At a campaign event in New Hampshire Friday, Democratic candidate Joe Biden was confronted by protesters who demanded he apologize for deportations of illegal immigrants during the Obama administration. Biden stood firm in refusing to disavow deportations as a tool of immigration enforcement.
A video published by America Rising captured the tense encounter.
The former vice-president and leading candidate for the Democratic nomination was approached by a group of protesters, as well as a man speaking Spanish accompanied by a translator. The man told Biden that his brother had been detained and deported, and that he himself had faced deportation proceedings.
"I want you to apologize for the three million immigrants that were deported and separated from their families under the Obama years," the man told Biden through his translator. "I want to know if you will commit to stopping all deportations and detentions if you are elected president."
Biden promptly responded "no", refusing to commit to halting deportations or to apologize for those that took place during the Obama administration.
The immigration protesters quickly voiced their disapproval, chanting "three million deportations under the Obama administration" and "apologize now."
"Do you want me to answer your question?" Biden asked one of the members of the group. "No you don’t, really."
Biden then explained that he was opposed to deportations for misdemeanors and would not separate families before a hearing was held on whether asylum was warranted, but dismissed calls to denounce all deportations.
"I will not apologize for deportations of people who have committed a felony," Biden said. "I will apologize for deportations if in fact you were deported because in fact you were engaged in a misdemeanor and/or your family was separated."
Biden's attitudes on immigration have come under scrutiny by progressives in the Democratic party this election cycle. As a senator in 2006, Biden praised a bill for denying amnesty to illegal immigrants and called for punishing businesses that hire them.
Since becoming vice-president in 2009 and entering the 2020 presidential race though, Biden has shifted to the left on immigration. At the first Democratic debate in June, Biden was among the candidates who raised their hands to signal their support for decriminalizing border crossings.