With the 2016 presidential election in sight, presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, took a strong and clear stand on the issue of immigration. Clinton announced before a group of students in Las Vegas on May 5 that she will “fight for comprehensive immigration reform and a path to citizenship.”
Clinton’s move is intended to court support from Hispanic voters which is crucial in the next presidential elections. It can be recalled that minority voters helped President Obama win the 2012 race. 81 percent of the minority vote went to Obama with more than 70 percent of Hispanics choosing President Obama over Gov. Mitt Romney.
According to Clinton, Republican candidates who are proposing less than “full and equal” path to citizenship are speaking of “second class status.” She also said during the meeting that she supports President Obama’s executive actions. In fact, she said she would even expand it, if elected.
Under the President Obama’s original Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program launched in 2012, certain young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children were granted relief from deportation.
The program was expanded in November 2014 when the President announced the expanded DACA program which eliminated the age cap of 31 years and moved the eligibility cut-off date for continuous residence in the U.S. from June 15, 2007 to January 1, 2010. The President also extended eligibility for deferred action to certain parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents or the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program.
Implementation of the DAPA and expanded DACA program, however, is placed on hold because of a pending lawsuit.
Clinton declared that she would go further than President Obama’s executive actions and expand eligibility for deferred action to include parents of DACA beneficiaries.
Whit Ayres, Republican pollster and advisor to presidential hopeful Marco Rubio, criticizing Clinton’s position said, “Executive actions on immigration are exactly the wrong way to solve a broken immigration system. If anything we need more bipartisan approaches to addressing a broken system, not declarations of unilateral action.”
Some sees Clinton’s move as a trap for Republican presidential candidates by forcing them to take their position on immigration. CEO of the communications firm Purple Strategies Steve McMahon said that, “The Republicans will overreach because they always do and they’ll define themselves with most voters in a way that is negative.”
Many also sees Clinton’s tactic as strategic. The sentiment of the American public on immigration has shifted. Based on polling data from The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, in 1994, 7 out of 10 Americans sensed a “critical threat” by large numbers of immigrants in the U.S. The percentage dropped to 39 percent in 2014.
A number of polls have also revealed that majority of Americans are for the creation of a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented and agree that immigrants strengthen the country.
Clinton’s move can be read in many different ways. It is, however, clear that immigration is one of the key issues that candidates eyeing the presidency will have to address. Their stand on immigration will without doubt play a critical role in their journey to the White House.