US Elections 2016

Clinton, Sanders cross swords over illegals

But both openly woo Latino vote, saying they won't expel undocumented kids

Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton before the start of a debate in Kendall, Florida, on March 9.
Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton before the start of a debate in Kendall, Florida, on March 9. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • Mrs Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders have clashed forcefully on the debate stage, with the Democratic presidential rivals taking aim at immigration in the aftermath of Mr Sanders' stunning upset win in Michigan.

With their Miami debate showdown coming just six days before the critical Florida primary, the two candidates on Wednesday 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. Mr Donald Trump, the Republican front runner, wants to deport millions.

But with Florida home to a large Hispanic community, front runner Clinton and her sole Democratic rival Sanders openly courted the Latino vote - they quickly said they would not expel the children of illegal immigrants, or undocumented adults with no criminal records.

But they clashed on the war in Iraq, Mrs Clinton's relationship with Wall Street and corporate America, healthcare policy and tuition for state universities.

The pair sharpened their attacks, with Mr Sanders sensing momentum after a remarkable win 24 hours earlier in Michigan, where Mrs Clinton had been expected to prevail.

Mrs 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 Mr Sanders in the southern Gulf state of Mississippi.

But Mr Sanders has shown remarkable resilience, and the intensity of the debate suggested Mrs Clinton was taking his challenge seriously. "This is a marathon," she acknowledged.

She faced probing questions about her use of a home-brew e-mail server and private account when she was secretary of state.

Mrs Clinton reiterated she made a mistake but said she was "not concerned". Asked whether she would drop out of the race if she is indicted over the scandal, she bristled. "Oh for goodness... that is not going to happen. I am not even answering that question," she said.

On Wednesday, the Republican National Committee (RNC) filed two lawsuits seeking to obtain e-mail related to Mrs Clinton's tenure as secretary of state.

It sought the information to ensure that the public has information to decide if she is "fit to serve" as president, the RNC said in a statement.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2016, with the headline 'US Elections 2016 Clinton, Sanders cross swords over illegals'. Print Edition | Subscribe