Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders clashed forcefully on the debate stage, with the Democratic presidential rivals opening lines of attack on immigration in the aftermath of Sanders? stunning upset win in Michigan.
With their Miami debate showdown coming just six days before the critical Florida primary, the two candidates were repeatedly pressed on immigration issues, including whether they would deport undocumented children from the United States. Both said they support comprehensive immigration reform and pathways to citizenship for many of the 11 million
people living in the shadows.
In stark contrast, Republican candidates all say they want no such track to citizenship. Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner, wants to deport millions.
But with Florida home to a large Hispanic community, frontrunner Clinton and her sole Democratic rival Sanders openly courted the Latino vote, each quickly said they would not expel the children of illegal immigrants, or undocumented adults with no criminal records.
It marked a break, too, of sorts from President Barack Obama?s administration, which has come under fire for its aggressive deportation policies. ?I would not deport children,? Clinton said.
?My priorities are to deport violent criminals, terrorists and anyone who threatens our safety.?
But she also wanted to ?stop the raids, stop the round-ups, stop the deporting of people who are living here doing their lives, doing their jobs.?
Sanders was more blunt on disagreeing with Obama. ?He is wrong on this issue of deportation,? Sanders said. ?I disagree with him on that.?
Clinton slammed Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, for voting against an immigration reform bill in 2007.
But Sanders shot back that Clinton had taken anti-immigrant positions in the 2000s, such as prohibiting the issuing of driver?s licenses to illegal immigrants.
They also clashed on the war in Iraq, Clinton?s relationship with Wall Street and corporate America, health care policy and tuition for state universities.
?Madame secretary, I will match my record against yours any day of the week,? Sanders boomed.
The pair sharpened their attacks, with Sanders sensing momentum after a remarkable win 24 hours earlier in Michigan, where Clinton had been expected to prevail.
Clinton has nonetheless passed the half-way point in the race to the 2,383 delegates needed to win the party?s presidential nomination, after she handily defeated Sanders in the southern Gulf state of Mississippi.
Yet the Vermont senator?s upset win in Michigan raised questions about the former secretary of state?s ability to win over key industrial states in the general election in November.