For months now, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have engaged in a back-and-forth battle over immigration. This was again in full display this week, with both campaigns attacking their opponent’s record on the issue.
The Sanders team held a conference call with reporters to blast Clinton for opposing a plan that would’ve allowed New York’s undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses in 2007.
They said then-New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was thinking about issuing an executive order to give driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, but he withdrew that plan after he faced opposition from Clinton. Spitzer confirmed that’s what happened in an interview last year.
The former Secretary of State now supports driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants.
“She has demonstrated she not only does not understand the urgency of immigrant families and what they go through, she’s not a champion when we need a leader,” said Cesar Vargas, an undocumented immigrant who grew up in New York and who’s the deputy director for Latino outreach for Sanders’ campaign.
The issue began following Clinton when she first ran for president in 2008. Since then, she has not only come out in favor of driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, but has said she would go further than President Barack Obama did on immigration. She also backs a comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship, as does Sanders.
In response to Tuesday’s conference call, Clinton supporter Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez of New York went after Sanders for voting against an immigration-reform bill in 2007. She also accused the Vermont senator of supporting border militia groups and for voting in favor of holding immigrants in indefinite detention.
“Hillary Clinton has been a steadfast supporter of our community and our issues,” Velazquez stated. “Senator Sanders has not only been absent from our community, but when it came to making several decisions on key policy issues that impact the Latino community, he voted the wrong way.”
It’s not the first time Clinton and her camp have hit Sanders for voting against the 2007 immigration reform bill. Clinton did so again during an event in New York over the weekend, just days before the state holds its primary election.
Sanders has defended his 2007 vote, saying the immigration-reform bill’s guest-worker program would’ve
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led to the exploitation of immigrant workers.
The back-and-forth fighting over immigration between the two Democratic presidential candidates comes as they compete for the Latino vote.
A recent poll shows Latino Democratic voters nationwide are split between Clinton and Sanders. The poll by the Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with The Atlantic magazine shows 48 percent of Latino Democratic voters support Sanders and 47 percent back Clinton.
Immigration is the top issue for Latino voters, as is evident in a recent poll by Latino Decisions. The poll found 71 percent of Latinos surveyed see immigration as the most important issue facing the Latino community. Education came in second with 51 percent, followed by jobs and the economy at 21 percent.