News / USA

    US Republican Candidates Tangle Over Immigration During Debate

    Republican presidential candidates Sen. Rand Paul, Gov. Chris Christie, Dr. Ben Carson, Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Marco Rubio, former Gov. Jeb Bush and Gov. John Kasich stand onstage at the start of the Republican presidential debate in Des Moines, Iowa Jan. 28
    Republican presidential candidates Sen. Rand Paul, Gov. Chris Christie, Dr. Ben Carson, Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Marco Rubio, former Gov. Jeb Bush and Gov. John Kasich stand onstage at the start of the Republican presidential debate in Des Moines, Iowa Jan. 28
    VOA News

    Republican presidential candidates on Thursday held their last debates before Monday's Iowa caucuses — the first event in which voters actually make their choices for their parties' next presidential nominees.

    Most of the candidates quickly addressed FOX News moderator Megyn Kelly’s request to address “the elephant not in the room” Thursday night: that front-runner Donald Trump was not participating in the debate.

    "I'm a maniac and everyone on this stage is stupid, fat and ugly, and Ben, you're a terrible surgeon," Texas Senator Ted Cruz said to rival Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, saying that he had now "gotten the Donald Trump portion of the program out of the way."

    Florida Senator Marco Rubio said while the billionaire candidate is entertaining, Trump is not what the campaign is about. And former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who has often been the target of Trump’s barbs, joked that he missed having the real estate mogul on the stage.

    WATCH: Talking about the 'elephant not in the room'

    Republican Candidates on the 'Elephant Not in the Room'i
    X
    January 29, 2016 6:03 AM
    The last GOP presidential debate before the Feb. 1 Iowa Caucuses kicked off with a few jabs at the candidate who chose not to participate: real estate mogul Donald Trump

    ​But the rest of the candidates avoided mentioning Trump and quickly moved on to establish their credentials as president.

    Because of the large number of candidates — 11 — host FOX News split the debates in Des Moines, Iowa, between the seven candidates leading polls and the four bringing up the rear.

    Immigration issue

    In the most heated exchanges of the night, moderator Kelly, using video clips of candidates’ previous statements, questioned several candidates regarding their seeming flip-flops on the immigration issue.

    Rubio campaigned for the Senate in 2010 on a tough immigration stance, saying he would never support blanket amnesty. He later became part of a bipartisan group of senators called the “gang of eight,” who crafted a comprehensive immigration bill in 2013 that contained a pathway to citizenship. The bill passed in the Senate but failed in the House of Representatives.

    In a testy exchange with Kelly, Rubio denied he had changed his position on immigration, easily one of the most contentious issues for the Republicans. “What I’ve always said is this issue needs to be solved,” he said.

    Chris Christie makes a point as Rand Paul listens during a Republican presidential primary debate in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 28, 2016.
    Chris Christie makes a point as Rand Paul listens during a Republican presidential primary debate in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 28, 2016.

    He said while he’s not for deporting the millions of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. -- as Trump has suggested he would do -- “we’re not for handing out citizenship either.”

    Bush attacked Rubio, saying the senator had sought his support as governor on legislation that would allow a pathway to citizenship. But "then he cut and run because it wasn't popular with conservatives," he chided.

    Rubio fired back, saying Bush "used to support" a path to citizenship.

    The former governor responded: "So did you, Marco."

    Attacks on Cruz

    Cruz also had to answer video clips that showed him saying he would support immigration reform legislation, if some of the amendments he had offered were approved.

    He denied he had changed his stance, saying his amendments were not to fix all of the legislation's problems but to ensure undocumented immigrants in the U.S. couldn't gain legal status.

    Cruz's reply brought attacks from both Paul and Rubio. They accused Cruz of claiming to be the only "true" conservative on the immigration issue, while Cruz accused Rubio of changing his stance on immigration to appeal to donors.

    Fox, which partnered with Google for Thursday's debate, used questions from various Americans throughout the debate.

    One such question came from Dulce Candy, an Iraq war veteran who was brought to this country from Mexico as a child.

    Audience members listen to the Republican presidential primary debate in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 28, 2016.
    Audience members listen to the Republican presidential primary debate in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 28, 2016.

    Appearing via YouTube, Candy asked how immigrants should feel welcome in the United States, given the harsh rhetoric regarding immigrants and refugees by the party's candidates during the past few months.

    Bush responded, saying Candy "deserves our respect," while Rubio, again calling for reforming the immigration system, told her, "we will always celebrate legal immigration."

    WATCH: Candidates on national security:

    GOP Presidential Hopefuls Debate National Securityi
    X
    January 29, 2016 5:56 AM
    Days before the first Iowans hold the first selection contest of the 2016 presidential campaign, the front-running Republican candidates (minus Donald Trump) appeared at a debate Des Moines, Iowa, where national security was a top issue.

    National security

    Google said its searches reflecting the question “Is America safe?” have increased 400 percent since 2008, leading to questions posed about national security.

    Rubio and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul had a heated exchange over how far the government can go in anticipating domestic terrorism.

    Rubio, warning the U.S. faces an unprecedented threat from the Islamic State group, said he would go after terrorists "wherever they are" and if caught, "we're sending them to Guantanamo," referring to the detention center for prisoners in Cuba.

    He has called for shutting down mosques, which he said are being used to radicalize terrorists.

    From left, FOX News debate moderators Chris Wallace, Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier wait for the start of the Republican presidential primary debate in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 28, 2016.
    From left, FOX News debate moderators Chris Wallace, Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier wait for the start of the Republican presidential primary debate in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 28, 2016.

    Paul called Rubio’s plan a “wrong idea. ... If you want to defend the country, it begins with border security."

    A Libertarian, Paul has been one of the most vocal opponents of the National Security Agency's bulk data phone collection program.

    'Undercard' debate

    At the earlier debate Thursday, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum criticized Fox and other media outlets for not publicizing the so-called "undercard" debate. He accused the media of taking Iowa voters out of the political process.

    Former business executive Carly Fiorina said she was ignoring the media and putting her faith in Iowans to decide what issues are truly important.

    Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee complained that hardworking Americans were not getting what he called a "fair shake" in the economy, and he repeated his determination to outlaw abortion.

    Former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore said he was the only military veteran running for president. He said veterans would be treated with respect by the Department of Veterans Affairs when he is president.

    From left, Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz answers a question as Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush listen during a primary debate in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 28, 2016.
    From left, Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz answers a question as Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush listen during a primary debate in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 28, 2016.

    But Thursday's spotlight was stolen by the Republicans' leading contender, billionaire real estate mogul Trump. He refused to take part in the debate because of what he alleged was poor treatment by Fox News.

    Fox said the flamboyant Trump, a political novice who has surged to the top of political surveys of Republican voters, was welcome at the debate and would be treated fairly. But the network refused to replace moderator Kelly, who angered Trump at an August debate by asking him about slurs he has made over the years about women.

    On Thursday, he held firm in his refusal to debate, tweeting, "The 'debate' tonight will be a total disaster — low ratings with advertisers and advertising rates dropping like a rock. I hate to see this."

    However, a Fox News spokesperson rejected Trump's statement Thursday, saying: "The debate is completely sold out. No rates have changed and there are no advertisers who have backed out."

    Still, Trump was by far the most-searched-for candidate on Google during the first half of the main debate, according to Google Trends data.

    Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina and Mike Huckabee talk after a Republican presidential primary debate in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 28, 2016.
    Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina and Mike Huckabee talk after a Republican presidential primary debate in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 28, 2016.

    At one point, searches on his name outpaced -- by nearly 4-to-1 -- the second-most-searched-for candidate, Rubio.

    Trump rally

    Trump held a separate event at Drake University for U.S. veterans that coincided with the GOP debate. He said he decided not to appear “out of respect for myself. ... I wanted to be at the debate tonight, but you have to stick up for what’s right."

    He told the crowd gathered at his rally: "When you're treated badly, you have to stick up for your rights," adding that "we have to stick up for our country if we're being mistreated."

    Trump said his foundation already has raised $5 million for America’s vets. He said he's putting up $1 million of his own money, and that many of his wealthy friends are giving large contributions as well.

    Huckabee and Santorum showed up at the Trump event. Each was invited by Trump to speak briefly.

    Ken Bredemeier, Ken Schwarz and Mia Bush contributed to this report.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 6
        Next 
    by: Angie
    February 01, 2016 11:30 PM
    Is it just me or does Hillary clinton " fighting for us" sound like Gollum? Im really surprised no one picked up on that.

    by: SuperWittySmitty from: NYC
    January 29, 2016 2:37 AM
    Without the noisy flash of Trump's presence, it quickly becomes apparent what an uninspired bunch the GOP has come up with. You can tell they're all trying too hard to share his spotlight, even as they show awareness of the dangers of flying too close to the sun. As a result, there's a real lack of confidence being shown.

    At least I know where Clinton and Sanders are going. They are two lively and engaging leaders who have demonstrated real enthusiasm and real capability for the job. I like Sanders and I admire the resiliency of Clinton (among other qualities.) In spite of years of effort, she has transcended the muckraking of the right-wing, letting the Republicans root around in the world of sleazy corruption as they desperately try to find a real scandal to pin of Clinton or Obama that will have any real substance.

    by: karen joo from: United States
    January 29, 2016 1:24 AM
    I really liked hearing Rand Paul. He is a very smart man. Rand Paul 2016 !!!!!!

    by: Kafantaris from: Warren, Ohio
    January 29, 2016 1:24 AM
    Roger Ailes called it right: Trump's debate boycott will be his undoing. The GOP should thank Roger -- and now, not later.

    by: joel
    January 29, 2016 12:08 AM
    I think Trump is a whimp for his no show in the debate. It was just a way to not in dure the abusive questions and rebuttal from the other candidates on stage. Sorry Mr Trump you loose my vote.....

    by: Gaylon Ricketts
    January 28, 2016 11:26 PM
    I think that the questions are not evenly distributed. We want to hear equally from all the candidates. Ben Carson is very intelligent and has great answers when he occasionally gets a question. I'm very disappointed in Fox News!

    by: Sonja fincher
    January 28, 2016 11:24 PM
    Christy
    Carson
    And kasich
    The only three important men on the stage besides trump
    The rest can go home and save their money

    by: ShotgunShell from: Tucson, AZ
    January 28, 2016 11:18 PM
    Finally, a real debate. Trump was never my man, but I hope people will open their eyes now about him.

    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    January 28, 2016 11:13 PM
    Ted Cruz is probably not qualified to be President. His mother was born in the US but was in Canada at the time he was born and was on their list of registered voters. You'd have to be a Canadian citizen for that. There was no dual citizenship in those days. This should be investigated and Trump suggested it in the last debate. If it turns out Cruz is actually an illegal alien, he should be deported back to Canada where he came from.

    by: Mark Gazette
    January 28, 2016 11:07 PM
    Great debate without the Trump distraction. Time for a real vote for the real candidates.
    Comments page of 6
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