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Democratic Debate: Clinton, Sanders Clash Over Immigration Reform

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton before the Univision News and Washington Post debate on the Miami Dade Colleges Kendall Campus on Wednesday in Miami.

In Sunday's Democratic debate, the gloves came off between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. And in tonight's Univision/Washington Post debate from Miami, broadcast on CNN, the gloves didn't go back on.

Broadcast in Spanish and translated into English, the two White House hopefuls clashed over immigration reform, trade, Wall Street policy, climate change and debated their electoral strategy going forward.

Here were some of the top moments:

Michigan momentum

It wasn't lost on the moderators that the Vermont senator had pulled off a huge upset over the former secretary of state in Michigan on Tuesday night. But Clinton downplayed the loss and pointed out the positives from the evening, including her big win in Mississippi.

"This is a marathon and a marathon that can only be carried out by the type of inclusive campaign I'm running," Clinton said. "I was pleased I got 100,000 more votes last night than my opponent and more delegates."

Sanders argued he's the one with the momentum, calling his win in Michigan "one of the major political upsets in modern presidential history."

"And I believe that our message of the need for people to stand up and tell corporate America and Wall Street that they cannot have it all is resonating across this country," Sanders said. "And I think in the coming weeks and months, we are going to continue to do extremely well, win a number of these primaries, and convince superdelegates that Bernie Sanders is the strongest candidate to defeat Donald Trump."

Immigration flashpoint

One of the most revealing moments came on immigration, an issue of utmost importance to the Hispanic community to which this debate is aimed.

Both Clinton and Sanders broke with the White House in promising not to deport children or undocumented immigrants who don't have criminal records.

"Of the people, the undocumented people living in our country, I do not want to see them deported. I want to see them on a path to citizenship. That is exactly what I will do," Clinton said.

Sanders also promised not to deport U.S. children or immigrants who don't have a criminal record. But he also criticized Clinton for not supporting the same logic for Honduran children fleeing violence in their country, trying to come into the U.S.

"Secretary Clinton did not support those children coming into this country. I did," Sanders said. "Now I happen to agree with President Obama on many, many issues. I think he has done a great job as president of the United States. He is wrong on this issue of deportation. I disagree with him on that."

But while the two found common ground on those two promises, they still needled each other over past immigration votes. Clinton hit Sanders for opposing a 2007 immigration reform bill, which he has said was because it had guest worker provisions that were "akin to slavery."

"I have been consistent and committed to comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. I think our best chance was in 2007 when [the late Massachusetts Sen.] Ted Kennedy led the charge on comprehensive immigration reform," Clinton said. "We had Republican support, we had a president willing to sign it. I voted for that bill. Senator Sanders voted against it. Just think, imagine where we would be today if we had achieved comprehensive immigration reform nine years ago."

In an email to reporters, Sanders campaign pointed out to reporters that many Latino groups and unions also opposed that bill; Sanders supported the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate but stalled in the House.

She went even harder against Sanders, linking him to the "minutemen" movement who would "hunt down immigrants." The bill in question would have prevented the government from working with Mexican authorities to stop illegal immigration.

"There was a piece of legislation supported by dozens and dozens of members of the House which codified existing legislation. What the secretary is doing tonight and has done very often is take large pieces of legislation and take pieces out of it," Sanders pushed back. "No, I do not support vigilantes, and that is a horrific statement, an unfair statement to make."

Meanwhile, Sanders dredged up a point of conflict between Obama and Clinton in their 2008 race — her opposition to providing undocumented immigrants with driver's licenses in New York.

Clinton pressed on Benghazi

The former secretary of state's handing of the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, is a frequent GOP talking point, but this was the first time she had been pressed on the issue in a Democratic debate — and the audience didn't like it, booing loudly as the tragedy was raised.

Univision showed a video of a family member of one of the victims questioning why she had told her daughter Chelsea in an email the night of the attacks that al-Qaida was responsible.

Clinton said she was wrong and that all involved parties "were scrambling to get information that was changing, literally by the hour. And when we had information, we made it public. But then sometimes we had to go back and say we have new information that contradicts it."

Clinton defends her email server

Clinton was also pressed on her controversial decision to use a private email server while at the State Department, asked bluntly by moderator Jorge Ramos "Who specifically gave you permission to operate your email system as you did? Was it President Barack Obama? And would you drop out of the race if you get indicted?"

"It wasn't the best choice. I made a mistake. It was not prohibited. It was not in any way disallowed," Clinton argued, maintaining that no emails she sent at the time were marked classified and had instead been retroactively classified in a rash of "overclassification."

Pressed again about what would happen if she were indicated by the FBI, Clinton was exasperated.

"Oh for goodness that isn't going to happen," she said. "I'm not even answering that question on dropping out if indicted."

Sanders, who famously in the first debate said he's heard enough about her "damn emails," didn't bit this time either.

"There is a process under way, and that process will take its course," he reiterated, saying he'd rather focus on income inequality, climate change and other issues.

The trust factor

Clinton was also asked by the Washington Post's Karen Tumulty about perhaps her biggest Achilles heel: why so few people view her as trustworthy.

"Is there anything in your own actions and the decisions that you yourself have made that would foster this kind of mistrust?" Tumulty posited.

Clinton admitted, in perhaps one of the frankest moments of the campaign, that it's "painful" for her to hear such criticisms but that she does "take responsibility. When you're in public life, even if you believe that it's not an opinion that you think is fair or founded, you do have to take responsibility."

"I am not a natural politician, in case you haven't noticed, like my husband or President Obama," Clinton said, somewhat wistfully. "So I have a view that I just have to do the best I can, get the results I can, make a difference in people's lives, and hope that people see that I'm fighting for them and that I can improve conditions economically and other ways that will benefit them and their families."

But that segued into one of Sanders's most salient attacks on Clinton --why she hasn't released transcripts of her paid speeches to Wall Street groups.

"I would think that a speech so great that you got paid so much money for, you would like to share it with the American people," Sanders argued. "So I think she should release the transcript."

And Clinton still struggled to find a strong response to his push.

"I have been on the record and now I do have the toughest, most comprehensive plan to go after Wall Street," she argued even as Sanders pointed out her campaign donations from major financial institutions. "And not just the big banks, all the other financial interests that pose a threat to our economy."

Is Trump a racist?

Another blunt question from the moderator that each candidate ended up not answering directly — is Donald Trump, the GOP front-runner, a racist because of his controversial comments about Hispanics, women, blacks and other groups?

"Others are also joining in making clear that his rhetoric, his demagoguery, his trafficking in prejudice and paranoia has no place in our political system," Clinton said. Especially from somebody running for president who couldn't decide whether or not to disavow the Ku Klux Klan and David Duke. So people can draw their own conclusions about him. I will just end by saying this. You don't make America great by getting rid of everything that made America great."

Pressed again as to whether his call to ban Muslims and other proposals were outright racist, Clinton again demurred on answering directly.

"I think it's un-American. I think what he has promoted is not at all in keeping with American values," she continued. "And I am going to take every opportunity to criticize him, to raise those issues."

Sanders, too, decried his rhetoric and assailed his tactics, but said he believed that logic would win out with voters — and pointed out he performs better against Trump in general election hypothetical match-ups.

"I think that the American people are never going to elect a president who insults Mexicans, who insults Muslims, who insults women, who insults African-Americans," he said.

Reminding people of Trump's role in the so-called "birther" movement questioning whether or not President Obama was really born in the U.S., Sanders implied that was motivated by the color of his skin.

"My dad was born in Poland," Sanders continued. "I know a little bit about the immigrant experience. Nobody has ever asked me for my birth certificate. Maybe it has something to do with the color of my skin."

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