The Latino community is facing hard times. The economy remains sluggish and schools are not improving, putting us at a disadvantage, while priority issues like immigration reform remain stalled. When presidential candidates do choose to appeal to our concerns over such issues, it is important to evaluate both their rhetoric and their record.
We should not let ourselves be deceived about her dedication to the interests of Latinos. What counts are the results, and she has delivered few for our community—even pulling us further away from the finish line in some cases.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently spoke here in Texas, staking her claim to the backing of the nation’s Latinos. She portrayed herself as a life-long defender of the immigrant community, recalling working as a babysitter for migrant farmworkers near her home in Chicago. She said her passion for supporting the immigrant community comes from watching those families and realizing “they’re just like we are.” In her telling, that experience made her into a life-long supporter of the immigrant community, one who has always stood with Latinos — and always will.
Her actions throughout her career and many missed opportunities to make a real difference say otherwise.
Clinton’s record shows that she hasn’t been a consistent defender of the immigrant community in general, nor of Latinos in particular. The facts paint her as willing to sidestep issues important to our community when they’re politically dangerous. Just last month we learned from former New York Governor Spitzer that her campaign had pressured him in 2007 to drop potential legislation allowing driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. It presented a problem for her during the primaries, and her staff told Spitzer they “want this issue gone.”
This wasn’t the first time Secretary Clinton was missing in action when it came to defending America’s immigrant community. In 2003 – when it was beneficial to take a harder line on immigration – she said she was “adamantly against illegal immigrants” and called for new easures preventing undocumented immigrants from finding work in America.
That’s an odd position for someone who claims to have always been dedicated to helping migrant workers.
We saw her counterproductive actions again in 2007, when the Senate debated an immigration reform package pushed by President George W. Bush. The legislation under debate was a carefully-crafted compromise that had to satisfy many competing interests before becoming law. One such provision was a program allowing foreign workers to come to the United States for two years at a time. But Clinton voted for a “poison pill” amendment that ended the program after five years, defying the compromise. The amendment passed by just one vote — meaning her vote was decisive. Without this program, the bill could not pass the Senate and immigration reform was defeated.
Despite her claims to the contrary, Clinton appears uninterested in long lasting, bipartisan reform, instead focusing her comments on unilateral action.This is doubling down on a losing strategy. One reason immigration reform is not happening is because Republicans are reluctant to compromise with a president who unilaterally suspended legal provisions of the Affordable Care Act, ignored the requirements of welfare reform, and circumvented Congress with executive orders such as DACA and DAPA when he didn’t get his way.
It’s time for a president who can bring people together to pass needed reforms — not someone who regards their political opposition as enemies to be deceived and evaded.
When a candidate vows to go “beyond Barack Obama” in the controversial use of unilateral executive orders, it moves our community backwards. Unilateral actions have left uncertainty for those affected by them. For permanent reform to become law, both sides will need to compromise. That means working with Republicans who favor work permits and stronger border security. If a president refuses to compromise to get something done, all the promises in the world won’t make a difference.
I recall another senator who made promises on immigration reform — and who was rewarded with an overwhelming majority in the House and Senate, but frittered away the opportunity and put other interest groups first. Promises were made, promises were broken, and Latinos were left disillusioned. Giving lip service to people’s hopes has been a political staple since the beginning of democracy, but making promises you know you cannot deliver on is just cruel.
Hillary Clinton isn’t the first politician to switch sides when it is politically convenient, and she certainly won’t be the last. We should not let ourselves be deceived about her dedication to the interests of Latinos. What counts are the results, and she has delivered few for our community — even pulling us further away from the finish line in some cases.
To successfully overcome the hard times Latinos are enduring, we’ll need leaders who are with us even when it’s not politically expedient. Hillary Clinton’s words may say one thing, but her actions show that she’ll be with us only when it’s in her interests. We deserve better.