DES MOINES, Iowa — Hillary Clinton lined up against President Barack Obama’s administration on Monday night when she called for the Department of Homeland Security to stop deporting families back to unstable Central American countries.
The position is a change for Clinton, who called in 2014 for children coming to the United States to be deported back to their homes countries. She stood by that position in August 2015, but said immigrants shouldn’t be kept in migrant camps indefinitely, suggesting that “particularly the women and children” should be moved out and opening the door to keeping some of them within the United States.
The deportations, which started over the Christmas holidays, have riled many Democrats, including members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, who met with the White House in January to protest the raids.
“Our immigration enforcement efforts should be humane and conducted in accordance with due process, and that is why I believe we must stop the raids happening in immigrant communities,” Clinton said in a statement on Monday. “We have laws and we must be guided by those laws, but we shouldn’t have armed federal officers showing up at peoples’ homes, taking women and children out of their beds in the middle of the night.”
Clinton said that the DHS raids have “sown fear and division in immigrant communities across the country” and are making immigrant families afraid to go to school or the hospital.
Clinton’s campaign, in a fact sheet provide to reporters, said Clinton would stop the raids because they “cause unnecessary fear and disruption in communities” and there are better ways stop enforce laws. Clinton’s campaign also called for more government funded lawyers for unaccompanied minors in immigration courts.
The former secretary of state’s call came at the same time that she appeared at Fusion’s Black and Brown Forum at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.
What to do with the thousands of Central American immigrants who have fled war and gang violence in their countries has been a difficult issue for Clinton. In 2014, Clinton told CNN that children who had come to America from Central American countries “should be sent back as soon as it can be determined who responsible adults in their families are, because there are concerns whether all of them should be sent back. But I think all of them who can be should be reunited with their families.”
That put Clinton in line with Obama, but was an issue former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley used repeatedly against the former secretary of state. In August, Clinton stood by her position that the undocumented immigrants should be deported.
“We had an emergency, and it was very important to send a message to families in Central America, ‘Do not let your children take this very dangerous journey’ because a lot of children did not make it,” Clinton said in Nevada. “They were robbed, they were raped, they were kidnapped, they were held for ransom by smugglers. So I think it was the responsible message, that I and many others, including the White House, was trying to say to families, ‘Do not let your children, your young children do this.'”
Clinton’s Democratic presidential opponents have already been outspoken at the Obama administration’s DHS raids.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said in a statement earlier this months that he was “disappointed” by the plan.
“As we spend time with our families this holiday season, we who are parents should ask ourselves what we would do if our children faced the danger and violence these children do? How far would we go to protect them?” he said. “We need to take steps to protect children and families seeking refuge here, not cast them out.”
O’Malley, who is running well behind Sanders and Clinton, said the plan is “completely at odds with our character as a nation.”
“The world is watching, and it is up to us to decide whether we want to live up to our values, or whether we are ready to shrug them off and turn our backs on those most in need,” O’Malley said.