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Associated Press File Photo / The two main contenders for the Democratic nomination, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, left, and former Vice President Joe Biden, debated in Washington, D.C., Sunday.

This editorial was updated at 5:36 p.m. on Monday, March 16, 2020.

While Americans determined how to react to a coronavirus pandemic Sunday, Democratic presidential nominee contenders former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, stood on a stage at CNN studios in Washington, D.C., and attempted to further politicize the crisis.

In another era, not that far removed from this one, they would be pledging their support in the moment for the current president of the United States, even though they both want to replace him. They would be saying when it comes to a serious problem affecting all Americans, it's time for the parties to come together on solutions.

So, while such pledges of cooperation weren't going to come out of the mouths of these lifetime bureaucrats in such a hyperpartisan country, what did emerge was rather remarkable.

One of the issues that did come up, for instance, was one on which President Donald Trump ran in 2016 — immigration.

About those who come into the country illegally, Biden plainly stated he would not deport one of them — not one — unless they had committed a felony in the United States.

In other words, as many as could make their way into the country are fine, as long as they don't commit a felony. And if they have committed serious crimes elsewhere, apparently they are welcome here too.

The former vice president's words apparently surprised even moderator Ilia Calderon of Univision.

"So to be clear, only felons get deported and everyone else gets to stay?" she asked.

"Period, yes," Biden said.

Both candidates also said they would support sanctuary cities defying federal authorities in enforcing immigration laws.

Further, a Border Patrol agent who was Trump's first Border Patrol chief, said Biden and Sanders would likely end the president's threat of tariffs with Mexico if it doesn't cooperate with blocking large groups of migrants from coming through the country to the U.S. from Central America.

Since the threat last year, the number of people encountered by border agents has been cut in half, according to Customs and Border Protection data.

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