LAS VEGAS — Hillary Clinton’s support here Tuesday night for allowing illegal aliens to sign up for Obamacare marked the latest in a series of clear-cut flip-flops for the Democratic front-runner on the hot-button issue of illegal immigration.
Besides coming out in favor of altering President Obama’s signature health care law, Clinton has recently changed her tune on allowing illegal aliens to have driver’s licenses. And the tone of her current presidential campaign on illegal immigration is noticeably different from the one she conducted eight years ago.
“I want to support states that are expanding health care and including undocumented children and others,” Clinton said during Tuesday’s debate, which was held at the Wynn hotel and casino.
“I want to open up the opportunity for immigrants to be able to buy in to the exchanges under the Affordable Care Act,” she continued, though stopping short of saying that illegal aliens should be allowed to qualify for subsidies under Obamacare.
That’s a marked shift from the position Clinton staked out in a previous attempt at health-care system overhaul.
“As to illegal aliens, we agree with you that we do not think the comprehensive health-care benefits should be extended to those who are undocumented workers and illegal aliens,” she said during a 1994 House hearing on the health-care reform proposal that she attempted to force into law as first lady, dubbed “Hillarycare.”
“We do not want to do anything to encourage more illegal immigration into this country,” Clinton said then, adding that “we know now that too many people come in for medical care, as it is.”
“We certainly don’t want them having the same benefits that American citizens are entitled to have.”
Clinton also took a blanket stance against illegal immigration — and illegal immigrants themselves — as a U.S. Senator from New York.
In a February 2003 radio interview Clinton said that she was “adamantly against illegal immigrants.”
“Certainly we’ve got to do more at our borders,” she said, adding that “people have to stop employing illegal immigrants.”
“Come up to Westchester, go to Suffolk and Nassau counties,” Clinton continued. “Stand in the street corners in Brooklyn or the Bronx. You’re going to see loads of people waiting to get picked up to get yard work, and construction work, and domestic work.” (RELATED: Unearthed Audio: Hillary Says She’s ‘Adamantly Against’ Illegal Immigrants)
Notable in Clinton’s shift on immigration is not just her changes on policy, but also what language she uses — and no longer uses — on the campaign trail.
While Clinton has long called for comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship, she historically included calls for a more robust border wall.
“A country that cannot control its borders is failing at one of its fundamental obligations,” Clinton told the New York Daily News in 2006.
“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,” she continued, while suggesting that the U.S. could model its fence after the one protecting Israel on the West Bank.
But gone is that version of Clinton, whose comments on immigration reform rarely if ever include mention of improving physical barriers of entry into the U.S.
Clinton has also gone back-and-forth on providing driver’s licenses for illegal aliens. As a presidential candidate in 2007, she initially said she backed the measure. But after coming under fire, she said she opposed it. Now, she supports it again, her campaign has said.
Perhaps atoning for her restrictive stance on immigration — at least by current Democratic standards — Clinton has indicated that she hopes to go even farther to the left on the issue than Obama has during his presidency.
When Clinton announced her immigration platform in May, she said that she would take executive action to provide amnesty to even more illegal aliens than President Obama has through his two unilateral efforts. More recently, Clinton even criticized the Obama administration — which she used to work under — for its overly “harsh” deportation policies.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether Clinton’s flip-flops will hurt her with supporters of immigration reform. Two that TheDC interviewed in Las Vegas said that they care little about her past positions and believe she is sincere in her latest efforts.
Dulce Valencia, a 19-year-old immigration activist, told TheDC on Tuesday that while Clinton has changed positions on many immigration issues, she is encouraged that she is “reaching out to us.”
“She’s actively done a lot to engage DREAMers and to hear our issues,” said Valencia, who was brought to the U.S. by her parents in 2007.
“I’m not saying that that justifies her saying those things, but…her views have changed, and she’s done a lot to reach out to DREAMers and to the Latino community,” Valencia continued, while noting that she has not yet endorsed a candidate.
And in the spin room prior to Tuesday’s debate, Clinton surrogate Antonio Villaraigosa, the former mayor of Los Angeles, said that Clinton’s calls for additional executive action on amnesty has won her strong support in the Latino community.
“Hillary Clinton has supported the DREAM Act before she ran for President. She supported comprehensive immigration reform,” Villaraigosa told TheDC. “There’s no question where she stands on President Obama’s executive action, in fact even going beyond it.”
“When you compare her to the other Democratic candidates and certainly to the candidates on the other side of the aisle, I think that there’s no comparison,” Villaraigosa continued. “At the end of the day, she’s got a great deal of support in the Latino community, in no small part because of that track record.”