Clinton vows to stop deportations of undocumented children. Sanders, too

MIAMI—Speaking in the strongest language she has used to date on the issue of immigration, Hillary Clinton Wednesday night promised that if elected president she will not deport undocumented children who came to the United States from other countries.

“I will not deport children. I would not deport children. I do not want to deport family members, either, Jorge,” Clinton told Fusion and Univision anchor Jorge Ramos at Wednesday night’s Democratic debate. “I want to, as I’ve said, prioritize who would be deported: violent criminals, people planning terrorist attacks, anybody who threatens us, that’s a relatively small universe.”

Indeed terrorists, violent criminals, and those plotting to harm the United States are a very, very small universe among the 11 million-plus undocumented immigrants living in this country. That makes Clinton’s pledge on Wednesday night a radical departure from the policies peddled by wall-loving Republican candidates, but also current President Barack Obama, a man who has earned the dubious moniker of “deporter-in-chief” for deporting more 2.5 million people since coming to office in 2009.

“I do not have the same policy as the current administration does. I think it’s important that we move towards comprehensive immigration reform, but at the same time stop the raids, stop the roundups, stop the deporting of people who are living here, doing their lives, doing their jobs. And that’s my priority,” Clinton said at Wednesday night’s debate, hosted by Univision and The Washington Post.

“Of the undocumented people living in our country, I do not want to see them deported. I want to see them on a path to citizenship.”

- Hillary Clinton

The Democratic frontrunner repeated her call for due process coupled with comprehensive immigration reform as a long-term fix to the problem.

“I would give every person, but particularly children, due process to have their story told. And a lot of children will of course have very legitimate stories,”— i.e., reasons to request asylum in the United States— Clinton said.

Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders echoed the pledge to not deport undocumented children, but threw shade at Clinton for not walking the walk on the immigration issue.

Sen. Sanders said that Clinton’s failure to “support” Honduran children fleeing “the most violent region in our hemisphere” and trying to enter the United States in 2014 is proof positive that she doesn’t support immigrants as much as she claims to now.

“The proof may be in the pudding,” Sanders said, trying to distance himself even further from the Obama Administration on immigration issues.

“I happen to agree with President Obama on many, many issues. I think he’s done a great job as president of the United States. He is wrong on this issue of deportation. I disagree with him on that,” Sanders said.

A series of Homeland Security raids ordered by the president in early January has become a centerpiece in a rare wedge issue between the White House and the Democratic candidates, who spoke out against police action, one by one. Clinton was the last among the cohort to denounce the raids, but has since repeated her repudiation, and each time with touch more enthusiasm.

When asked about her position on the immigration raids during the Iowa Brown and Black Forum in January, Clinton said “I do not think the raids are an appropriate tool to enforce the immigration laws. They are divisive, they are sowing fear.”

The same day her campaign released its plan for Central American refugees, calling for a “comprehensive, long-term solution” based on due process and a regional coalition to respond to the crisis.

Clinton’s plan, which is etched in broad strokes, is notable for two reasons: 1) it calls the undocumented Central Americans “refugees,” not immigrants; and 2) it calls for an end to the raids championed by the Obama administration.

“We have laws and we must be guided by those laws, but we shouldn’t have armed federal officers showing up at peoples’ homes, taking women and children out of their beds in the middle of the night,” Clinton said in a release.

While Clinton has fiddled and diddled on immigration in the past, and has never spoken with the loudest voice in defense of the tired, poor and huddled masses coming from Latin America, it’s safe to say that her thinking on the issue appears to have migrated in recent months.