LAS VEGAS — Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley intensified his attacks against the two other Democratic presidential candidates here Sunday, accusing both opponents of having a cautious and outdated approach to immigration issues.
In an effort to gain traction against his better-funded and higher-polling rivals, O’Malley told a meeting of immigration activists in the early caucus state of Nevada that Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bernie Sanders each represent “the failed thinking of the past” and have governed with a strategy of “poll-tested triangulation.”
O’Malley singled out Clinton’s opposition to granting driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants in New York when she was a senator representing that state and running for president the first time.
“In 2007, when new American immigrants in New York had the opportunity for New York to do as Maryland had done and pass driver’s licenses for new American immigrants … Secretary Clinton had her campaign call up the then-governor of New York and begged him to pull the bill because it was getting in the way of her politics and her campaign,” O’Malley said.
Later, in a question-and-answer session, he again referred to Clinton’s 2007 driver's license position by calling out “the triangulation and cautious approach of Secretary Clinton.”
O’Malley’s comments came during an appearance at the Fair Immigration Reform Movement presidential candidates’ forum in Las Vegas. Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont, is scheduled to appear at the forum on Monday. Clinton is not planning to attend.
O’Malley also attacked Sanders directly over immigration issues by highlighting one of the senator’s 2007 comments to Lou Dobbs, then a CNN anchor and now a Fox Business Network personality who is a lightning rod for many immigrants.
“When comprehensive immigration reform was up for a vote in the Congress, Senator Sanders went on Lou Dobbs’s show — are you familiar with Lou Dobbs? — and said that immigrants take our jobs and depress our wages,” O’Malley said. “Not only are those statements flat-out wrong, they actually harm the consensus.”
O’Malley then lumped Clinton and Sanders together: “We are not going to solve this problem with poll-tested triangulation and half-truths, nor will we solve this problem by falsely asserting that immigrants take our jobs or lower our wages. To solve this problem, we need new leadership, principled leadership based on what is best for our country and our economy.”
Spokespeople for both Clinton and Sanders did not immediately respond to O’Malley’s attacks.
In his remarks, O’Malley ticked through steps he took during his two terms as governor to help immigrants in Maryland, including passing Dream Act, raising the minimum wage and freezing college tuition.
“Anyone can talk about it,” he said, “but we actually did it.”
At the end of his speech, O’Malley received a loud standing ovation from the assembled activists and chants of “Sí, se puede,” which is Spanish for “Yes, we can” and is a Cesar Chavez-era labor organizing motto.
At a news conference after his remarks, O’Malley questioned Clinton and Sanders’s motives for supporting comprehensive immigration reform.
“Is this a priority for the two of them because it’s an election year or is this something they truly believe?” he said.
When a reporter asked which he thought was the right answer, O’Malley said, “I don’t know. But I think it’s a good question to ask.”
He continued, “When you listen to the two of them talk about immigration, you can tell they are very much of yesterday’s mindset.”