Hillary Clinton’s immigration plan: Here’s what she’s actually said so far

Interestingly enough considering how Donald Trump’s meteoric rise to power was due largely to his bigoted and factually inaccurate characterization of Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists, the issue of immigration did not come up at the first presidential debate last Monday. As if to compensate for that, the topic of immigration dominated part of the vice presidential debate Tuesday night, with vice presidential candidates Tim Kaine and Mike Pence elaborating on the radically different perspectives of their respective tickets. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s plan came under fire, but what do we really know about Clinton’s immigration plan?

Prior to the launch of her presidential campaign, Clinton in 2015 pointed out the hypocrisy of touting family values and simultaneously separating, deporting, and dehumanizing undocumented immigrants: “If we claim we are for family, then we have to pull together and resolve the outstanding issues around our broken immigration system. The American people support comprehensive immigration reform not just because it’s the right thing to do—and it is—but because they know it strengthens families, strengthens our economy, and strengthens our country.”

Clinton’s current plan, as Kaine emphasized during Tuesday night’s debate, is, contrary to Pence’s claims, not to ignore issues of crime among undocumented immigrants, just as crime among documented immigrants isn’t ignored either. Simultaneously, she doesn’t plan to rupture the economy; rather, immigrant labor has been shown to bolster the workforce and stimulate economic growth, proven by numerous economists.

According to Clinton’s website, the most crucial tenets of Clinton’s immigration plan, in simple terms, include establishing a pathway to full and equal citizenship within her first 100 days in office and expanding President Obama’s immigration executive actions struck down in the Supreme Court this summer. Obama’s executive actions, known as the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), would have extended protection from deportation and separation from their children to qualifying undocumented parents (those without criminal backgrounds and who arrived after 2010), thus enabling them to pay taxes, receive government benefits like Social Security, and legally apply for work authorization.

Clinton’s plan additionally strikes the three- and 10-year bars, laws that prohibit applicants from returning to the United States if they were previously in the U.S. illegally. According to Clinton’s website, the bars force family members who have “different citizenship or immigration statuses—into a heartbreaking dilemma: remain in the shadows, or pursue a green card by leaving the country and loved ones behind.”

Tim Kaine Hillary Clinton Miami Rally
CREDIT: Gustavo Caballero /Getty Images

That being said, Clinton’s immigration record has received backlash not only from conservatives against immigration, but also immigration advocates. Clinton backed a 2013 Senate immigration bill which would have made substantial investments in border security including expanded border fencing, which contradicts her claims to support open borders, Fact Check pointed out in August.

Fact Check also notes that where Clinton would create a path to citizenship, Trump, as he iterates over and over again, would enforce existing laws and crack down on the deportation processes. Still, in terms of prioritizing whom they would deport, both candidates agree when it comes to focusing on criminals and individuals perceived as dangerous.

That being said, their plans certainly have some crucial differences (i.e. one plan addresses a large-scale systemic problem with reform), but Pence is wrong about the Clinton immigration plan’s take on violence and crime.

The ultimate difference between Clinton and Trump, as Kaine pointed out through frequent references to racist characterizations of immigrants by Trump, is in their rhetoric. Trump has rightfully been identified by many as a bigot for advocating what is technically the same approach to immigration as most mainstream Republicans, whose immigration politics are rooted in responding to a large-scale problem affecting millions of Americans not through reform, but by simply ignoring it and allowing millions of undocumented workers to be subjected to abuses by their employers for lack of work permits, forced to live everyday in fear of separation from family because of the immigration status of just one relative, and ultimately stripped of their human dignity.

Meanwhile, Clinton’s plan might not fix all the problems at hand or be perfect, but certainly not for the reasons Pence suggested.