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Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders Say They Won’t Deport Children

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 10/03/2016 Elise Foley

During Wednesday's Democratic debate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) both promised to not deport children or non-criminal undocumented immigrants, and criticized President Barack Obama for doing so. If either of them becomes president, the pledges will be difficult to keep. 

Both are in a tough spot on the issue of deporting children. Univision moderator Jorge Ramos challenged them repeatedly on whether they would send home children apprehended at the border. Ramos brought up Clinton's statement in 2014 that unaccompanied minors -- who at the time were being apprehended in surging numbers -- "should be sent back" to their native countries.

Clinton said her stance at the time has been represented, and that she meant that current law must be followed, and would change the law to guarantee more safeguards for children. She said for undocumented immigrants, she would prioritize violent criminals, terrorists and others who threaten safety.

"I do not have the same policy as the current administration does," Clinton said. She added the U.S. should "stop the raids."

"I will not deport deport children. I would not deport children," Clinton said later. "I do not want to deport family members either."

She also said she wasn't contradicting her past statements on people who crossed the border, because the country must follow its asylum laws. Clinton quickly pivoted back to saying undocumented people "living in our country" should be given a path to citizenship.

It could be tough to square the two statements, however. Discussions about children being deported are almost exclusively around the unaccompanied minors crossing the border -- not necessarily people already living in the country. Following current asylum laws means that if the children are rejected for relief, they can be deported. If a president promises not to deport children -- any of them -- as a blanket matter, that would be blown up.

Sanders hit Clinton for her comments, and made promises of his own. He said Obama "is wrong on this issue of deportation."

"I will not deport children from the United States of America," Sanders said, adding that he also "can make that promise" that he won't deport non-criminal undocumented immigrants.

Obama is a good example of what such promises look like in practice. He has repeatedly said his administration will focus enforcement on violent criminals and national security threats. Although the rate of deportations in general has gone down from record highs in the early years of his presidency, it's not enough to prevent every family from being ripped apart or to allow every person who asks for asylum in the U.S. to stay.  

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