Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton joined her rivals Monday in opposing the Obama administration's deportation raids targeting Central American immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally and ignored deportation orders.
Speaking at a forum aimed at young and minority voters in Iowa, Clinton said the raids had "sown fear and division in immigrant communities across the country. People are afraid to go to work. They are afraid to send their kids to school. They are afraid to go to the hospital, or even the grocery store."
Clinton had previously drawn criticism from pro-immigration groups in 2014 when she said that unaccompanied Central American minors who had crossed the southern border should be returned to their home countries.
However, on Monday she called for government-funded counsel for unaccompanied minors in immigration court, as well as more funding for asylum officers, translators and immigration judges.
"We have laws and we must be guided by those laws,' Clinton said earlier, "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 comments marked Clinton's clearest break with Obama, whom she served as secretary of state during the president's first term.
Clinton's rivals, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, had come out strongly against the raids when their planning was first reported last month. At the time, Sanders said he was "very distubed" by the reports, while O'Malley called the raids "mindless deportations" that were "at odds" with America's character.
The first of the raids reportedly were conducted last week in Texas and Gerogia, with more expected across the country. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said the raids were designed to deter immigrants from illegally entering the U.S.
"As I have said repeatedly, our borders are not open to illegal migration," Johnson said last week. "If you come here illegally, we will send you back consistent with our laws and values."