From the Democratic debate:
IFILL: Let me turn this on its head, because when we talk about race in this country, we always talk about African-Americans, people of color. I want to talk about white people, OK?
SANDERS: White people?
IFILL: I know. (LAUGHTER)
So many people will be surprised to find out that we are sitting in one of the most racially polarized metropolitan areas in the country. By the middle of this century, the nation is going to be majority nonwhite. Our public schools are already there. If working- class, white Americans are about to be outnumbered, are already underemployed in many cases, and one study found they are dying sooner, don’t they have a reason to be resentful, Senator — Secretary Clinton?
CLINTON: Look, I am deeply concerned about what’s happening in every community in America, and that includes white communities, where we are seeing an increase in alcoholism, addiction, earlier deaths. People with a high school education or less are not even living as long as their parents lived. This is a remarkable and horrifying fact.
And that’s why I’ve come forward with, for example, a plan to revitalize coal country, the coalfield communities that have been so hard hit by the changing economy, by the reduction in the use of coal. You know, coal miners and their families who helped turn on the lights and power our factories for generations are now wondering, has our country forgotten us? Do people not care about all of our sacrifice?
And I’m going to do everything I can to address distressed communities, whether they are communities of color, whether they are white communities, whether they are in any part of our country.
I particularly appreciate the proposal that Congressman Jim Clyburn has — the 10-20-30 proposal — to try to spend more federal dollars in communities with persistent generational poverty. And you know what? If you look at the numbers, there are actually as many, if not more white communities that are truly being left behind and left out.
So, yes, I do think it would be a terrible oversight not to try to address the very real problems that white Americans — particularly those without a lot of education whose jobs have — you know, no longer provided them or even no longer present in their communities, because we have to focus where the real hurt is. And that’s why, as president, I will look at communities that need special help and try to deliver that.
IFILL: Senator — Senator, I want you to respond to that, but I also want you to — am I wrong? Is it even right to be describing this as a matter of race?
SANDERS: Yeah, you can, because African-Americans and Latinos not only face the general economic crises of low wages, and high unemployment, and poor educational opportunities, but they face other problems, as well. So, yes, we can talk about it as a racial issue. But it is a general economic issue.
SANDERS: And here’s what the economic issue is.
The wages that high school graduates receive today are significantly less, whether you are white or black, than they used to be. Why is that? Because of a series of disastrous trade policies which have allowed corporate America through NAFTA and Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China, Secretary Clinton and I disagree on those issues.
But view is those trade policies have enabled corporate America to shut down in this country, throw millions of people out on the street. Now no one thinks that working in the factory is the greatest job in the world. But you know what, you can make a middle class wage, you have decent health care, decent benefits.
You once had a pension. Those jobs, in many cases, are now gone. They’re off to China. Now you are a worker, white worker, black worker, who had a decent job, that manufacturing job is gone.
What have you got now? You are working at McDonald’s? That is why there is massive despair all over this country. People have worked their entire lives. They’re making a half, two-thirds what they used to make. Their kids are having a hard time finding any work at all.
And that’s why this study, which shows that if you can believe it today, for white working class people between 45 and 54, life expectancy is actually going down.
Suicide, alcoholism, drugs, that’s why we need to start paying attention to the needs of working families in this country, and not just a handful of billionaires who have enormous economic and political power.
WOODRUFF: Thank you.
Senator Sanders, one of the causes of anxiety for working class Americans is connected to immigrants. President Obama, as you know, has issued executive actions to permit some 5 million undocumented immigrants who are living now in the United States to come out of the shadows without fear of deportation to get work permits.
Would you go further than that? And if so, how specifically would you do it? Should an undocumented family watching this debate tonight, say, in Nevada, rest easy, not fear of further deportations under a Sanders presidency?
SANDERS: The answer is yes. We’ve got 11 million undocumented people in this country. I have talked to some of the young kids with tears rolling down their cheeks, are scared to death that today they may or their parents may be deported.
I believe that we have got to pass comprehensive immigration reform, something that I strongly supported. I believe that we have got to move toward a path toward citizenship. I agree with President Obama who used executive orders to protect families because the Congress, the House was unable or refused to act.
And in fact I would go further. What would motivate me and what would be the guiding light for me in terms of immigration reform, Judy, is to bring families together, not divide them up.
And let me say this also. Somebody who is very fond of the president, agrees with him most of the time, I disagree with his recent deportation policies. And I would not support those.
Bottom line is a path towards citizenship for 11 million undocumented people, if Congress doesn’t do the right thing, we use the executive orders of the president.
CLINTON: I strongly support the president’s executive actions. I hope the Supreme Court upholds them. I think there is constitutional and legal authority for the president to have done what he did.
I am against the raids. I’m against the kind of inhumane treatment that is now being visited upon families, waking them up in the middle of the night, rounding them up. We should be deporting criminals, not hardworking immigrant families who do the very best they can and often are keeping economies going in many places in our country.
I’m a strong supporter of comprehensive immigration reform. Have been ever since I was in the Senate. I was one of the original sponsors of the DREAM Act. I voted for comprehensive immigration reform in 2007.
Senator Sanders voted against it at that time. Because I think we have to get to comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. And as president I would expand enormous energy, literally call every member of Congress that I thought I could persuade.
Hopefully after the 2016 election, some of the Republicans will come to their senses and realize we are not going to deport 11 or 12 million people in this country. And they will work with me to get comprehensive immigration reform.
SANDERS: Secretary Clinton, I do have a disagreement here. If my memory is correct, I think when we saw children coming from these horrendous, horrendously violent areas of Honduras and neighboring countries, people who are fleeing drug violence and cartel violence, I thought it was a good idea to allow those children to stay in this country. That was not, as I understand it, the secretary’s position.
In terms of 2007 immigration reform, yeah, I did vote against it. 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. 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’d be thrown out of this country.
So it wasn’t just me who opposed it. It was LULAC, one of the large Latino organizations in this country. It was the AFL-CIO. It was some of the most progressive members of the United States Congress who opposed it for that reason.
But we are where we are right now. And where we are right now is we have got to stand up to the Trumps of the world who are trying to divide us up. What we have to do right now is bring our people together and understand that we must provide a path towards citizenship for 11 million undocumented people.
CLINTON: Two quick responses. One, with respect to the Central American children, I made it very clear that those children needed to be processed appropriately, but we also had to send a message to families and communities in Central America not to send their children on this dangerous journey in the hands of smugglers.
I’ve also called for the end of family detention, for the end of privately-run detention centers, along with private prisons, which I think are really against the common good and the rule of law.
And with respect to the 2007 bill, this was Ted Kennedy’s bill. And I think Ted Kennedy had a very clear idea about what needed to be done. And I was proud to stand with him and support it.
WOODRUFF: I’d like…
SANDERS: Well, let me just respond. I worked with Ted Kennedy. He was the chairman of my committee. And I loved Ted Kennedy. But on this issue, when you have one of the large Latino organizations in America saying vote no, and you have the AFL-CIO saying vote no, and you have leading progressive Democrats, in fact, voting no, I don’t apologize for that vote.
But in terms of the children, I don’t know to whom you’re sending a message. Who are you sending a message to? These are children who are leaving countries and neighborhoods where their lives are at stake. That was the fact. I don’t think we use them to send a message. I think we welcome them into this country and do the best we can to help them get their lives together.
CLINTON: Well, that just wasn’t — that just wasn’t the fact, Senator. The fact is that there was a great effort made by the Obama administration and others to really send a clear message, because we knew that so many of these children were being abused, being treated terribly while they tried to get to our border.
So we have a disagreement on this. I think now what I’ve called for is counsel for every child so that no child has to face any kind of process without someone who speaks and advocates for that child so that the right decision hopefully can be made.