- JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
- Former Vice President Joe Biden took heat from other 2020 Democratic contenders for his record on immigration during night two of the second Democratic debate on Wednesday.
- New York mayor Bill de Blasio and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker were particularly sharp in their criticism, repeatedly asking Biden to account for the Obama administration’s deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants.
- Booker also called Biden out for repeatedly invoking Obama’s name on the campaign trail. “You can’t do it when it’s convenient and then dodge it when it’s not,” he said.
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Former Vice President Joe Biden took the stage for the second Democratic primary debate on Wednesday night with a target painted on his back, and his rivals wasted no time in calling him and former President Barack Obama out for their record on immigration.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker were particularly sharp in their criticism of Biden, repeatedly asking him to account for the Obama administration’s decision to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, including those who did not have a criminal record.
“We are playing into Republican hands who have a very different view and are trying to divide us against each other,” Booker said in response to a question from CNN’s moderators about his immigration reform plan.
He then turned to Biden and said, “No, Mr. Vice President, we are not going to let people cross the border. An unlawful crossing is an unlawful crossing if you do in the civil courts or the criminal courts, and the criminal courts are giving Donald Trump the ability to violate the human rights of people coming to our country.”
A few minutes later, CNN’s Don Lemon asked Biden about the Obama administration’s move to deport nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants and asked whether those numbers would resume if he were president.
“Absolutely not,” Biden responded.
- REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
But he wasn’t out of the doghouse just yet, because shortly after, de Blasio, when asked about his stance on comprehensive immigration reform, pointed out to Biden, “I didn’t hear your response when the issue came up of all those deportations. You were Vice President of the United States. I didn’t hear whether you tried to stop them or not using your power in the White House. Did you think it was a good idea, or something that needed to be stopped?”
Biden responded by touting Obama’s record on immigration, saying he “came up with the idea of dealing with the DREAMers. He put that into law.”
After highlighting other aspects of Obama’s immigration policy, Biden said that “to compare him to Donald Trump, I think that is absolutely bizarre.”
‘You can’t have it both ways’
But de Blasio wasn’t satisfied, coming back to Biden a few minutes later and saying he was “confused” about Biden’s answer.
“I asked the vice president if he used his power to stop those deportations,” de Blasio said. “If you want to be President of the United States, you need to be able to answer the tough questions.”
He added: “I guarantee you, if you’re debating Donald Trump, he’s not going to let you off the hook. Did you say those deportations were a good idea or did you go to the president and say this is a mistake, we shouldn’t do it? Which one?”
Biden responded that he kept his recommendations “in private.”
- Rebecca Cook/Reuters
“Unlike you, I expect you would go ahead and say whatever was said privately,” he said, addressing de Blasio. “That is not what I do. What I do say to you is, he moved to fundamentally change the system. That’s what he did. But much more has to be done -“
But de Blasio interjected, saying, “I still don’t have an answer.”
Then, Booker jumped back into the fray and called Biden out for his frequent references to Obama throughout the campaign.
“First of all, Mr. vice president, you can’t have it both ways,” Booker said. “You invoke President Obama more than anybody in this campaign. You can’t do it when it’s convenient and then dodge it when it’s not.”
As the audience broke into applause, Booker also targeted a comment Biden made earlier in the debate, when he said that immigrants with a PhD should be given greencards.
“That’s playing into what the Republicans want, to pit some immigrants against some immigrants,” Booker said. “We need to be the country that says everyone has worth and dignity and this should be a country that honors everyone. Don’t let the Republicans divide this party against itself.”
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