O'Malley hits Clinton on Central American immigrants

Story highlights

  • Martin O'Malley is trying to attack Hillary Clinton on immigration from the left
  • He says she's flip-flopped on the issue of Central American refugees
  • Clinton says she stands with the Obama administration

Las Vegas (CNN)Hillary Clinton has made a show of staking out ground to President Barack Obama's left on immigration -- yet Martin O'Malley is attempting to out-flank her.

The former Maryland governor took another swipe at Clinton on Wednesday, blasting the Democratic presidential front-runner for her position that the wave of Central American immigrants who entered the United States last year should be deported.
He also said the immigrants kept in migrant camps in the southern United States -- many seeking asylum -- should be treated as refugees, an issue on which O'Malley broke with the White House last year.
    "Without any trial, to pen up children in internment camps is un-American," O'Malley told reporters gathered outside the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas.
    Clinton was asked about the issue when she spoke with reporters Tuesday in Nevada. She stood by her position -- which Obama's White House has also taken -- 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," she said. "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.'"
    But Clinton said those 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.
    "I think we need more resources to process them, to listen to their stories, to find out if they have family in this country, if they have a legitimate reason for staying. So I would be putting a lot of resources into doing that, but my position has been and remains the same," Clinton said.
    O'Malley, meanwhile, accused Clinton of attempting to duck what he called an "appalling" humanitarian crisis.
    "Secretary Clinton's seen now, like, four or five different sides of this issue. I'm glad she's thinking about it anyway, but her latest position is wrong," he said.
    Struggling to gain traction in the Democratic primary polls, O'Malley has made immigration a focal point of his campaign. He's offered a detailed reform proposal that would extend citizenship to more undocumented immigrants than any other candidate, and he also recently visited Puerto Rico.
    O'Malley said he thinks his far-behind campaign will benefit from a "summer of anger, frustration and discontent" that has thrust Donald Trump to the forefront of the GOP field and led Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to gain ground on Clinton.
    "At the end of this," he said, "when the fall comes and January comes, America is going to focus on which new leader can actually move our country forward beyond these rather divided and polarized times."