By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — Families, college students, community members and high school students gathered at the Arab American National Museum Annex, 13624 Michigan Ave., to watch and react to night one of the CNN Democratic presidential primary debate July 30 in Detroit.
The debate party, hosted by New American Leaders Action Fund, ACCESS, National Network for Arab American Communities and Emgage Michigan, brought immigrant American families from various countries who live in the metropolitan Detroit area together to watch the debate “in a climate marked by a rise in white supremacist violence, xenophobic rhetoric, the humanitarian crisis at the southern border, and unchecked voter suppression,” an event press release said.
Twenty Democratic primary presidential candidates debated each other over two nights, July 30 and 31 at the Fox Theatre on topics which included healthcare, immigration, gun violence, the economy, education and environmental crisis.
Arab Student Union-Fordson Vice President Abdullah Abouhashim, 17, with a family from Palestine said it is “amazing” to see that immigration is being focused on in a new light, and that it’s no longer a partisan issue.
“It’s not necessarily ‘Do we need to focus on this issue?’ it’s ‘How are we going to focus on this issue?’” he said. “Every single one of those people on the stage right now are saying we have an issue here and we have to solve this problem.
“It’s now coming to the point of how are we going to solve this problem and we’ve reached a great point in immigration right now in that dreamers are finally being accepted as a group of people that are recognized.”
As for the debate itself, Abouhashim said President Donald Trump changed presidential debates and the debate style now wasn’t present four years ago.
“It’s refreshing to see that we have candidates that — I mean, it’s not so great to see them fighting and attacking each other, it’s not what we want to see in politics today, but it seems to be what we are seeing and as a result I think politicians are on their toes a lot more and careful with what they’re saying,” he said. “They’re also being more aggressive.”
ASU-Fordson Director of Political Action Jenna Kobeissi,17, comes from a Lebanese family and also said Trump not only changed debates in America, but also American politics.
“I feel like now it’s not Democrat against Republican, it’s everybody against Trump,” she said. “That’s what I’ve been getting from the debate. Hearing them argue, hearing their ideas shows you that no matter what party you are Democrat, Republican, Socialist, Green Party or whatever we’re all going towards the same goal.
“Whether you’re for gun control or against it nobody wants a school being shot up. Whether you’re for immigration or against it you just want the safety of the people around you.
“I feel like people are starting to realize that a lot more, they’re focusing on human rights more than anything else and that’s really important.”
Detroit resident and recent college graduate Briana Bellamy, 24, said that based on sound bites, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was her favorite from the debate, which she described as “really informative.”
“I really appreciated the emphasis on why we need healthcare reform, specifically because as a young adult I have my first job, but what if I lose my job tomorrow?” Bellamy said. “I don’t know how I’m going to be able to pay for healthcare. I have really bad allergies — I lived in Atlanta and moved back up because my allergies are so bad.”
Along with healthcare, Bellamy said she wanted to see more talks about immigration.
“I think everything with the detention centers and separating kids from their parents is completely wrong,” she said. “I just want to make it right in the world and I don’t entirely know how we can do it and I just wish we stop separating people from their family and come up with a good legal immigration system so everyone can feel welcomed and enjoy being here.”
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)