can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor. It's punishable by up to six months in prison. And it's become one of the most prosecuted federal crimes in the United States.

But it's a divisive issue. Castro and others who argue that Section 1325 should be repealed say that it isn't necessary given that crossing the border illegally is already a civil offense that can result in deportation. 

Critics, like Biden, say changing the law could incentivize more illegal immigration.

Watch the moment:

9:14 p.m. ET, July 31, 2019

Julián Castro stands by his plan to decriminalize the border

From CNN's Elise Hammond

Paul Sancya/AP
Paul Sancya/AP

Former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julián Castro said he wants to decriminalize illegal immigration.

He said during the debate Wednesday that the only way to "be smarter, more effective and more humane when it comes to immigration policy" is to repeal part of the Immigration Nationality Act.

He said:

"The only way that we're going to guarantee that we don't have family separations in this country again is to repeal section 1325 of the Immigration Nationality Act. That's the law that this President, this administration, is using to incarcerate migrant parents and physically separate them from their children."

He continued saying there should be a plan to aid countries like Honduras and Guatemala to "get to the root of this challenge so people can find safety and opportunity at home instead of having to come to the United States."

Castro was one of the first candidates to unveil an immigration plan.

9:07 p.m. ET, July 31, 2019

Michael Bennet's mother was separated from her parents during the Holocaust

Paul Sancya/AP
Paul Sancya/AP

The issue of immigration is particularly personal for Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet.

His mother was an immigrant and she was separated from her parents during the Holocaust in Poland, he said.

"For those reasons, I was part of the gang of eight that wrote — I wrote the immigration bill in 2013 with John McCain that passed the Senate with 68 votes that gave a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people that are here," he said.

He went on to blast President Trump's policies on immigration:

"I think this is one in the end that we agree with. There's not a single person on this stage if were president would ever separate a child from their parents at the border. And that is what this administration has done in the American people's name, they have turned our border into a symbol of hostility, the symbol of this country before Donald Trump was president was the Statue of Liberty. That should be the symbol of the United States of America, not Donald Trump's terrible war." 
9:03 p.m. ET, July 31, 2019

Biden says criticism of Obamacare is "a bunch of malarkey"

Paul Sancya/AP
Paul Sancya/AP

Former Vice President Joe Biden called criticism of Obamacare "a bunch of malarkey."

"No one has to keep their private insurance," he said. "They can buy into this plan and they can buy into it with $1,000 deductible and never have to pay more than 8.5% of their income when they do it and if they don't have any money, they will get in free.

"So this idea is a bunch of malarkey that we'e talking about here. The fact of the matter is, there will be a deductible on their paycheck."

This isn't the first time Biden has said "malarkey" on a debate stage. The exclamation went viral when he used it back in 2012, when he used it against then-Rep. Paul Ryan in the vice presidential debate.

Watch the moment:

8:59 p.m. ET, July 31, 2019

What you need to know about the laws against crossing the border

From CNN's Catherine E. Shoichet

The Democratic candidates are now debating decriminalizing crossing the border.

Some background on the law: Right now anyone who crosses the border illegally can be charged with a misdemeanor.

Part of the Immigration and Nationality Act, known as Section 1325, says illegally entering the United States can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor. It's punishable by up to six months in prison. And it's become one of the most prosecuted federal crimes in the United States.

Section 1325 has been on the books for decades. But for many years it wasn't often enforced. That notably changed in 2005, when President George W. Bush's administration implemented what was known as "Operation Streamline," increasing criminal prosecutions at the border in an effort to deter illegal immigration. 

According to an analysis from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, federal prosecutors charged more than 52,000 people with illegal entry under Section 1325 in the first eight months of the 2019 fiscal year, which began in October.    

Supporters say that provision of the law isn't necessary and was used to separate families. Castro and others who argue that Section 1325 should be repealed -- including Sen. Elizabeth Warren and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg -- say that it isn't necessary given that crossing the border illegally is already a civil offense that can result in deportation. 

They also argue that Section 1325 made many of the Trump administration's family separations at the border possible. Under the "zero tolerance" policy, children were separated when their parents were criminally prosecuted for illegally crossing the border.

9:01 p.m. ET, July 31, 2019

Biden is bringing it tonight (so far)

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Tonight in Detroit, Joe Biden is bringing it.

The former vice president, who has more high-profile experience on debate stages than most of his rivals combined, turned in a lackluster performance at the first debate in Miami last month. So far tonight, it’s like he’s a new man.

He’s speaking faster, with an energy and fire that was absent during his first debate. He aggressively defended his health care plan, surrendering little ground in several heated exchanges. 

Even an old standby line -- “this is a bunch of malarkey” -- came out with swagger.

To be sure, the bar was incredibly low after the Miami debate. But his performance so far tonight shows a command that has eluded him for much of the summer.

His challenge, of course, is sustaining this and proving that he’s a front-runner, not simply a placeholder at the front of the pack.