On Immigration, Raids and Families
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley came across as most forceful on immigration, at times raising his voice in the throes of an answer on current immigration raids and the unaccompanied minor crisis from two years ago, where children from Central America arrived by the tens of thousands at the U.S. border.
"We do not send children and women and families back to the hands of death gangs," he said. "Our mindless deportation policies are breaking up families every single day in the United States. Our policies should be about keeping families together, yes, protecting our borders, yes, protecting public safety. We need to return to our true selves and act like Americans.”
When asked by forum moderator and Fusion multimedia network anchor Jorge Ramos if he would turn away children at the U.S. border, he responded, “I would not.”
While Clinton said she does not support the raids being conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement across the country, on unaccompanied minors, she said she would give every person, but particularly children, due process, while also supporting Central American countries financially to prevent future crises that lead to mass exoduses.
“I have come out in favor guaranteeing that unaccompanied children have government-sponsored counsel,” she said, “so that as they go through the process they will not be lost in the process, confused by the process, and they'll have a chance to tell their story.”
Clinton also promised never to use the term “illegal” again in her campaign, a phrase she has been heavily criticized for using previously.
Sen. Bernie Sanders was challenged on his votes against previous immigration legislation. He, however, defended his position, saying that guest-worker provisions in the legislation were “akin to slavery.”
Sanders was the only candidate to explicitly say he would use executive action to further his position on immigration.
“I happen to believe that we have to move toward comprehensive immigration reform and a path toward citizens,” he said. “And if Congress does not do what they should be doing, I will use the executive offices of the president."
On Equality and Justice
While moderators brought up other issues, including big banks, contraception, and guns, all three candidates were challenged on the state of equal rights for people of color, particularly with regard to criminal justice.
New York magazine writer Rembert Browne, one of the forum’s moderators, listed off names of black people that have been killed in police-involved incidents in recent years—including Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, and Sandra Bland—and asked Sanders if the black community is justified in its distrust of law enforcement.
“The short answer is yes,” said Sanders. “All the names that you have listed are well-known. And sometimes I think young people especially think, 'My god, what's going on?' The truth is, this has gone on for a very, very long time. The only difference is we did not have cell phones to video these problems.