Jorge Ramos just gave advocates for the undocumented (and, probably, some GOP ad-makers) reason to celebrate. At Wednesday night’s Democratic debate in Miami, the “Walter Cronkite of Latino America” demanded Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton answer yes or no: Would they deport undocumented children and/or adults without criminal histories if elected president? Standing before a crowd of the Sunshine State’s Democratic primary voters, neither candidate could say no.
Although, Hillary Clinton sort of tried to — and she may have bought herself some wiggle room in doing so.
Ramos sometimes refers to President Obama as the “deporter in chief,” in reference to the aggressive deportation policy he pursued early in his administration. Back in Iowa, Clinton had promised Ramos that she would not be the next “deporter in chief,” but still refused to promise that she would spare every undocumented child in the United States from deportation. On Wednesday night, Ramos asked Clinton: “If you really don’t want to be the next deporter in chief, can you promise tonight that you won’t deport children and that you won’t deport immigrants who don’t have a criminal record, and this time, could I get a yes or no answer?”
Clinton initially promised to do “everything possible to provide due process.” She then noted that, with regard to the wave of Honduran children seeking asylum, current law limits her ability to make such a blanket promise. “But if you are asking about everyone who is already here, undocumented immigrants, the 11-12 million who are living here, my priorities are to deport violent criminals, terrorists, and anyone who threatens our safety.”
Ramos followed up multiple times, seeking the firm yes or no he requested:
RAMOS: OK. So I want to be very specific. So you are telling us tonight that if you become president you won’t deport children who are already here?
CLINTON: I will not.
RAMOS: And that you won’t deport immigrants who don’t have a criminal record?
CLINTON: That’s what I’m telling you.
Sanders displayed far less anxiety about committing himself to a hard-line stance on the issue. When asked Ramos’s yes or no, he began by pointing out that Clinton hadn’t actually promised to grant asylum to every Honduran child currently seeking it. He then took Ramos’s oath.
SANDERS: So to answer your question, no, I will not deport children from the United States of America.
RAMOS: And can you promise not to deport immigrants who don’t have a criminal record?
SANDERS: I can make that promise.