As required for all stumping politicos, Joe Biden stopped in Miami yesterday for
his Cuban coffee fix a meet-and-greet with Latinx voters. During an afternoon event in Little Havana at Ball & Chain, he did the requisite show of shaking hands and kissing babies. In a short speech, he spoke directly to the Magic City's immigrant population. "The reason we are who we are is all of you," Biden, dressed in shirtsleeves, told them.
"All of you have come from places where it took courage to leave."
But the former vice president's speech didn't satisfy local immigration activists who worry about his record of deportations during the Obama administration. After the presidential frontrunner finished speaking, activist Gerry Doherty waited to ask Biden if he had any regrets about that, Doherty tells New Times. As the former VP finished taking selfies and doing crowd work, Doherty saw his opportunity slipping away. So he shouted out the question that had been weighing on his mind: "Mr. Vice President, three million people were deported by your administration. Why were you trying to deport people to curry favor with John Boehner and Mitch McConnell?"
Biden, as seen in a video clip, walked away.
After the Joe Biden campaign kicked several immigration activists out of their event in Miami, one managed to hold Biden accountable and ask him about his record of 3 million deportations. He turned away and quickly exited the venue. We will always protect our community. pic.twitter.com/NCPSmw3FPi— Thomas Kennedy (@tomaskenn) September 15, 2019
It wasn't the first time Biden was confronted with the statistic in recent days. During Thursday's Democratic debate in Houston, moderator Jorge Ramos bluntly asked, "Why should Latinos trust you?" Biden gave what many observers viewed as an evasive answer.
"What Latinos should look at is, comparing this president to the president we have is outrageous," he responded.
Despite Biden's steady poll numbers, immigration remains a major sticking point for his campaign. Challengers including Julián Castro and Cory Booker have called out the former vice president for failing to take responsibility or apologize for his role in removing millions of people from the United States.
"I have learned the lessons of the past. It seems like Vice President Biden hasn't," Castro told reporters in July.
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Doherty, a member of Miami's Democratic Socialists of America, tells New Times he was disappointed Biden spoke in platitudes in Little Havana instead of using the opportunity to lay out his policy plans when it comes to immigration.
"He talked about restoring American credibility; he talked about asylum for countries in desperate situations," Doherty says. "You basically have to have total amnesia about what [the Obama] administration's record is on migration and immigration to believe anything he was saying."
Tomas Kennedy, another local activist who attended Sunday's event, says he worries about the implications of a Biden presidency for undocumented immigrants in Miami and elsewhere.
"As an immigrant that spent the majority of the Obama administration undocumented, I felt scared back then," Kennedy tells New Times. "Obviously, stuff is worse now, but what a lot of us want to know is, do you regret doing what you did during the Obama administration, and how can you move past that? I don't think he's done a good job answering those questions. He needs to come up with real answers to what they did when they were in power."