Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton Accuse Each Other of ‘Hispandering’

Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate In Miami
Traidores? Photo: Joe Raedle/2016 Getty Images

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton both want comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants. Both support President Obama’s executive orders exempting certain undocumented populations from deportation. On immigration policy, their platforms are virtually identical. But Latino liberals in Florida will only be allowed to vote for one of them next Tuesday, and so the Democrats spent much of Wednesday night’s Univision debate highlighting their respective betrayals of the immigrant community.

The frenzy of past position-shaming started at the moderators’ table, when Univision’s María Elena Salinas confronted Hillary Clinton with a radio interview she gave in 2003, in which she said she was “adamantly against illegal immigrants” and that “people have to stop employing” them.

Clinton responded by noting that she cast a vote for the DREAM Act that same year and also, by the way, a certain Vermont senator voted against comprehensive immigration reform in 2007. “Imagine where we would be today if we had achieved comprehensive immigration reform nine years ago,” Clinton lamented.

Sanders’s oft-recited defense of that vote is that the 2007 bill contained a provision that would have allowed guest workers to be treated as pseudo-slaves, and thus, he joined the Southern Poverty Law Center and LULAC in opposing the legislation. However, in a 2007 interview with Lou Dobbs, Sanders said he opposed the bill because guest workers drive down the wages of American workers. These two positions aren’t really in tension — “semi-slaves” are certainly cheaper to employ than American workers. But blaming Americans’ economic woes on immigrants isn’t a great look for a Democrat this cycle.

Sanders responded by noting his support for the 2013 comprehensive immigration bill — and also, by the way, Clinton opposed New York governor Eliot Spitzer’s efforts to provide undocumented immigrants with drivers licenses. Oh, and she wants to deport migrant children back to Honduras, “where there’s probably more violence than almost any place in this country.”

Clinton replied by reiterating her support for honoring the due process rights of every asylum seeker (rights that many are currently being denied). And also, in case you were wondering, Bernie Sanders voted with Republicans in 2006 for the “indefinite detention” of undocumented immigrants. And, also, he “sided with those Republicans to stand with vigilantes known as Minute Men who were taking up outposts along the border to hunt down immigrants.”

So what will it be Florida liberals? Do you want the “illegal immigrant” opposing, child-deporting, drivers-license-denying, supporter of a pathway to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants? Or the xenophobia-stoking, immigrant-detaining, right-wing vigilante-loving, supporter of a pathway to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants?

Sanders and Clinton Spar Over Immigration