While many of the recent Presidential debates have uncovered little new thinking or policy positions on immigration, last night’s Univision-sponsored debate at Miami-Dade College in Southern Florida was different. The Univision hosts pressed both candidates on the issue of immigration, which allowed both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton to make more definitive statements about what immigration policy would look like under their administrations.
Both candidates promised, for the first time, that neither will deport children or immigrants with no criminal record should they become president. They coupled these with promises of supporting and passing immigration reform.
This reflects changes from the past position of both candidates. Previously, Sanders did not support immigration reform due to the inclusion of guest worker provisions in past bills. Clinton has said she supported the Obama Administration’s efforts to deport asylum-seeking children back to Central America.
However, despite past positions, moderator Jorge Ramos pinned both candidates down on the issue of deporting children and immigrants without criminal records.
“I will not deport children from the United States of America,” Sanders said, adding that he also “can make that promise” that he won’t deport non-criminal undocumented immigrants.
Clinton took a little more prompting until she finally got there. The Week reports:
“She said, ‘my priorities are to deport violent criminals, terrorists, and anyone who threatens our safety,’ but when Ramos pressed her, Clinton appears to have said that yes, she would pledge to deport neither children nor any other illegal immigrant without a criminal record.”
In addition to these important commitments being noted, another historic moment came when a woman named Lucía Quiej, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala whose husband, Andrés Jiménez, was deported three years ago for driving without a license, leaving her alone to raise five small children, asked the candidates what they would do to ensure other families like here were not separated by deportation. Lucia said:
“I want to ask … I have a big pain, my sons and me, because the father of my children was deported for not having a license. He was a hard-working man in the field of construction. What will you do to stop the deportations and reunite families?”
Both candidates gave sympathetic answers.
By taking the national stage as an undocumented immigrant, Ms. Quiej has put herself at great personal risk. However, said she wanted her question to raise awareness. According to Univision she said:
“I want them to answer me straight from the heart, to take matters into consideration, to become aware of that is happening in our community.”
It’s easy to make promises in a political campaign and often politicians are masters at avoiding absolute promises. However, last night, some important commitments were made by both Democratic Presidential candidates and it’s up to the public and Lucia Quiej to hold them accountable if they are elected.
Photo Courtesy of Fusion.