Sen. Obama called the issue of driver's licenses for illegal immigrants a "wedge issue."
(CNN) –Responding to a question at the Democratic debate from CNN's Campbell Brown regarding his past support of benefits for illegal immigrants, including drivers licenses and in-state college tuition, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, said "the problem we have here is not driver's licenses. Undocumented workers do not come here to drive." "They don't go - they're not coming here to go to the In-N-Out Burger," he added. "That's not the reason they're here. They're here to work. And so instead of being distracting by what has now become a wedge issue, let's focus on actually solving the problem that this administration, the Bush administration, had done nothing about it."
But when pressed by CNN's Wolf Blitzer whether he supports a policy allowing drivers licenses for illegal immigrants, Obama said "I am not proposing that that's what we do."
Blitzer then asked the other candidates on stage whether they supported a policy that would allow drivers licenses for illegal immigrants. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Connecticut, and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York all said they did not.
When it was New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson's turn to answer he said he did support the idea. "Well, my answer is yes, and I did it," Richardson said. "You know why? Because the Congress, and I notice Barack mentioned the president, but the Congress also failed miserably to pass comprehensive immigration."
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, said he disagreed with the way Blitzer phrased the question. "I take issue with your description of people being illegal immigrants. There aren't any illegal human beings," he said. "You give people a path to legalization and you work to make sure that you don't criminalize their status any further."
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- CNN Political Desk Editor Jamie Crawford