- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 11, 2016

Sen. Bernard Sanders said he’s been more consistent in supporting illegal immigrants than Democratic presidential opponent Hillary Clinton as the two made pitches for Hispanic votes Thursday, facing off in a debate ahead of voting in Nevada’s caucuses.

Mr. Sanders said when the surge of illegal immigrant children first peaked in 2014, Mrs. Clinton initially said the children should be sent back — something the senator said he opposed then and now, arguing that the kids were fleeing horrific circumstances and need to be welcomed here.

Mrs. Clinton countered that her stance was in line with President Obama, who she said wanted to “send a clear message” to Central American parents not to let their children make the dangerous journey to the U.S.

“I don’t know to whom you’re sending a message,” Mr. Sanders countered, saying for the migrants, the possibility of death at home was more powerful than the dangers of the journey. “I don’t think we use them to send a message. I think we welcome them into this country.”

Both of the candidates said they would go beyond Mr. Obama’s already expansive immigration actions, including his deportation amnesty for as many as 5 million illegal immigrants.

Even though federal courts have put most of that policy on hold, saying Mr. Obama broke the law, Mrs. Clinton said she was certain the policies are legal.

Mrs. Clinton then pointed to the Senate’s immigration debate in 2007, when both she and Mr. Sanders were in the chamber together. The bill they voted on, backed by then-President George W. Bush and liberal icon Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, would have granted a path to citizenship to many illegal immigrants, along with changes to the legal immigration system and establishment of a new temporary worker program to supply labor to businesses.

Mrs. Clinton, who voted for that bill, attacked Mr. Sanders for opposing it.

But Mr. Sanders said while he supported the legalization part, he couldn’t stomach the guest-worker program, which he said was the equivalent of “slavery” for workers.

He said he wants to see legalization for all 11 million illegal immigrants — far more than the 2006, 2007 and 2013 Senate immigration bills envisioned.

Immigration is expected to play a big role as both candidates campaign for votes in Nevada, which has a sizable Latino population and holds its Democratic caucuses on Feb. 20.

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