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US Democratic Candidates Attend Forum Focused on Youth, Minority Voters

Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders (right, with raised arms), talks during the Brown & Black Forum, Jan. 11, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa.

The U.S. Democratic presidential candidates participated in a forum aimed at young and minority voters in Iowa Monday night, and discussed topics ranging from immigration to the death of British rock icon David Bowie.

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders are in a statistical dead heat in the Midwestern state, which hosts the lead-off presidential caucuses on February 1. An NBC/The Wall Street Journal/Marist poll released Sunday found Clinton the choice of 48 percent of likely caucus-goers to Sanders' 45 percent.

Asked about the issue of immigration, Clinton said she was against deportations.

"I do not think the raids are an appropriate tool to enforce the immigration laws. In fact, I think they are divisive, they are sowing discord and fear," Clinton said.

Trailing the two leading candidates is former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley, who is polling in single digits in the state. Asked a similar question about immigration, he said he would not deport children.

"We should never be sending women and children" fleeing "death gangsā€ back to Central America, he said, according to The Des Moines Register.

Tax the wealthy

Clinton also unveiled her plan for a 4 percent "surcharge" tax on the wealthiest Americans, seeking to ensure that multimillionaires do not pay lower rates than middle-class families. The surcharge would impact those who make more than $5 million per year, or about .02 percent of the taxpaying public, and would raise more than $150 billion over 10 years, a Clinton aide said.

On the issue of gun rights, Sanders defended his controversial 2005 vote for a law that gives gun manufacturers and sellers immunity from lawsuits. But he expressed support for President Barack Obama's recent use of executive actions to curb gun violence.

The candidates were also asked a series of lighter questions by Univision host Jorge Ramos, leading Sanders to admit that he didn't know much about rock legend Bowie, who died Sunday.

A recent survey in New Hampshire, which borders Sanders' home state of Vermont, also has the two leading Democratic candidates in a tight race, with 50 percent of likely primary voters favoring Sanders to 46 percent favoring Clinton.

The Iowa Black and Brown Forum, which was held in Des Moines, bills itself as the nation's only presidential forum geared toward the concerns of African-Americans and Latinos.