DES MOINES, Iowa, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has come out against recent federal crackdowns on undocumented immigrants, promising not to be "deporter in chief."
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley have pressured Clinton in recent weeks to take a stand on immigration issues in light of federal deportation raids in which dozens of people have been arrested. Clinton released a statement Monday night to coincide with her appearance at the Iowa Brown & Black Presidential Forum, the oldest minority-centered presidential forum in the country.
"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. "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. The raids have sown fear and division in immigrant communities across the country."
At the forum, Clinton said the raids were "sowing discord and fear." Clinton called for the federal government to provide legal counsel to unaccompanied minors who have illegally crossed into the country. Under current federal law, the government is not obligated to do so.
When the raids were first announced before Christmas, the Clinton camp took a softer stance on them. Campaign spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa put out a statement on Christmas Eve saying the candidate had "concerns" about the raids.
"Hillary Clinton has real concerns about these reports, especially as families are coming together during this holiday season," the statement said. "She believes it is critical that everyone have a full and fair hearing, and that our country provides refuge to those who need it. And we should be guided by a spirit of humanity and generosity when we approach these issues."
O'Malley wrote a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson just after Christmas imploring the department to "reconsider this approach." After the new year, Sanders took a firmer stance, calling the raids "inhumane."
Many of the raids have focused on the wave of unaccompanied minors who trekked across the southern U.S. border in the summer of 2014. At the time, Clinton advocated sending those children back.
"They should be sent back as soon as it can be determined who responsible adults in their families are. There are concerns about whether all of them can be sent back, but I think all of them who can be should be reunited with their families," she said at a town hall meeting hosted by CNN in 2014. "We have to send a clear message: Just because your child gets across the border, that doesn't mean the child gets to stay. We don't want to send a message that's contrary to our laws or will encourage more children to make that dangerous journey."