Until recently, most Democratic politicians at least feigned interest in border security and the interests of Americans when discussing immigration. Thus just three years ago, Barack Obama’s principles on immigration principles included “Continue to Strengthen Our Borders” and “Crackdown on Employers who Hire Undocumented Workers.” Obama even described Amnesty with euphemisms, claiming it meant “that everyone play by the same rules, including passing a background check, and paying taxes and a penalty”. [Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Organizing for America]
And that was nothing compared to Hillary Clinton a decade ago. The she said “I am, you know, adamantly against illegal immigrants" and "[p]eople have to stop employing illegal immigrants…I mean, come up to Westchester, go to Suffolk and Nassau counties, stand on the street corners in Brooklyn or the Bronx. You’re going to see loads of people waiting to get picked up to go do yard work and construction work and domestic work.” [Hillary goes conservative on immigration, Washington Times, December 13, 2004].
Much of Clinton’s latest op-ed is open borders boilerplate. It opens with an anecdote about a seemingly sympathetic illegal alien family with an Anchor Baby afraid of her mother being deported. It uses cliches like “instead of building walls, we ought to be breaking down barriers” and “we have always been a nation of immigrants.” It accuses of Donald Trump of “scapegoat[ing],” “bigotry,” and “fear mongering.”
However, what is remarkable is what Clinton does not include. Beyond a short paragraph claiming that “immigration reform” a.k.a. Amnesty would help the economy, she does not make any claim about immigration even remotely benefiting Americans. Nor does she mention border security or enforcement once—not even to say that the border is already secure or that amnesty will enable the ICE to focus on the gang members and terrorists.
Typical Democratic platforms call for increased enforcement and border security tied to conditional amnesty and vague legal immigration reform. But Hillary Clinton’s three steps are—all of which she plans to do unilaterally—are:
In addition, Clinton calls for “a path to full and equal citizenship.” Of particular note, she does not stipulate that criminals or terrorists should not get citizenship. (Serious crimes are a bar to citizenship, and terrorists can’t even be admitted to the US. )
Perhaps because she focused on her unilateral actions, Clinton did not mention legal immigration. (Some immigration attorneys suggested Obama could increase legal immigration through Executive Order, and the Obama administration hinted at this idea, but this proved to be even a political and/or legal bridge too far for the creative minds in the Obama Administration. [See Why We Can’t Wait: How President Obama Can Erase Immigrant Visa Backlogs with the Stroke of A Pen, by Gary Endelman and Cyrus Mehta, Immigration Daily, 2012; and W.H. meets big biz on immigration, by Anna Palmer, Politico, August 19, 2014]). However, Clinton has a long record of supporting massive increases in legal immigration.
Clinton’s Arizona Republic Op-ed is largely consistent with her campaign platform, which highlights that she will
When Hillary Clinton began preparing for her first presidential run, the New York Times noted her conservative posturing on immigration led “Republicans to predict that she would position herself to the right of even President Bush on illegal immigration. The conservative commentator Tony Blankley called her remarks ‘Pat Buchanan-esque’” [The Evolution of Hillary Clinton, by Raymond Hernandez & Patrick Healy, July 13, 2005]
What a difference a decade makes. With Donald Trump’s hardline on immigration and Bernie defeated, Clinton could easily take relatively restrictionist positions on immigration without worrying about losing the La Raza crowd.
One thing is certain: the American people will finally get to choose between two competing visions on immigration this November.
Washington Watcher [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway.