On immigration reform, is Hillary really on our side?

by Carlos Vargas | November 11, 2015

During a recent campaign speech in New Hampshire, Presidential hopeful Hilary Clinton, once more found herself in trouble with those in the immigration rights community.

With a moderate, quasi-GOP message, the former Secretary of State flaunted her votes to build the barriers at the southern border by saying this: ” I voted numerous times when I was a Senator to spend money to build a barrier to try to keep illegal immigrants out.”

Although the messaging may seem out of place in comparison to her ever-evolving and increasingly compassionate immigration talking points, it’s the same inconsistency that the immigrant community has grown accustomed to when it comes to Clinton.

It is a signature Clinton move and truly one of many establishment Democrats to deliver a powerful speech on their appreciation for immigrants and their contributions to the country, then immediately follow it with a border security pander to the right wing.

It’s astonishing that the GOP and even some Democrat candidates still feel the need to allocate more resources to the southern border; Never in our country’s history has that area been so heavily guarded. Lets not forget that this Republican-esque border security rhetoric, adopted by Neo Liberals, has lead to an inhumane apprehension rate and a record 2,000,000+ deportations during the Obama presidency.

Part of this is undoubtedly because of the influence of private prisons: the fastest-growing sector of their business is immigrant detention, and they spend millions on lobbyists and campaign donations on both sides of the aisle.

As for Clinton, the private prison donations came to an end a couple of weeks ago as the campaign announced that they would take the money contributed to her presidential bid by those who make profits off of suffering immigrant families and give it to charity. Presumably, this tactic was prompted by pressure from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-Md) saying that for-profit prisons are immoral.

Further, President Obama, has recently taken jabs at the criminal justice system and its inequities. But why would companies like the Geo Group and Corrections Corporation of America be so invested in a Hilary Clinton presidency in the first place? What political favors did the Clinton campaign offer prior to cutting ties with these incredibly powerful corporations?

As for the poor word choice, this is a disappointment to Latinos and a diverse immigrant community. Countless movements in the immigrant community have aimed to curtail the use of the word “illegal” as a prefix when referring to immigrants that lack proper documentation; it prompted a campaign, “Ban the I Word,” supported by media fixtures like Jose Antonio Vargas and Jorge Ramos.

This movement has actually had a significant effect on the portrayal of immigrants in the mainstream media, and have pressured most progressives to use the word “undocumented” as an alternative to hateful slang.

So, it’s infuriating when someone with such a large influence among progressives, someone who has evolved into a self-proclaimed immigrant rights’ advocate, someone who quite possibly could become the leader of this country, resorts to using these kinds of insults when referring to our people.