Hillary Clinton took a surprisingly aggressive stance on immigration reform Tuesday, saying not only that she supports a “path to full and equal citizenship” but that she will expand on President Obama’s executive amnesty actions for parents of so-called DREAMers if Congress stands in her way.
“There are more people, like many parents of DREAMers and others, with deep ties and contributions to our communities who deserve a chance to stay, and I will fight for them,” Clinton told a small audience gathered at Las Vegas’ Rancho High School.
The school has a 70 percent Hispanic student body, many of whom are DREAMers and are thus eligible for amnesty under Obama’s 2012 program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
“If Congress continues to refuse to act, as President, I would do everything possible under the law to go even further,” Clinton said, leaving open the possibility of whether, like Obama, she would take executive action.
“We should put in place a simple, straightforward accessible way for parents of DREAMers and others with a history of service and contribution to their communities to make their case, and to be eligible for the same deferred action as their children,” Clinton said.
With her remarks, Clinton is calling for something immigration activist groups hoped Obama would announce when he announced his second amnesty initiative in November.
Deferred Action for Parents of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents, which Obama announced on Nov. 20, but is currently held up in federal court, could extend amnesty to up to 5 million undocumented immigrants.
Clinton also made clear that her immigration proposal goes much further than any Republican she may face in the general election.
“Now this is where I differ with everybody on the Republican side,” Clinton said. “Make no mistake, today not a single Republican candidate, announced or potential, is clearly and consistently supporting a path to citizenship. Not one. When they talk about legal status that is code fore second-class status.”
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio are the most liberal in the GOP field on immigration reform. Both have said they support a path legalization under certain conditions.
Clinton, who also spoke with several DREAMers at the event, also called for reforms in how detained illegal immigrants are handled by federal agencies.
“There’s much more to do to expand and enhance protection for families and communities to reform immigration enforcement and detention practices so they’re more humane, more targeted, and more effective,” she said.
Clinton’s aggressive stance is in stark contrast to her past positions on immigration.
As U.S. senator from New York, Clinton was a proponent of immigration reform which included a pathway to citizenship paired with heightened border security.
“A country that cannot control its borders is failing at one of its fundamental obligations,” she said at the time, adding that “we do need an earned path to citizenship” for illegal immigrants.
“There is technology that would be in the fence that could spot people coming from 250 or 300 yards away and signal patrol agents who could respond,” Clinton said, adding at the time that a fence such as the one Israel uses might work.
Clinton made no mention of border security in her remarks on Tuesday.
Clinton was also slammed by immigration reform proponents after her remarks during a 2007 presidential debate. Clinton stumbled when asked whether she supported then-N.Y. Gov. Elliot Spitzer’s plan to provide illegal immigrants with driver’s licenses. She provided a wishy-washy answer and was called out on it by John Edwards and Barack Obama.
Clinton’s campaign issued a statement weeks later clarifying that, “as president, I will not support driver’s licenses for undocumented people and will press for comprehensive immigration reform.” (RELATED: Hillary Clinton Flip-Flops On Driver’s Licenses For Illegal Immigrants)
But Clinton reversed course on that last month, telling the Huffington Post that she now supports driver’s licenses for illegals.