Republicans deserve their fair share of criticism for the failure of immigration reform to move forward, and even for specific policy proposals (e.g. here). But I find one recent criticism from Hillary Clinton, frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, downright incoherent. I say as much in a recent post in The Hill:
Hillary Clinton last week condemned a proposal by certain GOP presidential candidates that would provide a form of “legal status” to unauthorized immigrants. She called anything short of a path to citizenship “code for second-class status,” which, if a Google search is any guide, is intended to raise the specter of segregation or worse. But her position is both incoherent and self-contradictory.
Start with the self-contradiction. Moments after this line, she goes on to say that, as president, “if Congress continues to refuse to act” on immigration reform, she’d plan to “go even further” than President Obama’s executive actions and make “parents of Dreamers” eligible “for the same deferred action as their children.”
But what is “deferred action”? It certainly isn’t a pathway to citizenship. It’s quasi-legal status: administrative relief that deems a person lawfully present in the United States. But it’s actually worse than legal status because it is not based on anything more than the whim of the executive branch. So in the process of condemning the GOP’s legislative legal status proposal, Clinton proposes her own administrative, qualitatively worse version.
Moreover, her position is incoherent. It is true that anything other than citizenship is literally a second class of status. But even if Congress did what she wants and granted every person here illegally a green card, we would still have a second class of residents. A green card — lawful permanent residency — does not grant citizenship, voting rights, access to public benefits or even an irrevocable right to reside in the United States.
Read the whole piece here.
One other point that I should note in this context is that if the GOP’s “legal status” proposal included the opportunity to apply for a pathway to citizenship through normal channels, a position advocated for by House Republican leadership last year, it would create an opportunity for a pathway to citizenship for 6 million or more people here illegally. When you consider that the Senate bill that passed in 2013 would have granted a pathway to only 8 million people and only after 13 years, Clinton’s distinction between the two positions becomes much less relevant.