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Democrats Focus on Rival's Immigration Failures Ahead of NY Primary

by Suzanne Gamboa /
NEW YORK - APRIL 27: Immigrants, activists and supporters of illegal immigrants rally against a new Arizona law on April 27, 2010 outside of Federal Plaza in New York City. Following the state of Arizona's passage of a new immigration law which requires individuals suspected of being illegal immigrants to show proof of legal residence when asked by law enforcement, immigration supporters have been protesting across the country. The law has become increasingly divisive with Mexico's president issuing a travel warning to Mexican citizens in Arizona. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Democrats may tout the party's record on accomplishments for immigrants, but as the New York primary approaches, the party's two presidential candidates are spotlighting what their rival failed to do for immigrants.

Bernie Sanders' campaign on Tuesday held a news conference call to blast Hillary Clinton's 2007 opposition to a proposal to provide New York driver's licenses to immigrants in the state, but not legally in the U.S. That followed Clinton's criticism of Sanders over the weekend for his 2007 vote against an immigration reform bill.

The New York primary brings to the nomination race another voter population with a large Latino electorate and a significant immigrant population. Fourteen percent of New York's eligible voters are Latino. About 30 percent of the state's eligible voters are naturalized citizens, almost twice the overall New York population.

Drawing a contrast to Clinton, the Sanders campaign said Sanders had worked "behind the scenes" in Vermont to help pass its 2013 legislation providing licenses to immigrants not legally here. When asked for details, campaign spokespeople said they had none.

Cesar Vargas, national Latino outreach deputy director for the Sanders campaign, said the point is, Sanders has “never been any type of impediment to any type of relief" when he has been mayor, a member of Congress or senator.

The Clinton campaign sees it otherwise. In a campaign organizing event in Brooklyn Saturday, she mentioned Sanders’ vote, while he was a U.S. senator, against a 2007 immigration reform bill, and said the bill was the best chance in recent history to get immigration reform through Congress.

Sanders has said he opposed the bills guest worker provisions in the bill that provided a pathway to citizenship for immigrants here illegally.

When she sought the nomination in 2008, Clinton said she opposed providing driver's licenses to immigrants here illegally.

About a year ago, Clinton’s campaign said she supports state policies to give immigrants illegally here driver’s licenses.

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