Hillary Clinton officially declared on Sunday that she will seek the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination for a second time. The announcement was made through a video where Clinton said, “everyday Americans need a champion. And I want to be that champion.” But it remains unclear if Clinton will be a champion for millions of immigrant families by supporting measures to reform our outdated immigration system.
Although the announcement ends years of speculation about Clinton’s presidential ambitions, Clinton’s campaign website offers no answers on any specific immigration policies. However, Clinton’s public comments on immigration, her legislative record as Senator, and positions during her first attempt to secure the Democratic Presidential nomination, provide some answers on where she could stand on U.S. immigration policy.
Most recently, Clinton declared her support for President Obama’s executive actions on immigration and noted that only Congress could offer a permanent solution for millions of families:
“I support the President’s decision to begin fixing our broken immigration system and focus finite resources on deporting felons rather than families… But, only Congress can finish the job.”
While Clinton emphasized the need to keep families united, her stance on how the U.S. should respond to the surge of Central American mothers and children fleeing violence in their home countries was less compassionate. In an interview with CNN in June 2014, Clinton said that those unaccompanied children and mothers should be sent back if they did not have family in the United States. And, despite the United Nations urging the U.S. to treat unaccompanied migrants as refugees, Clinton continued to emphasize the need to return them:
“We have to send a clear message just because your child gets across the border doesn’t mean your child gets to stay. We don’t want to send a message contrary to our laws or encourage more to come.”
Clinton did actively support comprehensive immigration reform legislation and enforcement measures during her time as Senator from New York. In 2007, she voted to advance a comprehensive immigration bill that ultimately failed to get a simple majority. The previous year, she also voted for a bill that built a 700-mile fence at the U.S.-Mexico border, which became law in 2006.
Clinton has said that she supports states providing in-state tuition for undocumented students. In Maryland, she told immigrant advocates:
“I am really proud to be in a state who has opened the doors of opportunity to students who work and study hard regardless of their parents immigration status.”
Regarding states issuing licenses for undocumented immigrants, Clinton has made conflicting statements. During her first attempt to secure the Democratic presidential nomination, she was asked whether or not she supported then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s proposal that would have granted driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants in New York, to which Clinton responded:
“Do I think this is the best thing for any governor to do? No. But do I understand the sense of real desperation, trying to get a handle on this? Remember, in New York we want to know who’s in New York. We want people to come out of the shadows. He’s making an honest effort to do it. We should have passed immigration reform.”
Just two weeks after these remarks, Clinton said in a separate debate that she opposed granting undocumented immigrants driver’s licenses.
Clinton’s rival Republican presidential candidates, Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, have put forth enforcement-first views on immigration that will fail to address the systemic problems with our immigration system and will not bring our immigration system into the twenty-first century. It remains to be seen if Clinton will separate herself from the current candidates.
Photo by Brett Weinstein.