Tonight on Telemundo, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton discussed immigration with María Celeste Arrarás. The interview, taped last Friday, was dubbed into Spanish (video below), but many outlets (CNN, The Daily Caller, Buzzfeed and Bloomberg) published several quotes in English about what Clinton told Arrarás:
When asked if she thinks Obama has done everything within his executive power to improve the current immigration system, Clinton cited the President’s increased enforcement of deportation laws as a mistake by the administration.
“I think he’s done a lot,” Clinton said, but added that Obama enforced the deportation laws “very aggressively during the last six and a half years” in part to get Republicans on board with comprehensive immigration reform.
“It was part of a strategy; I think that strategy is no longer workable,” she said. “So therefore I think we have to go back to being a much less harsh and aggressive enforcer.”
While Clinton said felons and violent people still need to be dealt with, she said she has met the wives and children of people who were deported over minor offenses. She reiterated her call for “comprehensive immigration reform” and a path to citizenship, but said, “In the meantime, I’m not gonna be breaking up families.”
“And I think that is one of the differences,” she continued. “But I totally understand why the Obama administration… did what they did under the circumstances. But I think we’ve learned that the Republicans, at least the current crop, are just not acting in good faith.”
Clinton’s remarks from the Telemundo interview are just the latest examples of a topic the Democratic candidate has struggled with over the years. As the Clinton campaign begins to proactively court the U.S. Latino vote, the questions surrounding her views on immigration still linger. In the mid 1990s, for example, when Clinton was First Lady, her views reflected a much more moderate view:
Around the same time of that interview, a 1996 commercial highlighted President Bill Clinton’s enforcement-heavy immigration stance, even pointing out “a record 160,000 deported.” Buzzfeed ran a deeper dive into this issue earlier this year.
Are voters 20 years later now seeing a Clinton who will be committed to comprehensive immigration reform, or are her latest comments just another example of “Hispandering?” Furthermore, will Clinton ever specifically address another issue that has weighed heavily on the U.S. Latino community: the rise of immigration detention?
Send Them Back?
Last summer, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour asked Clinton about what the United States should do to the growing number of unaccompanied minors who were escaping a crisis in Central America and crossing the border. This was Clinton’s answer:
“They should be sent back as soon as it can be determined who responsible adults in their families are, because – there are concerns about whether all of them can be sent back, but I think all of them that can be should be reunited with their families.”
“We have to send a clear message: Just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay.”
Earlier this summer, Clinton revisited the topic and said this at press conference in Las Vegas:
“Specifically with respect to children on the border, if you remember, we had an emergency, and it was very important to send a message to families in Central America: Do not let your children take this very dangerous journey.”
“Now I think we have a different problem. Because the emergency is over, we need to be moving to try to get people out of these detention centers, particularly the women and children. I think we need more resources to process them, to listen to their stories, to find out if they have family in this country, if they have a legitimate reason for staying. So I would be putting a lot of resources into doing that, but my position has been and remains the same.”
Nonetheless, the candidate’s call to “get people of out of these detention centers” is still at odds with a July 2015 article from The Intercept, which reported that “lobbyists for two major prison companies [the GEO Group and the Corrections Corporation of America] are serving as top fundraisers for Hillary Clinton.” These private prison companies have had a long history with immigration detention. A new VICE article about the private prison industry stated that “Clinton’s Ready for Hillary PAC received $133,246 from lobbying firms linked to GEO and CCA.”
The VICE article also added:
The candidates aren’t talking about it either: The campaigns for Clinton, [Jeb] Bush, [Marco] Rubio, and [Donald] Trump ignored repeated VICE inquiries about private prisons. But activists say industry lobbying may have shaped the “detention-bed mandate,” a policy that requires Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to keep at least 34,000 people locked up — mainly in private prisons — while they wait to appear in immigration court. It costs taxpayers $2 billion a year for ICE to meet the quota.
UPDATE: On October 23, just weeks after the VICE article, the Clinton campaign said it would no longer accept money from private prison lobbyists. The Huffington Post reported:
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton pledged Thursday to ban the use of private prison companies if elected president, and in the meantime will stop accepting campaign contributions from those corporations and the lobbyists who work for them.
All previous donations will be given to charity, the former secretary of state’s campaign said.
“Hillary Clinton has said we must end the era of mass incarceration, and as president, she will end private prisons and private immigrant detention centers,” campaign spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa said in a statement Thursday night. “She believes that we should not contract out this core responsibility of the federal government, and when we’re dealing with a mass incarceration crisis, we don’t need private industry incentives that may contribute — or have the appearance of contributing — to over-incarceration.”
So which Hillary Clinton will U.S. Latino voters see when it comes to the immigration issue? The one who nows says she will be “a much less harsh and aggressive enforcer” than President Obama (‘The Deporter-in -Chief“) or the candidate who still has many more questions to answer about her own immigration positions?
What do you think? Tweet me your thoughts to @julito77.