Univision anchor Jorge Ramos got what he came for at Wednesday night’s Democratic debate. After aggressive questioning, Ramos compelled both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to pledge not to deport children if either is elected president. The candidates made news with this stunning campaign commitment, that’s for sure.
Ramos won their promises because the Univision and Washington Post–hosted debate went further and deeper on the issue of immigration than prior debates or town halls (with the exception of MSNBC’s town hall in February), and because of Ramos’s unapologetic approach to advocacy journalism, particularly on the issue of immigration. But I worry that the legendary Ramos, sometimes referred to as the “Hispanic Walter Cronkite” or the “Mexican Anderson Cooper” (what with their shared silver fox look and all), missed finer details on his march to achieving these promises.
Ramos’s single-minded focus to extract a commitment from Clinton in particular kept him from homing in on what Hillary Clinton was truly saying on Wednesday night—which is that she considers undocumented immigrants and child migrants who have fled Central America seeking asylum to be two distinct groups. She may have pledged that as president she would not to deport children, but she didn’t promise that every one of the tens of thousands of children who have arrived in the United States to escape rampant violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras in recent years would be allowed to stay.
This is how it went down:
RAMOS: And can you promise that you won’t deport immigrants who don’t have a criminal record?
CLINTON: Here’s what I can promise, Jorge; I can promise that I will do everything possible to provide due process.
RAMOS: But will you deport children?
CLINTON: Let me say this. I would give every person, but particularly children, due process to have their story told. And a lot of children will, of course, have very legitimate stories under our law to be able to stay.
They went back and forth a few more times, and Clinton spoke at length about the distinction she makes between deporting undocumented immigrants who are here and those who have arrived, especially in recent years due to the child migrant crisis, seeking asylum.
CLINTON: Yes, you can because the question you were asking me were about children seeking asylum. And we have laws. That was the most critical thing I said. Under our laws. I would like to see those laws changed. I would like see added to them, a guaranteed counsel and other support for children.
CLINTON: But if you are asking about everyone who is already here, undocumented immigrants, the 11-12 million who are living here, my priorities are to deport violent criminals, terrorists, and anyone who threatens our safety. So I do not have the same policy as the current administration does. I think it’s important that we move to our comprehensive immigration reform, but at the same time, 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.