Democratic debate in Miami: Promises and arguments over immigration

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders squared off on a debate stage for the second time this week. The Miami event came a day after Sanders' upset win in the Michigan primary. The forum focused heavily on immigration, and both candidates sought to distance themselves from President Obama's reputation among some advocates as "deporter in chief," while promising a path to citizenship for some in the U.S. illegally.

The crowd rises after Sanders' closing

Sanders addressed Wall Street and student debt in his closing statement, and for it, gets a standing ovation.

If we stand up and fight back, we can do a lot better.

What was Clinton's reaction?

Clinton: 'Let's remember three words: Bush versus Gore'

 (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Hillary Clinton said during Wednesday's Democratic debate that she would have two litmus tests for Supreme Court justices – support for abortion rights and opposition to unfettered campaign spending.

Any potential nominees must consider Roe vs. Wade settled law and also want to overturn the Citizens United ruling that helped unleash a new era of big money in politics, Clinton said.

Clinton also called for Republicans to consider President Obama’s nominee to fill the vacancy created by the February death of Justice Antonin Scalia. In Florida, the state at the center of 2000 presidential election recount, she recalled the Supreme Court decision on the case.

“Let’s remember three words: Bush versus Gore. A court took away a presidency. Now we’ve got the Republican Congress trying to take away the Constitution and we should not tolerate that,” she said. “So from my perspective, it is imperative we put enormous pressure on the Republicans in the Senate to do their constitutional duty.”

Clinton added that she would look for nominees who “have a heart, have life experience, understand what these decisions mean in the lives of Americans and understand the balance of power that their decisions can disrupt one way or another.”

Both candidates agree: Restarting ties with Cuba was the right move

 (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders expressed support during Wednesday's debate for President Obama's new policy of openness with Cuba.

Obama ended half a century of frozen relations with the communist country, and he plans to visit this month, the first sitting president to go to the island in nearly 90 years. Both Democratic candidates said they hoped more exchanges would help Cuba move toward democracy.

“There are no better ambassadors for freedom, democracy and economic opportunity than Cuban Americans,” Clinton said. “The more that we can have that kind of movement back and forth, the more likely we are to be able to move Cuba toward greater freedom, greater respect for rights.”

Sanders had a similar answer.

“At the end of the day, it will be a good thing for the Cuban people," he said. 

Clinton says Sanders' healthcare proposal is 'too good to be true'

 (Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press)
(Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press)

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders revived a running spat on healthcare policy, with Clinton calling Sanders' push for single-payer healthcare "too good to be true."

Clinton tweaked Sanders for skirting questions on how the country would pay for his proposed healthcare system, in which the federal government would cover most of the costs.

"You know, my dad used to say, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," Clinton said. "And we deserve answers."

Sanders shot back that Clinton was not sufficiently dedicated to ensuring universal coverage. 

"Not only are we being ripped off by the drug companies, we are spending far, far more per capita on healthcare than any other major country on Earth," Sanders said, adding that the American people "are prepared to stand up to the insurance companies or the drug companies."

Clinton defended her healthcare bona fides, saying she has fought for universal coverage for more than two decades.

She said as Republicans seek to appeal the Affordable Care Act, Sanders wants to "throw us into contentious debate over single-payer. I think a smart approach is build on and protect the Affordable Care Act."

But Sanders painted a bleaker picture of the post-Obamacare healthcare landscape. He said even those who are insured face "outrageously high deductibles and copayments." Pivoting to the high cost of prescription drugs, he said, "Elderly people are cutting their pills in half."

"I do believe that we should do what every other major country on Earth does," he said, adding that universal care is achievable "if the American people stand up and fight back."

Read more about their healthcare plans.

Everybody, it seems, has a Donald Trump impression

The Koch brothers and their Sanders video definitely came up

Clinton harshly criticized Sanders over a video ad the Koch brothers released today praising the Vermont senator’s opposition to the Export-Import Bank, an arm of the U.S. government that helps businesses finance overseas purchases and compete with government-subsidized competitors.

Sanders bristled at the notion he might support the Koch brothers' conservative positions.

“There is nobody in the United States Congress who has taken on the Koch brothers, who want to destroy social security, Medicare, Medicaid and virtually every federal program passed since the 1930s, more than Bernie Sanders,” he said.

Sanders added that he was proud that the head of Goldman Sachs, which has paid Clinton large checks for speeches, had labeled him dangerous. “I am dangerous – for Wall Street,” he said.

Nevertheless, Clinton excoriated Sanders for standing with the Koch brothers on the Export-Import Bank.

“They stand for things I find abhorrent, that would be bad for our country, bad for our future,” she said, noting their video said Sanders was the only Democrat who stood with Republicans in opposition to the renewal of the Export-Import Bank. The bank, she said, helped Florida businesses import goods from overseas and employ workers.

“You sided with the Koch brothers,” Clinton said to Sanders.

Sanders defended his stance, arguing that the bank has benefited large corporations.

The Democrats are fighting an old fight on healthcare

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders sparred Wednesday over how to improve the U.S. healthcare system -- by a massive overhaul that shifts the entire cost to the government, as Sanders advocates, or more moderate steps, as Clinton seeks.

"The smart approach is to build on the Affordable Care Act," she said.

It's a decades-old argument on the left. Here's what you need to know about the fight:

Hillary Clinton says she'd be different from Obama on deportations. But she sounds the same.

During Wednesday's Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton said her deportation policies would differ from President Obama's; immigrant advocates have dismissed him as "deporter-in-chief" for forcibly removing more immigrants than any other president.  

Clinton said that unlike Obama, she would focus on deporting "violent criminals, terrorists" and others who want to do harm. 

In fact, that is Obama's policy almost verbatim. 

In 2014, Obama took executive action to offer temporary protection from deportation to roughly 5 million immigrants in the country illegally with long-standing ties to the U.S. and no serious criminal records. The policy is on hold while a lawsuit accusing Obama of overstepping his power works its way through the federal court system.

When Obama originally acted, he also clarified who his administration would prioritize for deportations. Like Clinton, he said he would deport only criminals, a continuation of official Homeland Security guidelines. 

Immigrant rights groups say that policy has looked very different in practice. They say immigration agents have deported hundreds of thousands of immigrants with no criminal records or only minor records, which they say has forged distrust in law enforcement by immigrant communities.

Clinton did distinguish herself from Obama in one clear way, saying she would not deport immigrant children who are already in the United States. 

Obama's administration has not offered such protections to all children, and has deported many immigrants fleeing violence in Central American who entered the U.S. in recent years seeking asylum. 

Clinton and Sanders distance themselves from Obama's 'deporter in chief' reputation

Pressed repeatedly by debate moderator Jorge Ramos, Hillary Clinton said she would not deport children living in the country illegally.

Clinton, who has often tightly embraced President Obama's policies, looked to differentiate herself from the sitting president, who has been criticized by some immigrant advocates as "deporter in chief."

"My priorities are to deport violent criminals, terrorists and anyone who threatens our safety," Clinton said. "I do not have the same policy as the current administration does."

While pursuing a broader overhaul of the country's immigration laws, Clinton said the nation should "stop the raids, stop the roundups, stop the deporting of people who are living here doing their lives, doing their jobs. And that's my priority."

After further prodding from Ramos, she stated plainly: "I would not deport children. I would not deport family members either."

The question was prompted by an earlier interview Ramos conducted with Clinton, in which she repeatedly declined to clearly state her stance on deporting children.

Clinton said she was speaking specifically at that time about children applying for asylum, a process she said she would like to see changed to be more supportive of those fleeing violence in their home countries.

Bernie Sanders said he too would not deport children and also vowed not to deport those without legal status who do not have criminal records.

Sanders was even more explicit in distancing himself from Obama:

"I happen to agree with President Barack Obama on many, many issues," Sanders said "He is wrong on this issue of deportation. I disagree with him on that."

Clinton and Sanders try to paint the other as harsher on immigration

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, debating in a state rich with Latinos voters, sparred brutally over immigration in Miami on Wednesday.

Asked about his criticism of a 2007 immigration reform bill that he said would have driven down wages for U.S. workers, Sander said that the legislation would have resulted in near-slavery conditions for guest workers.

“Where people came in, they were cheated, they were abused, and if they stood up for their rights they would have been thrown out of the country,” he said at the debate at a community college in Miami hosted by Univision and the Washington Post. “Of course that type of effort leads to a race to the bottom for all of our people.”

Clinton slashed at Sanders’ response. She said that it is improbable that those who backed the bill, including herself, would “actually support modern slavery.”

“That was one of the many excuses used not to vote for the 2007 bill,” she said. “If we had been able to get that passed, we would be so much further along than we are right now.”

Clinton also pledged to pass comprehensive immigration reform in her first 100 days as president, something President Obama also promised but failed to deliver.

Sanders countered by saying that Clinton as senator had prevailed upon New York leaders not to adopt a law to offer driver’s licenses to those in the country illegally and wanted Central American children who sought relief in the U.S. from horrific living conditions to return home. Clinton defended her stance, saying that she was worried about the peril of young children making the journey by themselves and urged legal counsel for them.

As I understand, he's talking about a tall wall. A beautiful, tall wall. The most beautiful, tall wall.

Hillary Clinton, saying Donald Trump's plan for a border wall to keep out immigrants that Mexico will pay for is "a fantasy"

Clinton tries again to attack Sanders over auto bailout

Dual translation cuts both ways

About that email thing

Questioned about the federal investigation into her use of private email that has dogged her presidential campaign and asked what she would do if she were indicted, Hillary Clinton was unamused during Wednesday's debate.

Oh, for goodness -- that is not going to happen. I'm not answering that question.

A federal judge recently ruled that aides to the former secretary of State should be questioned in a separate lawsuit that alleges the private server set up in her home may have been intended to dodge federal transparency laws.

Everyone didn't love the mariachi singer who sang the national anthem

A young man dressed in a mariachi outfit sang the national anthem before Wednesday's Democratic debate in Miami, sparking a flurry of critical tweets on social media.

It's not the first time the singer, Sebastien de la Cruz, has faced criticism. In 2013, he faced similar slights after singing during the NBA Finals.

Not all those who weighed in were critical, however:

I was pleased that I got 100,000 more votes than my opponent last night and more delegates. ... This is a marathon.

Hillary Clinton, seeking to minimize the impact of rival Bernie Sanders' upset win Tuesday in Michigan's Democratic primary. Because she won handily in Mississippi, Clinton did indeed gain more delegates on the night.

A quick guide to debate moderator Jorge Ramos

 (Scott Olson / Getty Images)
(Scott Olson / Getty Images)

One of the moderators for Wednesday night's debate is a star of Spanish-language media who made headlines across U.S. media last summer when he was kicked out of a Donald Trump news conference. 

Here's what you need to know about Jorge Ramos:

Tonight's tone set by that Michigan upset

 (Seth Perlman / Associated Press)
(Seth Perlman / Associated Press)

Hillary Clinton will try to fend off an emboldened Bernie Sanders after his surprising upset in Michigan, where the insurgent senator hammered at international trade agreements that he says have cost manufacturing jobs in the industrial Midwest.

Their last debate was a heated affair, with Sanders cutting off Clinton when she tried to inject a point and repeatedly attacking her economic record. Much as Clinton’s team has tried to portray Sanders as slow to respond to civil rights concerns for black voters, he has criticized her as a late and unreliable convert to opposing trade agreements such as President Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Bill Burton, a former spokesman for Obama who supports Clinton, said he expects more sharp exchanges as Sanders tries to alter the trajectory of the primaries, in which he's currently on track to lose the nomination despite the upset win in Michigan.

I refuse to get down in the mud to be elected president.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, speaking to supporters in Illinois on Wednesday. Kasich has said his presidential campaign hinges on a win in his home state on Tuesday.

Hillary Clinton's ongoing struggles with young people -- especially in states that matter in November

 (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

During a debate last month, Hillary Clinton offered a blunt assessment of an issue confronting her campaign: the support of young people.

“I hope that I will be able to earn their support,” said Clinton. “They may not support me now, but I support them.”

After another round of voting Tuesday, the presidential primary season so far is showing that Clinton has yet to wrest young voters from rival Bernie Sanders, and the few places where she has are deep-red states where their turnout is likely to have little effect in the general election.

While the electorate in November will differ from primary contests – higher turnout, an influx of independent voters – Clinton’s inability to make strong gains and boost enthusiasm with young voters could be a hindrance if she wins the Democratic nomination but is unable to draw young Sanders backers to the polls in a general election.

Clinton, according to exit polls from Tuesday’s primaries, bested Sanders among 17- to 29-year-olds 62% to 37% in Mississippi en route to winning the state. She also outpaced Sanders among the same age group in neighboring Alabama 52% to 40% this month. Both states, however, are deeply red in a general election.

Yet when it comes to swing states, Sanders continues to hold the edge over Clinton – often by large margins – among young voters casting ballots in Democratic primaries.

In Virginia, Clinton won the primary but Sanders nabbed 69% of voters ages 17 to 29. And in Nevada, a key Western swing state, Sanders won 82% of voters ages 17 to 29.

By contrast, Donald Trump, the front-runner for the GOP nomination, has done well with younger voters. In Virginia and Nevada, he did quite well with young people as he sailed to victories in the two states.

Eric Sondermann, a Colorado-based political analyst, notes that Clinton, if she is the nominee, must bring young Sanders supporters into the fold by November or risk having a key voting bloc sit out the election.

"There's a risk that Trump's celebrity could appeal to some young people," said Sondermann, adding that it was the support of young voters and Latinos who helped Barack Obama turn out victories in Colorado -- another critical Western swing state -- in both 2008 and 2012.

"[Clinton] can't afford to have young people sit out this cycle," he said.

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