Former secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders sparred over which one had the more progressive immigration policies Wednesday during a Florida debate hosted by the Spanish-language network Univision and theWashington Post.
Photo: Wilfredo Lee, AP, APHillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders shake hands before the start of the Democratic debate in Miami on March 9, 2016.
Clinton and Sanders squared off in Florida before a mostly Latino audience during their eighth Democratic presidential debate tonight.
At the start of the debate, both candidates said they support comprehensive immigration reform including a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Moderator Jorge Ramos pressed Clinton early in the evening on the scandal that has dogged her campaign: her use of a personal email account to conduct official business as Secretary of state. Ramos asked whether she would drop out of the race if she were indicted for mishandling classified information. “That is not going to happen,” she said. “I am not even answering that question.”
The debate at Miami Dade College, followed Sanders’ surprise upset Tuesday night in the Michigan primary, giving him a surge of momentum just as Clinton began to look ahead to the general election.
“It was a very close race,” Clinton said when asked about the loss. “I’ve won some, I’ve lost some.” She called the night a success because she trounced him in the Mississippi primary. She said she received “100,000 more votes and more delegates” overall than Sanders.
Sanders and Clinton got into a tight back and forth over various past positions on immigration.
Clinton said the country’s best chance for comprehensive immigration reform was a bill that she supported and Sanders opposed in 2007.
“Imagine how much more secure families would be in our country,” she said.
That year, Sanders complained that allowing millions of undocumented immigrants into the country would drive down wages in the country, but he now says he opposed the bill because it lacked protections for guest workers.
He said he worked to improve guest worker protections in legislation he supported in 2013. That bill passed the Senate but did not get a House vote. He also said that Clinton had worked with New York officials to prevent the state from issuing drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants, while Vermont allowed them to get licenses.
Clinton addressed concerns about her trustworthiness, saying it’s “painful” for her to hear that people distrust her.
“I am not a natural politician…like my husband or President Obama,” she said.
Sanders called again for Clinton to release transcripts of her paid Wall Street speeches, saying they would show whether she takes different positions in private than she does in public. To Clinton’s statements that she won’t be influenced by Wall Street, Sanders said “that’s what every politician says who gets money from special interests.”
Clinton said she has a public record to show she called out Wall Street firms before the Great Recession for putting the economy at risk and sought a moratorium on home foreclosures.
“I have the toughest, most comprehensive plan to go after Wall Street,” she said.
Florida has the most delegates at stake — 214 — on Tuesday, when it holds its primary, but Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio, will also hold contests that day. Sanders has hammered Clinton on her support for trade deals, an issue that helped him pull off his narrow 1.5-point victory in Michigan and may help him in other Rust Belt contests.
Clinton holds a sizable lead in Florida, according to a RealClearPolitics average of recent polls showing her more than 31 percentage points ahead, but the pre-primary polls in Michigan also showed her with a healthy lead.