Hillary Clinton broke with the Obama administration on Monday in condemning the concerted round-up of illegal aliens carried out by President Obama’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement earlier this month.
“I do not think the raids are an appropriate tool to enforce the immigration laws,” Clinton said during the Black & Brown Forum hosted by Fusion at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.
“I think they are divisive, they are sowing discord and fear.”
Earlier this month, ICE agents rounded up 121 illegal aliens from Central America who had received removal orders from immigration judges. Immigration activists and many Democratic lawmakers were angered by the coordinated effort, especially because some children were rounded up. The illegal aliens were taken to holding facilities while waiting to be flown back to their home countries.
Clinton’s comments Monday go much further than the mild criticism her campaign in the days after the raids were announced last month.
But while Clinton’s answer on the raids likely satisfied the majority Democratic voters, as well as the hosts of the Black & Brown Forum, which was targeted at minority voters, she likely disappointed on the issue of deporting children.
Unlike Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who was interviewed for the forum earlier in the night, Clinton declined to end the practice.
“Can you promise that you won’t deport children?” asked Jorge Ramos, an immigration activist who anchors Univision’s nightly telecast.
“Here’s what I can promise, Jorge,” Clinton began. “I can promise that I will do everything possible due process. We have to change the immigration, asylum and refugee laws.”
Clinton pledged to provide court-appointed attorneys to all immigrants involved in deportation cases.
“But will you deport children?” Ramos asked again.
Clinton stonewalled again.
“Let me say this: I would give every person, but particularly children, due process to have their story told. And a lot of children will, of course, have very legitimate stories under our law to be able to stay,” she said.
Clinton finally acknowledged that she could not give Ramos the promise he sought.
“I cannot sit here and tell you I have a blanket rule about who or who won’t ever be let into the country to stay because it has to be done individual by individual,” Clinton said.
“What I don’t like are the mass round-ups and the raids that just pick people up and send people off in the middle of the night, and that should end.”
In other immigration matters, Clinton was asked about her support for funding border security.
Ramos asked Clinton about remarks she made in November when she touted her votes as a New York senator in favor of a border “barrier,” as she called it.
“We do need to have secure borders,” Clinton told Ramos. “What that will take is a combination of technology and physical barriers.”
“You want a wall then,” Ramos pressed.
“No,” Clinton said.
“You said that,” Ramos continued.
Clinton then parsed the definition of “fence,” and “wall,” portraying her vote for border security as a vote in favor of a less obtrusive barrier than a full-blown wall.
“I voted for border security. And some of it was a fence,” Clinton said. “I don’t think we ever called it a wall. Maybe in some places it was a wall. But it was aimed at controlling our borders.”