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Latino Leaders Hammer on Bernie Sanders' Immigration Record

First Posted: Feb 18, 2016 03:36 PM EST
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Ahead of Saturday's Nevada caucus, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton received the endorsements of prominent Latino leaders, who also hammered on Bernie Sanders' immigration track record.

Clinton had already received the endorsements of Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., and U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julian Castro, and on during a Thursday afternoon press call, the former secretary of state officially received the support of civil rights icon Dolores Huerta and the Latino Victory Fund, a super PAC helping candidates who advocate on behalf of the Latino community.

Hammering Sanders on Immigration

Castro, Huerta and Gutierrez spoke in depth about Sanders' immigration stance, particularly his view of the 2007 Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill (S. 1639). According to Gutierrez, Clinton supported the 2007 bill, introduced by then-Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and the former New York senator "did everything she can" to pass the legislation. Although Gutierrez acknowledged cooperation with Sanders on other issues, the independent Vermont senator was "absent" from the most critical immigration debate and supported provisions with anti-immigrant Republicans.

"The question that Latinos have to ask themselves is where was Senator Sanders when we needed him most? Because the truth is that when at the moment when we needed someone, someone to stand up, against Republicans and Lou Dobbs ... who were dehumanizing us and in 2007 when there was a way forward ... the truth is when we needed someone to stand up, Sanders was playing for the wrong team ... I want somebody who's been playing for the right team," said Gutierrez, adding that he is happy Sanders is currently championing for comprehensive immigration reform but the memories still exist on "who let us down when we needed them."

Castro, who spoke on his personal behalf and not representing HUD, said it has been "disappointing" when Sanders speaks about his immigration track record "that just doesn't exist." Taking into account Sanders' previous votes on bills regarding immigrant detention, minute men on the southern border and the 2007 immigration reform bill, Castro said the Vermont senator showed he was against immigrants, Latinos and progressives.

"I'm supporting Hillary because I'm convinced that if the past is any indication as to what the future holds that Senator Sanders will continue to let us down and that Hillary will be there fighting for immigrants and the Latino community. And I can say, with absolute certainty, that Hillary Clinton is the best candidate for us to build on President Obama's progress and to continue to break down barriers," said Castro.

Huerta said Sanders' lack of support on the 2007 immigration reform bill likely set the progress back by a decade. She said Sanders' opposition to the reform legislation was "devastating" because of the progress made to advance the bill and the likelihood to pass a similar bill might occur in another decade or longer. Huerta said Clinton has been with the Latino community since "day one," while Sanders is coming to Latinos because he needs their votes.

Following the criticism on Sanders' immigration votes, Cristobal Alex, president of the Latino Victory Fund, announced the organization's endorsement for the former secretary of state.

"Hillary has fought for Latinos to make sure that every person has a voice and that every voice is heard. She has worked tirelessly to increase opportunities for all of us, and ensure that Latinos can move up the economic ladder and make life better for future generations," said Alex. Whether it's immigration reform, access to affordable education, health care, economic policies that uplift us up, or policies to combat climate change. Hillary is a proven leader who has always, always, always stood with Latinos and will fight for the issues that matter to us."

Sanders on the 2007 Bill

During the October 2015 Democratic presidential primary debate, Sanders explained he voted against the 2007 bill "because it had guest-worker provisions in it which the Southern Poverty Law Center talked about being semi-slavery. Guest workers are coming in, they're working under terrible conditions, but if they stand up for their rights, they're thrown out of the country. I was not the only progressive to vote against that legislation for that reason."

Sanders defended his 2007 vote again during the Feb. 11 debate.

"I voted against it because the Southern Poverty Law Center, among other groups said that the guest worker programs that were embedded in this agreement were akin to slavery, where people came into this country to do guest work were abused, were exploited and if they stood up for their rights, they were thrown out of this country. So it wasn't just me who opposed it. It was LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens), one of the large Latino organizations in this country, it was the AFL-CIO, some of the most progressive members of the United States Congress," Sanders said.

Sanders did vote for the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill (S. 744), but despite the bill's passage in the Senate, it was never picked up for debate in the House.

Clinton's Track Record

Following the press call, the Republican National Committee (RNC) issued a statement about the former secretary of state's history on immigration. Clinton has been criticized during the campaign trail for using the term "illegal immigrant" on a number of occasions, her vote that would "build a barrier" to halt immigrants from entering the U.S., and immigrant detention and deportation policies. Clinton has apologized and said she will no longer use the term "illegal immigrant" and reiterated her call for more resources for detained immigrant families and unaccompanied children in detention facilities. She has also supported Obama's immigration executive actions and proposed further executive actions if Congress does not act on comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

"It's clear Hillary Clinton's extensive record of flip-flops and political expediency on immigration has failed to persuade Latinos that she can be trusted," said RNC Hispanic Media Director Ruth Guerra. "The latest unhinged and hypocritical attack from her campaign further proves she is willing to say or do anything to get elected."

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For the latest updates, follow Latin Post's Michael Oleaga on Twitter: @EditorMikeO or contact via email: m.oleaga@latinpost.com.

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