A well-known immigration activist's decision to endorse Hillary Clinton has set off a public Twitter spat between her campaign and Bernie Sanders — and even drawn in Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.
In an endorsement first reported by BuzzFeed News, DREAMer Astrid Silva said it was "tempting to fall for" an immigration activist's wish list — referring to Sanders's immigration plan — but that activists owe "it to our families to support a realistic and achievable approach to fixing our immigration system."
Calling them "appealing but ultimately empty promises," Silva said Nevadans prefer real results over "lofty goals that are impossible to reach.”
Sanders's national Latino press secretary Erika Andiola, herself a high-profile DREAMer, took a shot at the Clinton campaign and the endorsement for what she termed "showcasing" young activists rather than "organizing" with them.
Her tweet was retweeted by Bernie Sanders's official account.
(The Clinton campaign was the first one to hire an activist from the immigration movement when the campaign hired Lorella Praeli as Latino outreach director.)
The Clinton campaign sent out a tweet in Silva's defense.
During the day, Andiola retweeted activists tweeting about their support for Sanders's plan to bring back deported people and veterans as well as protect unaccompanied children who crossed the border from deportation. She told BuzzFeed News that she was not personally attacking Silva, but that those issues and others — like shutting down detention centers — are not unrealistic.
"There is no reason for people to be calling our immigration platform unrealistic because the reality is the immigrant rights community has been fighting for every single one of those things," she said. "It’s upsetting to see from someone that has been very involved in this movement, from our own community, saying it’s not realistic."
Sanders Latino outreach director Arturo Carmona doubled down on Andiola's displeasure and said Silva's endorsement did not reflect her standing within the community.
"Immigrant leaders can put politics over people," he said, pointedly referring to Silva's endorsement. "But leaders putting the interests of immigrant families before politics are standing with us."
Andiola's comments were taken as a personal attack on Silva from members of Clinton's team.
"We should be encouraging DREAMers to get involved in the political process, not attacking them," Praeli told BuzzFeed News. "Astrid is a strong voice for our community and we're proud to have her and other DREAMers on our side."
Clinton campaign officials said the response from the Sanders campaign is part of a trend of personally attacking organizations or figures who endorse Clinton rather than the campaign itself, citing the response to endorsements from the League of Conservation Voters, Planned Parenthood, and Human Rights Campaign. Sanders called Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign part of the "establishment" after they endorsed Clinton. (Sanders later walked that comment back.)
Clinton campaign officials also took issue with the idea that Silva wouldn't be campaigning, noting the campaign's national Latino program and pointing out that the campaign has been in Nevada longer than any other.
Clinton's national political director Amanda Renteria, digital organizing director Jessica Morales Rocketto, and Praeli, all Latinas, responded.
Sen. Harry Reid, who became friends with Silva during the fight for the DREAM Act and Obama's executive actions in recent years, also jumped in.
Reached after a press conference in Nevada for her endorsement along with seven other DREAMers, Silva called the comments from Sanders campaign "disappointing."
"I am living in fear of ICE, I shouldn’t be living in fear that because I raise my voice, someone that has the same situation as me is going to use that to attack me," she said.
Andiola would not respond to comments from Praeli and the Clinton campaign, only saying, "I didn't put anyone down," but elaborated that as a member of the so-called "well-known" DREAMers, she feels a responsibility to organize them and build an infrastructure for political power.
While she said Silva was being used for politics, she acknowledged feeling that she has in the past been trotted out as a popular activist and then told not to speak up when establishment figures are discussing policy. This, she said, is not what led to Obama's executive actions, but pressure for things that were called "unrealistic" at the time.
On the topic of organizing, Silva agreed.
"This is about organizing," she stressed. "Our communities know what’s going on. DREAMers are not just a political toy, we've been able to have a lot of success here in our state because of organizing for what our undocumented students have been fighting for."
Silva said she has been to other Sanders events, and found his comments on immigration to be "outrageous."
"The promises, the outrageous promises," she said, referring to comments he made at a Nevada event that he would work on immigration at the beginning of his presidency.
She wouldn't go into specifics, but said Clinton would work better with Congress, while Sanders "can’t go out there and continue wishing that things will happen."
Supporters of both campaigns responded to the back and forth with hashtags on Twitter. Sanders supporters tweeted using #FamiliesFirst, laying out why his plans are morally right and realistic. Clinton supporters rallied around Silva with the hashtag #ImWithAstrid, defending her credentials in the community and why her endorsement matters.
Andiola said she has worked with Silva in the past, and called her a friend, noting that they have bonded over similar family situations, like Silva's fear that her father could be deported and Andiola's concern for her mother. The disagreement, she said, is over the substance and extent of immigration policy, "not an attack on any DREAMer."
"I continue to be overwhelmed by fact that we have a voice and ability to support different candidates when years ago candidates were figuring out how to deport us," Silva said.
"I’m not going to make it personal — I understand she’s working for a campaign, I can support Clinton and criticize her," she added. "I can’t say the same for Sanders."
Adrian Carrasquillo is the White House correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
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