WWHD? (What Would Hilary Do–on Immigration?)

Now that Senator Hilary Clinton has officially entered the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination, we have to ask, “what will Hilary do” on immigration? There is not much out there, as Senator Clinton has not been a major player in the immigration debate. I have found a few references to her critiques of the Republican-sponsored immigration “reform” bill (including s bizarre reference to making Jesus illegal), but not much of substance.

So, I went to Senator Clinton’s official website, where she has a clear statement on many issues, including immigration. Here is her statement:

I am proud of America’s commitment to welcoming immigrants. We are all immeasurably enriched by the contributions of immigrants who have come to this country to find the American dream through their hard work. That’s why I led efforts for the Immigrant Children’s Health Improvement Act, championed the Access to Employment and English Acquisition Act, and co-sponsored the DREAM Act, which makes it possible for hardworking young people to attend college. These measures recognize that all America is strengthened when immigrants have access to health care and education that will enable them to become fully participating members of our society.

I believe the Bush administration is failing to meet what should be the basic requirements of immigration policy: continuing our American tradition of welcoming immigrants who follow the rules and are trying to build a better life for their families, while strengthening national security in a post 9-11 world.

Our current immigration laws need to be reformed: we need a better solution to the question of illegal immigration which recognizes the conflict between the need to enforce the law, and the reality that too many employers are using undocumented workers today. That’s why in the last Congress I was pleased to join Senator Larry Craig (R-ID), Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), and 60 other senators to cosponsor the Agricultural Job Opportunity Benefits and Security Act of 2003. Unfortunately, this bipartisan bill, which reflected a consensus among growers, labor and immigration advocates, was blocked by the Republican Senate leadership. Earlier this year, Senator Craig re-introduced this legislation, which I again cosponsored. I hope that this year President Bush and the Republican Senate leadership will finally support this legislation so that we can begin to address in a comprehensive way the significant challenges of illegal immigration that are confronting our nation.

This administration has failed to provide the resources to protect our borders, or a better system to keep track of entrants to this country. I welcome the addition of more border security, particularly on the Northern Border, with passage of the Intelligence Reform bill in December of 2004 – but it should not have taken more than 3 years after 9/11 to make this needed change, and there is still much more that must be done to keep America safe, including stronger inspection of cargo on ships and airplanes. Moreover, just two months after signing the Intelligence Reform bill with great fanfare, President Bush refused to provide the necessary funding in his Fiscal Year 2006 proposed budget sufficient to hire all of the border patrol agents that had been authorized. Fortunately, during the Senate’s debate on the budget in March of 2005, we passed an amendment to provide increased funding for border patrol agents. I hope the Republican leadership will support the maintenance of this funding, to provide the resources necessary to properly protect our borders.

It’s obvious that the Senator was already preparing to run for the White House when she wrote this statement. She is careful to distinguish herself from the current administration, and is clear about what she sees as the shortcomings on the GOP approach to immigration. However, she offers nothing new of substance here. She is willing to work toward a bipartisan solution, which is obviously good, but she does not sound too different from her Republican colleagues in the Senate who are big on borders and short of work visas. She wants to welcome immigrants, but seems to forget that the nation has to deal with the undocumented as well as “welcoming immigrants who follow the rules.”

This is obviously a big disappointment. Senator Clinton did not make the decision to join the Presidential race yesterday, and it’s obvious that she has not spent too much time talking to people who have studied this issue extensively and could help her develop a strong platform on immigration.

I hope that she’ll revisit this issue, and that the other Presidential hopefuls do the same.

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