Clinton’s potential 2016 rival: Don't send children 'back to death'

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley urged sympathy Friday for the surge of young Central American children streaming across the U.S. border illegally, arguing that they deserved due-process in the immigration system.

"We are not a country that should turn children away and send them back to certain death," O'Malley told reporters at a National Governors Association (NGA) meeting.

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“Through all of the great world religions we are told that hospitality to strangers is an essential human dignity,” O’Malley said. "They should have their ability to make their case for protection and asylum in the United States." 

A potential Democratic presidential candidate, O’Malley's comments counter those of the Obama administration and of his main 2016 rival Hillary Clinton, considered the party's front-runner if she decides to jump in the race.

Clinton told CNN last month that the U.S. needs to “send a clear message, just because your child gets across the border doesn’t mean your child gets to stay.”

“They should be sent back as soon as it can be determined who responsible adults in their families are, because there are concerns whether all of them should be sent back," Clinton said. "But I think all of them who can be should be reunited with their families."

The Obama administration has asked Congress for $3.7 billion in emergency funds to better handle the surge of 57,000 unaccompanied minors from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador along the southern border.