Sanders, Clinton in sync on immigration
FEDERAL agents came for Erika Andiola’s mother in 2013. A well-known immigrant- rights activist in Arizona, Andiola was able to stop her mother’s deportation after mounting a public campaign. But nearly having her mother kicked out of the country by the administration of a Democratic president eroded any allegiance the young activist felt to the Democratic Party.
Today, Andiola is part of a group of Latino advisers to Bernie Sanders who are vocally critical of President Barack Obama and his party’s record on immigration. She and other Sanders supporters frequently mention the record number of deportations carried out under Obama’s watch and at times have called on Latinos not to vote for certain Democrats who they believe have blocked efforts to limit deportations.
Their prominence in Sanders’s campaign underscores how much the race between the Vermont senator and Hillary Clinton has become entangled in another fight— a long- running battle between Obama and his party’s left wing over immigration enforcement.
Clinton has tied herself closely to the president, who has solid approval ratings among Democrats. That has paid important electoral dividends, particularly in solidifying the support of black voters. But just as she has gathered many of Obama’s friends, the former secretary of state has also inherited his opponents.
Sanders and Clinton have offered largely similar proposals. Both have pledged to go further than Obama in curtailing deportations of immigrants in the country illegally. Both have turned to immigrant activists, some of whom came to the country illegally, to help design their platforms on the issue.
But their supporters have engaged in fierce battles that often seem to have less to do with the candidates themselves than with the existing administration.
The impact can be seen among Latino voters, many of whom view immigration as a top issue. A new USC Dornsife/ Los Angeles Times poll of California voters found a generational divide in the Latino vote, with Sanders beating Clinton 58 percent to 31 percent among Latino voters younger than 50 in advance of the state’s primary on Tuesday. Among older Latinos, Clinton led 69 percent to 16 percent.
Obama has spoken frequently about the need for a comprehensive immigration bill that would allow most of the 11 million people in the country without permission to stay. Yet, he chose not to push such legislation during his first term in office, not even during his first two years, when Democrats controlled of both chambers of Congress.
In his second term, a comprehensive bill passed the Senate with a bipartisan coalition, but then died in the Republican- controlled House.
While Obama has given work permits and deportation deferrals to some immigrants with longstanding ties to the US, he has also overseen the deportation of more than 2.5 million people in the country illegally.
Some Latino activists see that as a betrayal.
“If we’re talking about parties being hard on Latinos, let’s talk about the Democrats, not just the Republicans,” Andiola, a Sanders spokesman, said at a heated forum on immigration at University of California Los Angeles this week. Andiola, who was brought to the US from Mexico illegally at age 11, and who won a temporary work permit under Obama’s deportation deferral program, blamed Democrats for looking the other way while Obama presided over a record number of deportations.