Democratic presidential candidates criticize immigration raids as protesters confront Biden

Protesters surround Joe Biden after he made a campaign stop in Dover, N.H.
(C.J. Gunther / EPA)

After President Trump earlier this week announced plans for mass arrests of migrants across the country, Democratic presidential candidates went on the attack and issued warnings about the raids that will begin Sunday.

Sen. Kamala Harris of California called the raids a “distraction” and a “crime against humanity” during an appearance Thursday on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow show.”

Mayor Pete Buttigieg, in an interview with Craig Melvin on MSNBC on Thursday, said news of the raids made communities like his in South Bend, Ind., less safe and created more fear. “It’s masking the fact that there has been a total failure on the part of this administration to deliver any kind of real immigration reform,” he added.


Trump reaffirmed the raid plans to reporters Friday. “It starts on Sunday, and they’re going to take people out and they’re going to bring them back to their countries. Or they’re going to take criminals out, put them in prison, or put them in prison in the countries they came from,” he said.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts sent out warnings in English and Spanish. She tweeted, “The Trump administration’s cruelty runs bone-deep.” Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont emailed his supporters about the raids.

Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke attended a vigil on Friday to protest the inhumane conditions of the camps along the southern border, according to his campaign. Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington joined immigration activists the same day in Washington, D.C., to protest “Trump’s immigration positions, family separation policy and planned immigration raids,” his campaign said.

One Democratic contender, however, faced a backlash. In Dover, N.H., on Friday, former Vice President Joe Biden was confronted by about 20 protesters who held paper signs that read: “We haven’t forgotten 3 million deportations.”

The signs were referring to Biden’s role in the Obama administration, which deported nearly 3 million people. The effort was organized by the New Hampshire Youth Movement, organizer Quincy Abramson confirmed, in partnership with immigration advocacy group Movimiento Cosecha, whose members attempted to march into Biden’s campaign headquarters in Philadelphia on Wednesday.


“We felt that we wanted this to be a little more escalated than a question,” Abramson, 22, said on Friday.

Biden, who has been leading the polls, was showing signs of struggling with black voters after Harris challenged his opposition to school busing in the 1970s on the second night of the first Democratic debate in June.

Experts say it’s unlikely that Biden will lose support from Latinos. (In 2018, about 29 million Latinos were eligible to vote in the midterm election, according to the Pew Research Center.)

Latino voters care about a wide range of issues, so they will not be looking just at a candidate’s position on immigration, Democratic strategist Rose Kapolczynski said. Instead, they will be seeking someone who will be able to defeat Trump, whose immigration policies have angered them.

Democratic strategist Bill Carrick agreed.

“I don’t think that, among primary voters, that attacking President Obama on immigration is going to ricochet and hurt Vice President Biden,” he said.

Cata Santiago, an organizer of Movimiento Cosecha, said the group will continue to raise the issue with Biden.


“It’s important for us to remind everyone of his role,” she said after the group’s protest Wednesday in Philadelphia. “We know that Obama ran on a platform that promised a pathway to citizenship, a platform that promised immigration reform, and yet eight years later, we saw the record-breaking amount of deportations.”