Democrats Clinton, Sanders spar over race, immigration

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, right, makes a point as Sen. Bernie Sanders, listens during a Democratic presidential primary debate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, right, makes a point as Sen. Bernie Sanders, listens during a Democratic presidential primary debate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

WASHINGTON: US presidential aspirants Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders tried to woo minority Latino and African American voters as they sparred over issues like race and their records on immigration during a Democratic debate.

Clinton, 68, who has struggled to regain momentum after losing badly to Sanders in the New Hampshire primary, sought to cast herself as a more sensible, pragmatic progressive. She also cited her experience as secretary of state, implying that she had a broader array of expertise than Sanders, who focuses largely on economic inequality.

The debate came as contest between the two moves to Nevada and South Carolina, states with large minority populations.

“I want to tackle those barriers that stand in the way of too many Americans right now,” Clinton said in her opening statement.

“African Americans who face discrimination in the job market, education, housing and the criminal justice system. Hardworking immigrant families living in fear who should be brought out of the shadows so they and their children can have a better future. Guaranteeing that women’s work finally gets the equal pay that we deserve.”

At the PBS NewsHour televised debate, Clinton repeatedly emphasized her ties to President Barack Obama who is extremely popular among minority voters.

Immigration reform was also a major topic of discussion. Both candidates supported creating a path to citizenship for the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US and they decried a recent uptick in deportations by the Obama administration.

Clinton accused 74-year-old Sanders of voting against the 2007 immigration reform bill that included a pathway to citizenship. Sanders defended his vote, arguing that civil rights and immigrant groups were also opposed.

“I don’t apologies for that vote,” he declared.

Criticizing the anti-immigrant positions of Republican front-runner Donald Trump, Sanders said immigrants should not be scapegoats for economic uncertainty.

“We have got to stand up to the Trumps of the world, who are trying to divide us,” Sanders said.
Clinton accused the Vermont Senator of criticizing Obama, who is also from their own Democratic party, in a language that is normally heard by Republican opponents.

“The kind of criticism that we’ve heard from Senator Sanders about our President I expect from Republicans. I do not expect from someone running for the Democratic nomination to succeed President Obama,” Clinton charged during the Democratic presidential debate.

“Madam Secretary, that is a low blow,” Sanders responded by arguing that he respects Obama, but as a Senator he has the right to disagree with the President.

Sanders said Clinton in the last debate talked about getting the approval or the support or the mentoring of Henry Kissinger.

“Now, I find it rather amazing, because I happen to believe that Henry Kissinger was one of the most destructive secretaries of state in the modern history of this country. I am proud to say that Henry Kissinger is not my friend,” he said.

Responding to a question on America’s role in the world, Clinton said the US has to go after terrorist networks, predominantly ISIS – that’s not the only one.

“We have to lead a coalition that will take back territory from ISIS. That is principally an American-led air campaign that we are now engaged in,” she said.

Sanders said a powerful nation like the United States, certainly working with allies, can overthrow dictators all over the world.

“I believe as president I will look very carefully about unintended consequences. I will do everything I can to make certain that the United States and our brave men and women in the military do not get bogged down in perpetual warfare in the Middle East,” he said.

Sanders said the current campaign finance system is corrupt and undermines American democracy.
It allows Wall Street and billionaires to pour huge sums of money into the political process to elect the candidates of their choice.

“And aligned with a corrupt campaign finance system is a rigged economy. And that’s an economy where ordinary Americans are working longer hours for low wagers. They are worried to death about the future of their kids. And yet they are seeing almost all new income and all new wealth going to the top 1 percent,” Sanders said.

Clinton said she is running for president to knock down all the barriers that are holding Americans back, and to rebuild the ladders of opportunity that will give every American a chance to advance, especially those who have been left out and left behind.

“I know a lot of Americans are angry about the economy. And for good cause. Americans haven’t had a raise in 15 years. There aren’t enough good-paying jobs, especially for young people. And yes, the economy is rigged in favor of those at the top,” she said.

“We both agree that we have to get unaccountable money out of our political system and that we have to do much more to ensure that Wall Street never wrecks main street again. But I want to go further,” Clinton said. -PTI

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