HOUSTON — Just 11 days after the last Republican presidential debate in Greenville, S.C., White House hopefuls Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio took the stage Thursday inside Moores Opera House at the University of Houston.
In a last-minute effort to rally potential voters before the Super Tuesday primaries, the candidates focused their attention on Latino issues—a fitting topic given that 43.8 percent of the city’s population is Hispanic, according to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau.
When the debate started off with illegal immigration, Rubio and Trump went head-to-head on the issue.
“Before we do anything with immigration, we are going to secure the border,” said Rubio, whose stance on immigration was offering a path for those already in the country to stay.
Trump criticized Rubio’s suggestion for self-deportation after securing the border. Trump’s stance on the issue is to forcibly deport undocumented immigrants.
“Self-deportation, as I really define it, and that’s the way I define it, is you’re going to get some to go, and the rest are going to go out,” Trump said.
Coming back in after the interruption, Rubio called Trump out on his business practices.
“You’re the only person on this stage who has been fined for hiring people illegally,” Rubio said.
The crowd cheered and that is when Cruz, who is against legalizing undocumented immigrants, answered concerns over the children of deported illegal immigrants.
In response, Trump mentioned Cruz’s lack of congressional support throughout his presidential bid.
“You don’t get along with anybody. You don’t have one Republican senator backing you, and you work with these people,” Trump said. “You should be ashamed of yourself.”
The next question was then aimed at Trump and centered around former Mexican President Vicente Fox’s refusal earlier today to pay for a wall to keep illegal immigrants out at the expense of the Mexican government.
“I will, and the wall just got ten feet taller.” Trump said.
The presidential candidate even offered to pay for it out of pocket, regardless of the trade consequences.
“Mexico will pay for the wall,” Trump said. “I don’t mind trade wars whenever we’re losing $58 billion a year.”
Kasich explained that it comes down to a question of economics.
“My view is we need economic growth,” Kasich said. “Everything starts with economic growth. And how do you get it? Common sense regulations, lower taxes for both business and individuals, and, of course, a fiscal plan that balances the budget.”
Past the question of economics, Kasich said immigration is a matter of opportunity and action.
“With me and the Hispanic community, I think they like me. And I appreciate that, because I want them to have the same opportunity that I and my children and my wife and the people we love have had in this country,” Kasich said. “It’s time to solve problems.”
Carson also emphasized security concerns in regards to immigration.
“We need to secure all the borders, because it’s not just people coming in from South America and Mexico, but there are terrorists who want to destroy us, who are getting across our borders fairly easily.” Carson said.
The debate came to a close well after two hours but near the end of that time, candidates were asked to make closing statements. Up first was Carson who focused his statement around a rhetoric of faith transcending onto his candidacy.
“These hands by the grace of God have saved many lives and many families,” Carson said as a reason why he is to be trusted with the Republican nomination.
Kasich mentioned that he hopes that constituents will consider his foreign policy views and take that into account when deciding if he is qualified in such matters.
Trump drew emphasis on his promise of proactivity should he get elected.
“Nobody knows politicians better than I do. They are all talk and no action,” Trump said. “I will get it done and we will make America great again.”
Though the debate was a last attempt to get voters on each candidate’s side, only the results from Tuesday’s primary will tell who really won the debate last night.
The next Republican debate will be next Thursday in Detroit, Michigan and will be hosted by Fox News.