With California's early primary just months away, the Democratic candidates are trying to woo the Golden State's substantial voting population, including Latinos who make up more than 20 percent of the state's electorate.
The candidates at the forum were: South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, investor-philanthropist Tom Steyer and California Sen. Kamala Harris.
The 90-minute event was sponsored by the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles, the California Latino Legislative Caucus and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA).
ABC7 anchor Marc Brown moderated a conversation with the five Democratic candidates.
A panel of journalists asked questions, including ABC7 reporters Adrienne Alpert and Carlos Granda, KGO reporter Lyanne Melendez and La Opinion reporter Jacqueline Garcia.
South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg
Buttigieg first made a national name for himself with a bid for Democratic National Committee chair in 2017. At 37 years old, he is the youngest candidate in the 2020 race, and could also become the first gay man to be elected president.
"The Latino voters that I speak to are extremely concerned about health care, about the direction of our economy, about immigration policy and about something that's deeper than any policy issue - which is the way people are being treated, singled out and told they do not belong," Buttigieg said at the event.
Sen. Bernie Sanders
After a 2016 campaign that saw him amass millions of supporters even as he finished second to Hillary Clinton, Sanders entered the 2020 race in February, predicting victory and pointing to the progressive idea he had championed as an outsider during the last cycle, like Medicare-for-all and free college tuition, that have become increasingly mainstream.
At the forum, he talked about the fear many people, especially young people, live under during the current administration's hard-line policy on immigration enforcement.
"I have talked to a lot of young people who are scared to death that when they come home from school their mom or their dad may not be there," Sanders said. "Kids who are living with trauma and under great emotional distress."
Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro
Castro, who served as mayor of San Antonio, Texas before spending over two years in President Barack Obama's cabinet, announced his campaign in his hometown in January.
"I'm running for president because it's time for new leadership because it's time for new energy and it's time for a new commitment to make sure that the opportunities I've had are available for every American," he said.
During the forum, Castro said the nation needs to do more to address the housing affordability crisis. Among programs he is looking at are investing billions of dollars in the nation's housing trust fund, investing in block grants and creating a tax credit for renters.
In 2016, Castro was vetted by Hillary Clinton to be her running mate, but the spot ultimately went to Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va. This year, he says he is eager to restore the style of leadership the nation had under Obama.
Steyer, a billionaire liberal activist from California, in July became the 26th major Democratic figure to enter the 2020 race, reversing course on a statement he made months earlier saying he wouldn't run.
On healthcare, Steyer presented his version of medicare for all.
"It's a public option where everyone has the right to health care," Steyer said. "But we don't ask the 160 million Americans, including tens of million of union workers who have negotiated to get their health care through their employment, to give it up by law."
Sen. Kamala Harris
Harris officially announced her 2020 candidacy on ABC's "Good Morning America" in January.
If Harris were to win the 2020 presidential election, she would become the first woman to ascend to the nation's highest office.
Harris addressed the need for a permanent solution for DACA recipients and expanding protections for undocumented immigrants through immigration reform
"When elected I will take executive action and reinstate DACA protections but I'm not going to stop there," Harris said. "I also intend to fully extend DACA protection to parents and siblings."