By Michael Oleaga – – – –
A week before the Florida presidential primary, surrogates for Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton discussed their record on Latinos’ issues and immigration.
Sanders’ Campaign on the Record
The Sanders campaign held a press call on Tuesday afternoon detailing why the Vermont senator has a better record on Latino issues than Clinton. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) who was the first congressman to endorse Sanders,
Grijalva, who serves as co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus, said Sanders’ campaign message of opportunities and the American Dream has been resonating with the Latino community. He also addressed the “distortion” about Sanders’ immigration record and the claims the Vermont lawmaker votes with Republicans. Grijalva said Sanders has a consistent immigration record and his opponents should present the facts and the projection of the future.
Lucy Flores, candidate for Nevada’s 4th Congressional District, acknowledged Sanders’ Latino voter turnout in Nevada. She said Clinton’s campaign expected Nevada’s Latinos to be her “firewall” but Sanders’ message transcended across ethnic, gender and religious lines.
“I knew very early on that that message was resonating with the Latino community — that this wasn’t just going to be a community that was going to vote for someone because they knew the name or because her brand has been around for a long time but because it was going to be about the issues,” said Flores, adding Latinos care about the same issues as all Americans, ranging from healthcare, jobs, economy, criminal justice and education.
Flores said that as long as Sanders’ message is being discussed, the differences between what he stands for and where he’s been will be clear.
Clinton’s Campaign on the Record
Clinton’s campaign also conducted a press call early Tuesday afternoon. According to Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., who has officially endorsed Clinton last December, said the former secretary of state has fought for Latinos during her entire life.
“It’s not a new fight for her … I can attest her passion runs deep when it comes to defending families and immigrants seeking a better life. She understands that immigrants are part of the fabric of this great nation,” said Gutierrez, adding that this is something Sanders “has not fully recognized.”
Gutierrez, identifying himself as Sanders’ congressional colleague during the last 14 years, said Clinton’s presidential rival was “absent” from most of the critical immigration debate. The Illinois congressman said when Sanders did appear to discuss immigration, the self-described Democratic socialist had a “very troubling” record. Gutierrez said Sanders stood against Democrats and progressives and aligned with the anti-immigrant wing of the Republican Party by voting in favor of a 2006 House bill (H.R. 5441) that would allow undocumented immigrants to be detained indefinitely.
Gutierrez acknowledged Grijalva during the call, noting he, unlike Sanders, voted against the 2006 bill. Although name dropping Grijalva, Gutierrez recognizes the Arizona congressman and fellow CHC member as a “good friend and colleague.”
Sanders’ immigration record did not improve, according to Gutierrez, when the Vermont politician was elected to the U.S. Senate. In 2007, the Senate voted on a comprehensive immigration reform bill (S. 1639), which Clinton voted in favor but Sanders voting against.
Gutierrez said the question Floridians and Latinos across the U.S. have to ask is “Where was Sen. Sanders when we needed him the most? Where was he before he was running for president?”
Prior to the press call, the Clinton campaign released a statement from U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julian Castro, not a CHC member, who also commented on Sanders’ immigration record of 2006 and 2007.
“Time and again, the Senator from Vermont has showed us firsthand that he doesn’t understand our immigration system or what is at stake for Latino and immigrant families,” said Castro. “Bernie Sanders voted with Republicans to protect the minutemen, a hate group that used military tactics against our community. Thousands of families have been torn apart due to destructive behavior by Republicans and we cannot have a President who stands by their side.”
He added, “When it has mattered most, she has voted to keep families together and is the only one person running for president who has consistently voted for immigration reform. I encourage Latinos throughout the country to join me in supporting the only candidate who will fight for us: Hillary Clinton.”
The calls come a week before Florida has its presidential primary on March 15.