During a recent campaign event in Nevada, Hillary Clinton blindsided the 2016 Presidential contestants by stating her unequivocal support for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) and a clear path to citizenship for the undocumented migrants in the U.S. She also stated the obvious – that when immigration restrictionists talk about legal status “that is code for second-class status.”
A week later – Hillary’s husband, Bill, followed suit during an appearance on Univision and stated his own support for a path to citizenship and referred to the policy of “inclusive governance” as “not rocket science.”
Indeed – as a nation of immigrants – we should encourage and celebrate the possibility of having more citizens. New blood not only brings innovation, but also supports our industries, and enriches our culture. Even the idea of long-term or permanent non-citizens is an insult to our Founding Fathers who released this country from the clutched fists of a British government which sanctioned the idea of having “Subjects” as opposed to free Citizens.
To be sure, I am not a Clinton cheerleader. Though I voted for Bill Clinton, I am also sober to the many mistakes made under his watch: NAFTA, DOMA, DADT, and of course IIRAIRA, to name a few. However, I am excited to hear Hillary Clinton speak about CIR because we need to have this discussion once again.
As we all know, in 2013 a reform oriented bipartisan immigration bill passed the U.S. Senate by a vote of 68-32. Though not perfect, we had a bill we could work with. Unfortunately, it was never taken up by the House and succumbed to an agonizingly slow death by expiration date when the new congressional session began.
The national conversation then turned to border security, only the Southern border of course, and also to the executive actions taken by President Obama on immigration policy. The actual way forward, the way to solve the immigration problem, unfortunately got lost in all this noise and useless bravado.
I am not naive. I understand that to pass any bill, we need both a President and a Congress who are willing to work together. But I also understand that we live in a democracy where according to a May 2015 CBS/NYT poll, 57% of Americans want the undocumented migrants in this country to be able to apply for citizenship while only 29% want them to leave. We also have the 2016 elections coming up – a chance to vote for a whole new set of Representatives in Congress and a new president in the White House.
That is why I was excited to hear Hillary Clinton bring up CIR. I am equally ecstatic that Bill Clinton, the very person whose signature is on the dreaded IIRAIRA, is also keeping this discussion alive. People need to see the obvious: that it is morally reprehensible and financially impossible to remove the entire undocumented community and torpedo the unity of countless families. Moreover, our security as a nation demands a full accounting of everyone residing within our borders. It is also a fool’s errand to keep talking about baby steps on immigration reform without acknowledging that the final product cannot be anything short of a path to full U.S. citizenship for those who have already contributed in countless ways to our prosperity.
I hope that the Clintons’ remarks will end the national inaction on immigration and reboot the necessary conversation on CIR. The restrictionists have, for far too long, drawn the battle lines on this issue. I am glad to see the reformists reclaim the debate at the onset of our upcoming electoral process. As an immigrant who is an immigration attorney, I believe the immigration reformists along with the American people at large will be the winners at the end of this Game of Thrones.
Written by Ally Bolour, Member, AILA Media-Advocacy Committee