Wall Street Journal
By Colleen McCain Nelson, Laura Meckler and Rebecca Ballhaus
March 10, 2016
Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders faced off Wednesday, a day after he scored a crucial win in the Michigan presidential primary, sparring over immigration and making direct appeals to Latino voters ahead of next week’s contest in Florida.
The Democratic contenders delved into the details of immigration law, invoking long-ago votes and critiquing the intricacies of each other’s record. Mr. Sanders reflected on his immigrant heritage, and both candidates cited spots in the other’s record that are out of step with Latino voters and immigration rights activists.
Mrs. Clinton was questioned about the right way to handle the influx of Central American children at the southern border. Mr. Sanders was under fire for his opposition to the 2007 immigration bill that would have legalized people in the U.S. illegally.
Under aggressive questioning from Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, Mrs. Clinton promised not to deport children who are already living in the U.S., and to target for deportation criminals and those who pose a risk. Mr. Sanders also pledged not to send children away.
But the former secretary of state stuck to her position that children newly entering the country illegally should be sent back if they don’t meet qualifications for asylum or other programs that would allow them to stay legally.
The eighth Democratic presidential debate yielded few revelations, often covering well-trod ground. Although the candidates disagreed sharply on several issues, their tone was less combative than in Sunday’s match-up in Michigan, in part because several of the questions came from audience members.
Mrs. Clinton was pressed to explain why many voters still have doubts about whether they can trust her. In Michigan, about 60% of voters said they viewed Mrs. Clinton as honest and trustworthy, compared with 80% who said the same of Mr. Sanders, according to ABC exit polls. In Mississippi, where Mrs. Clinton won 82% of the vote, 75% said Mrs. Clinton was trustworthy, compared with 70% for Mr. Sanders.
“Obviously, it’s painful for me to hear that, and I do take responsibility,” Mrs. Clinton said. “When you’re in public life, even if you believe that it’s not an opinion that you think is fair or founded, you do have to take responsibility.”
She said that would work to demonstrate that people could count on her, adding that she’s not a natural politician like her husband or President Barack Obama.
For his part, Mr. Sanders tried to clarify the difference between an “establishment politician,” which he has dubbed Mrs. Clinton, and a “career politician” like himself. He said the difference is what he has focused his career on, citing his independence from Wall Street and the pharmaceutical and fossil fuel industries.
“You’ve got to look at what the career is about,” Mr. Sanders said. “This is a career that has stood up to every special interest in this country.”
During the immigration discussion, the candidates were asked a question by a woman who identified herself as a Guatemalan immigrant whose husband, the father of her children, had been deported. She asked the candidates what they would do to stop deportations and reunite families. Mrs. Clinton praised the woman for having the “courage” to ask the question and called for more Americans to hear such stories so they could learn the “human cost” of deportation policies.
Mrs. Clinton also took several opportunities to refocus the discussion on Mr. Sanders’s 2007 vote against the comprehensive immigration bill.
“Our best chance was in 2007 when [the late Sen.] Ted Kennedy led the charge,” she said. “I voted for that bill. Sen. Sanders voted against it.”
Mr. Sanders has said during this campaign that he opposed the bill because a guest worker program included was akin to slavery. But the debate moderators showed a video of him from the time, where he cites concerns that the new workers will drive down wages.
Mr. Sanders replied that he worked to improve the program and was able to support the 2013 version of the bill.
Mrs. Clinton shot back with a list of immigrant advocates who backed the 2007 version, saying they never would have supported “modern slavery.” “That was one of the many excuses used not to vote for the 2007 bill,” she said.
Mrs. Clinton also pointed to two 2006 votes Mr. Sanders cast while he was in the House, running for the Senate. One would have allowed the indefinite detention of immigrants pending deportation. The second was a largely symbolic measure meant to protect the Minutemen, a self-styled, private patrol that aimed to prevent illegal crossings on the southern border.
Mr. Sanders didn’t respond directly to the assertion on indefinite detentions. He said the Minuteman bill simply “codified existing legislation.”
At Wednesday’s Democratic primary debate in Miami, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were asked if Republican contender Donald Trump was a racist. Here are their responses. Photo: Getty
During Wednesday’s debate, both candidates declined to label GOP front-runner Donald Trump a “racist” in response to a direct question about his references to Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers.
Still, they hurled several other criticisms Mr. Trump’s way. Mrs. Clinton attacked his “trafficking in prejudice and paranoia,” and said, to loud applause, “You don’t make America great by getting rid of everything that made America great.” She added that she had been the first to call out Mr. Trump, saying that when he began with the offensive rhetoric, she said “basta.”
Mr. Sanders recalled Mr. Trump’s efforts in the so-called birther movement to “delegitimize the president.”
He noted that his own father was born in Poland, yet “nobody has ever asked me for my birth certificate,” and that was probably because of the “color of my skin.”
“The American people are never going to elect a president who insults Mexicans, who insults Muslims, who insults women, who insults African-Americans,” he said.
The debate came on the heels of Mr. Sanders’s unexpected, narrow win in Michigan, a victory that provided him with a burst of momentum and all but guaranteed that the Democratic primary wouldn’t end anytime soon.
Now, Democrats are bracing for a prolonged fight that could stretch through the spring and into early summer.
As Mr. Sanders tried to make the most of his moment, calling his Michigan win a “major political” upset, Mrs. Clinton sought to reassert herself as the front-runner. She retains a commanding lead in pledged delegates.
Mrs. Clinton, faced with questions about her use of a private email server during her time as secretary state, said: “I made a mistake,” adding that “it wasn’t prohibited.”
Mrs. Clinton’s records management during her tenure at the State Department has spawned lawsuits, a Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiry, an internal State Department probe, an intelligence community review and congressional inquiries.
During the debate, Mrs. Clinton dismissed questions about whether she would end her campaign if investigations into her records eventually resulted in an indictment. “Oh, for goodness—I’m not even answering that question,” Mrs. Clinton said.
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