Hillary 2003: ‘I Am, You Know, Adamantly Against Illegal Immigrants’

Matt Vespa
|
Posted: May 07, 2015 1:00 PM
Hillary 2003: ‘I Am, You Know, Adamantly Against Illegal Immigrants’

As Guy wrote, Hillary is vulnerable, and her pathway to citizenship proposal is in the vein of Obama's unpopular and unconstitutional actions on immigration–but on steroids. 

Yet, in 2003, then-Sen. Hillary Clinton sounded very much like a Republican on immigration, saying she was “adamantly against illegal immigrants.” Five years later, in her failed 2008 run for president, she backed a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. And now, she’s reiterating that position for her 2016 campaign.

In Nevada, she said, “We can’t wait any longer for a path to full and equal citizenship… Today, not a single Republican candidate, announced or potential, is clearly and consistently supporting a path to citizenship.... When they talk about ‘legal status,’ that is code for second-class status.”

She also said that it’s in our “economic interest” to fix immigration:

“For me, this is about what kind of people we all are and what kind of country we have. And I am absolutely convinced that this is in our economic interest, it’s in the interest of our values and it’s even in the interest of our long term security as a nation. So, you know where I stand and there can be no question about it because I will do everything I can as President and during this campaign to make this case.

Also, she made no qualms about supporting Obama’s executive action on immigration due to congressional inaction (via NYT):

She said that she supported Mr. Obama’s executive actions on immigration and that it was “foolish” to think the government could deport the estimated 11 million people who are living in the United States without papers.

She also called for reform of immigration enforcement practices “so that they’re more humane, targeted and effective” and for wholesale changes to detention facilities, which are privatized and, she said, often get paid per bed that is filled.

In her 2008 campaign, Mrs. Clinton won 63 percent of the Latino vote in the 16 Super Tuesday contests, compared with 35 percent for Mr. Obama. But since, she has been a subject of scrutiny, as immigration activists have grown increasingly frustrated with both parties.

Last June, Mrs. Clinton told CNN that the Central American children who crossed the Mexican border into the United States “should be sent back as soon as it can be determined who responsible adults in their families are,” a comment that angered some young Latinos. (Mrs. Clinton later said that only those children without a family connection in the United States or another legitimate claim for asylum should be sent back.)

While campaigning on behalf of Democrats ahead of the midterm elections last year, Mrs. Clinton was dogged by young immigration activists to commit to reform.

After Democrats suffered significant losses in the midterm elections, Mr. Obama moved forward later in November with executive actions to protect millions of people from being deported, but those initiatives have been held up by a federal court.

Yet, let’s go back to February 2003 when she was on the John Gambling Radio Show. The RNC dug up the audio featured in the video below. This is what Clinton said about illegal immigration [emphasis mine]:

We’ve got to do several things and I am, you know, adamantly against illegal immigrants. I made this exception basically on humanitarian grounds because of the individual story but certainly we’ve got to do more at our borders. And people have to stop employing illegal immigrants. Come up to Westchester, go to Suffolk and Nassau counties, stand in 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.”

Also, if Hillary was so pro-immigration reform, then why did she vote for the Dorgan Amendment, which added a sunset provision to the guest worker program in the 2007 comprehensive immigration reform package put together by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA)? This amendment torpedoed the deal:

President Bush supported comprehensive legislation and reached out to Democrats after they gained control of Congress in 2006. Some Republicans opposed the plan, criticizing the citizenship provisions as amnesty and saying that border security needed bolstering instead. Some Democrats, though, opposed it as well, because their allies in organized labor were against more non-citizens being allowed into the U.S.to work. McCain, together with the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., worked out a compromise measure that included several pillars: a path to citizenship for workers illegally in the country, increased border security, improved enforcement of employment law, and more visas for temporary workers.

The Senate took up the compromise package, with supporters warning that it could be derailed by any amendments that changed its substance. On June 6, Obama proposed an amendment to end after five years a new merit-based system for awarding green cards that confer permanent resident status. The new system would have apportioned green cards based on the nation's economic needs and moved away from the existing system, which rewards family ties. A coalition of immigrant rights groups endorsed Obama's measure, saying the new system would discriminate in favor of immigrants with higher education and training in specialty occupations. But Obama's amendment was unsuccessful; the Senate rejected it, 42-55.

Hours later, though, Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., offered an amendment to end after five years a different program, one that allowed more temporary workers. Dorgan said the program would bring in cheap labor through the back door and squeeze out American workers. Supporters of reform warned that the amendment could scuttle the deal, but the Senate adopted the amendment in a 49-48 vote, with Obama voting with Dorgan.

The bill's supporters branded Dorgan's effort a "deal-breaker." Soon after, the legislation collapsed amid three failed votes to cut off debate on June 7, 2007.

So, this 180 on immigration is a Clinton flip-flop. Now, whether it will affect her support with Hispanic voters remains to be seen, but they’re already skeptical given that Obama has failed to deliver on his immigration promises–and more than a few are tired of Democrats blaming Republicans for immigration inaction.