Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley participated in the Iowa Brown & Black Democratic Forum at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa on Monday night. The moderators asked candidates questions about a range of issues important to minority and millennial voters such as student debt, high unemployment rates, reproductive rights, and the Black Lives Matter movement. But questions about immigration took center stage. All three candidates agreed that reforms are necessary: "We have to move towards a comprehensive immigration reform in a path towards citizenship,” said Sanders. O'Malley called it un-American to close the nation's doors on refugees, whether they're from South America or Syria. "I believe the enduring symbol of our country is not the barbed wire fence. It's the Statue of Liberty," he said.
When the the topic of deportation came up, none of the candidates shied away from addressing the White House’s recent wave of immigration raids. Earlier this month, ICE (U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) rounded up more than 100 undocumented adults and children from Central America and Mexico, a move for which the Obama administration has faced harsh criticism from the Latino community. In response to moderator Jorge Ramos' question as to whether O'Malley would deport children, O’Malley answered, "we do not send children and women and families back to the hands of death gangs." Sanders — who had previously denounced the raids by sending a letter to White House officials calling for an end to the roundups — said, "We've got to protect those people.” When Ramos asked Clinton if she would be the "next deporter-in-chief" as Obama has been labeled by critics, she joined Sanders and O’Malley in denouncing the current administration’s actions. “I do not think the raids are an appropriate tool to enforce the immigration laws,” Clinton said. “In fact, I think they are divisive. They are sowing discord and fear.”
But when the conversation became focused on whether or not Clinton would specifically deport children, she declined to give a "blanket rule" and emphasized that each case would be dealt with on an individual basis. “Here’s what I can promise...everyone will get due process,” Clinton said. “We have to be sensitive and humane in the application of our laws.”