Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., listens as former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the second of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Wednesday, July 31, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The Latest: Booker slams Biden over immigration plan

July 31, 2019 - 9:44 pm

DETROIT (AP) — The Latest on Wednesday's Democratic presidential debate (all times local):

9:35 p.m.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker is likening former Vice President Joe Biden's stance on immigration to that of President Donald Trump.

Booker says Biden's proposal to allow immigrants who attend American universities and earn doctorate degrees to remain in the country for seven years plays into the hands of Republicans.

He is comparing it to Trump's preference for immigrants from countries like Sweden and Norway over immigrants from African and Caribbean nations — which the president referred to as "shithole countries."

Booker says Biden "can't have it both ways."

He is also telling Biden: "You invoke President Obama more than anybody in this campaign. You can't do it when it's convenient and then dodge it when it's not."

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9:25 p.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is again defending his lengthy legislative record on criminal justice reform, this time from criticism by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.

Biden is responding on Wednesday night's debate stage in Detroit to a critique that his current plan is "inadequate." He is advocating for more rehabilitative alternatives to incarceration for drug crimes.

Booker says Biden's imprint has been on "every crime bill since the 1970s," saying little real progress has been made.

Biden says "nothing happened" in Newark under Booker's leadership as mayor following reforms to drug laws.

Booker says Biden is trying to shift the focus from himself with "tough-on-crime, phony rhetoric that got a lot of people elected but destroyed communities like mine."

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9:15 p.m.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is the first candidate on Wednesday's Democratic presidential debate stage to call President Donald Trump a racist.

"We can no longer allow a white nationalist to be in the White House," Inslee said as candidates debated immigration policy.

Democrats and some Republicans have criticized Trump in recent weeks for using Twitter to say four Democratic women in Congress should "go back" to their countries of origin. All four are U.S. citizens, and three were born in the country.

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9:10 p.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and former Obama administration housing secretary Julián Castro are clashing over immigration policy.

Castro has promised to make illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border punishable by a civil penalty and is repeating that call Wednesday.

He says that doesn't mean endorsing "open borders," but says some in his party, including some on the debate stage, have "taken the bait" and fallen for a Republican talking point.

Biden says he doesn't support decriminalizing such border crossing. He also says he never heard Castro "talk about any of this while he was secretary."

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

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9 p.m.

Joe Biden is criticizing Medicare-for-All backers as he argues in the Democratic presidential debate for his "public option" proposal to expand the Affordable Care Act without ending job-based insurance.

Biden is mocking California Sen. Kamala Harris and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio for downplaying the taxpayer costs of their proposals for single-payer government insurance.

Biden says he doesn't "know what kind of math you do in New York" or "in California" as he points to estimates that single-payer insurance could cost about $30 trillion over 10 years.

Harris is responding by noting private insurers' billions of dollars in profits.

Single-payer supporters note that their approach would replace Americans' premium and out-of-pocket costs for private insurance. Harris also insists her pitch would not require middle-class tax increases.

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8:55 p.m.

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet is going after California Sen. Kamala Harris on health care, suggesting she hasn't been up-front about planks of her Medicare for All plan.

Bennet is charging that the plan would mean a tax increase for the middle class and outlaw private insurance, and tells Harris that "we need to be honest about what's in this plan."

Harris released details of her health care plan earlier this week. It would allow private Medicare plans that follow certain federal guidelines, and it would include a tax on household income over $100,000.

Harris is accusing Bennet of using "Republican talking points" and is defending her plan by insisting it doesn't make anything illegal, but rather "separates the employer from health care."

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8:40 p.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and California Sen. Kamala Harris are clashing over their dueling health care plans during the opening moments of the Democratic presidential debate in Detroit.

The pair had a tense exchange during the opening debates last month in Miami — and wasted little time before going at it again Wednesday.

Harris says her proposal would extend health insurance to all Americans, while Biden's would "leave out" almost 10 million.

Biden says her plan is too expensive and would cause many people to lose their current, employer-based health insurance. He says Harris isn't being straight about that, adding, "You can't beat President Trump with double-talk."

Harris says Biden is "simply inaccurate."

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8:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump and some of the leading Democratic presidential candidates are the targets of opening statements at the second night of the Detroit debates.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is going after Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for not promising enough change to the country's structure.

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet says Trump "frankly doesn't give a damn about your kids or mine."

Harris is repeating her pledge to "prosecute the case" against Trump, while Biden is sticking to his promise to "restore the soul of this country" after four years of Trump.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker was forced to pause for hecklers shouting "fire Pantaleo," a reference to the New York City police officer officials opted not to charge in the death of Eric Garner.

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8:20 p.m.

Joe Biden greeted Kamala Harris with a handshake and a smile Wednesday night while asking her to "Go easy on me, kid."

The California senator called Biden by his first name as she smiled in return.

Harris is one of the former vice president's top rivals and sharpest critics. Biden is a 76-year-old white man. Harris is a 54-year-old black woman.

Their generational and racial differences were on display last month in the first debate, when Harris hammered Biden for his opposition to federal court-ordered busing in the 1970s as a way to desegregate public schools like Harris's elementary school in California.

Biden has promised to defend his record more forcefully in this debate.

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8:05 p.m.

Night two of Democrats' second set of presidential primary debates is underway in Detroit, with Joe Biden flanked by Kamala Harris and Cory Booker.

The lineup puts the white former vice president between two black senators who have sharply criticized Biden's record on matters of race.

Biden has promised he'll counter more aggressively than he did in the June debate.

Harris hammered Biden in that opening round for opposing federal busing orders issued in the 1970s to desegregate public schools like hers in California.

Booker has blasted Biden for helping write a 1994 law blamed for accelerating mass incarceration.

Biden could look to highlight Harris' evolving positions on health care as she argues for a "Medicare for All" plan but insists she won't raise middle-class taxes to pay for it.

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7:55 p.m.

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is again complaining about what she describes as lopsided allocation of time among candidates at the Democratic presidential debates.

In a tweet apparently composed by her sister, Gabbard on Wednesday tweeted that, if the second debate night in Detroit "is as biased/unfair as last night," then the Democratic National Committee "needs to reconsider CNN hosting future debates."

The tweet from Gabbard says questions were "very biased and lopsided in favor of certain candidates" and says the network "should not be picking winners and losers."

It's the second time Gabbard has gone after a host network for alleged unfairness. Following the previous round of debates, Gabbard's sister wrote from the congresswoman's Twitter account that "it's clear who MSNBC wants to be president: Elizabeth Warren."

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5:10 p.m.

Joe Biden knows the attacks will be coming. The question for the former vice president in Wednesday's Democratic presidential debate will be whether he handles them in a way that restores confidence to his anxious supporters.

Biden will be forced to defend his record as nine eager rivals fight to knock him from his front-runner perch in the increasingly combative primary.

Biden's advisers say he expects to face pointed questions about race in particular, having stumbled in the opening debate when confronted by California Sen. Kamala Harris over his record on school integration. The pair will be joined onstage by a second senator of color, Cory Booker of New Jersey, who in recent days seized on Biden's decades-old support for criminal justice laws that disproportionately hurt minorities.

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