During the Democratic Presidential Debate, it was made clear that all of the candidates support comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship. Interestingly, it was noted that the debate's location, in Las Vegas, Nevada, was significant due to the fact that Nevada proportionately has one of the largest undocumented populations where immigration issues loom large over the hospitality industry.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commented that, unlike her Republican counter-parts, whose race has been characterized by calls for more border security and oft-times harsh rhetoric aimed at Mexican immigrants, all of the Democratic candidates would agree that it is time to stop "demonizing immigrants" and to create critical reform policies. She also stated that if Capitol Hill failed to cooperate, she would use her executive powers as president to go even further than Obama in shielding millions of immigrants from deportation.
When Senator Bernie Sanders was asked by CNN Español Reporter, Juan Carlos Lopez, why Latino voters should trust him if he has inconsistently voted for immigration reform (e.g. voted for reform in 2013 but not in 2007), Sanders strongly defended his pro-immigration stance. He explained that the only reason he did not vote for the 2007 legislation had to do with the way the legislation was written as it related to Guest Workers. He stated that he feared the program would place guest workers in a slave-like status and was concerned about their civil rights. He reiterated his commitment to comprehensive immigration reform, to taking people out of the shadows, and to creating a viable path to citizenship.
Governor Martin O'Malley also emerged as an outspoken champion of immigrants. He highlighted the fact that, as Governor, he signed Maryland's version of the Dream Act. He stated "I would go further than President Obama has on DACA and DAPA," referring to the deferred action on deporation programs that Obama created using Executive Action.
Governor Lincoln Chafee did not add much to the discussion but his record has shown that he voted in 2006 for a major immigration reform bill and against the Secure Fence Act. When he was elected Rhode Island governor as an independent, his administration was reportedly marked by immigrant-friendly policies.
Interestingly, the fifth candidate, Jim Webb, a conservative Democrat said that he supports comprehensive reform. He highlighted how his wife is a refugee from Vietnam although he reportedly opposed the Kyl-Kennedy comprehensive immigration bill and generally does not have what reform advocates consider a strong pro-immigrant record. He also stated: "we need to be able to define our borders." Additionally, when asked about opening up "Obamacare" to undocumented immigrants, Webb hesitated but did say, "I wouldn't have a problem with that."
Despite the optimism about the democratic promise for immigration reform, Latino groups remain skeptical, pointing out that Obama also promised to deliver comprehensive immigration reform when he ran for office. The criticism of last night's debate, as it relates to immigration, lies in the fact that there was a failure of opportunity and lack of sufficient air time for the various candidates to explain exactly how they would succeed in persuading Congress to enact immigration reforms when Obama has failed to do so.
At the Shulman Law Group, LLC, we are on the pulse of political issues as they relate to immigration. Within the context of this blog, we will try to keep our clients and interested readers up-to-date on immigration-related news, particularly as it relates to the possibility of seeing immigration reform finally come to fruition.