Hillary Clinton's Position on Illegal Immigration

Where Hillary Clinton Stands on Illegal Immigration

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton held a conversation on immigration at Los Angeles Mission College Culinary Arts Institute on June 4, 2016. Brooks Kraft / Getty Images

Hillary Clinton's position on illegal immigration has shifted over time. In her campaign for president in 2016, her most recent bid for election to public office, Clinton said she supported a path to citizenship for millions of people living in the United States illegally because it would be impractical to deport them all.

"If we take what we know to be the realities that we confront - 12 to 14 million people here - what will we do with them? I hear the voices from the other side of the aisle. I hear the voices on TV and radio. And they are living in some other universe, talking about deporting people, rounding them up. I don't agree with that and I don't think it's practical," Clinton has said.

She has said, however, that those who have committed crimes and "pose a violent threat to public safety" while living in America illegally should not be permitted to stay here. Clinton has said she favors "humane, targeted, and effective" enforcement of the laws against illegal immigration in the United States.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, she defended President Barack Obama's controversial executive action on immigration, which would have allowed as many as five million people living in the United States illegally temporary, quasi-legal status and work permits. And she opposed the idea of building a massive wall along the U.S. border with Mexico and supported the rights of a growing number of refugees and asylum seekers to "tell their stories."

"We need comprehensive immigration reform with a path to full and equal citizenship," Clinton said in January 2016. "If Congress won't act, I'll defend President Obama’s executive actions — and I'll go even further to keep families together. I'll end family detention, close private immigrant detention centers, and help more eligible people become naturalized."

Obama's program, called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, was essentially put on hold by a June 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Clinton Opposed Banning Muslims

Clinton has also voiced opposition to a policy put in place by Republican President Donald Trump to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States. Trump said his proposal was meant to prevent terrorist attacks on the homeland. But Clinton called the idea dangerous. “It goes against everything we stand for as a nation founded on religious liberty,” Clinton said. “He’s turned Americans against Americans, which is exactly what ISIS wants.”

Clinton Mocked Trump's Border Wall But Supported a Fence

On the campaign trail in 2016, Clinton openly derided Donald Trump's idea to build a tall wall along the length of the U.S. Mexico border. "He's talking about a very tall wall, right? A beautiful, tall wall. The most beautiful, tall, wall, better than the Great Wall of China, that would run the entire border, that he would somehow magically get the Mexican government to pay for. And, you know, it's just fantasy."

Clinton did, however, voter in favor of legislation to build a fence along 700 miles of the border, a bill called the Secure Fence Act of 2006. "... Where it was necessary, we did support some fencing, where it was necessary, we did add border patrol agents," Clinton said.

Clinton Apologized for Saying 'Illegal Immigrants'

Clinton apologized in 2015 for using the term "illegal immigrants," which is considered dehumanizing. She used the term while speaking about securing the United States border with Mexico. "Well, I voted numerous times when I was a senator to spend money to build a barrier to try to prevent illegal immigrants from coming in," Clinton said. 

She apologized when asked about her use of the term, saying: "That was a poor choice of words. As I've said throughout this campaign, the people at the heart of this issue are children, parents, families, DREAMers. They have names, and hopes and dreams that deserve to be respected," Clinton said. 

Clinton's Shifting Position on Immigration

Clinton's position on immigrant hasn't been as consistent as it seems. She has come under fire from some Hispanics over her support of candidates who are viewed as unfriendly to establishing a pathway to citizenship. As first lady under President Bill Clinton, she was on record as supporting the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, which expanded the use of deportation and limited conditions under which it could be appealed.

She has also opposed the idea of giving driver's licenses to people living in the United States illegally, a position that drew some criticism. "They are driving on our roads. The possibility of them having an accident that harms themselves or others is just a matter of the odds," Clinton has said.

Clinton said during her run for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination that she supported granting citizenship to people living here illegal if they meet certain conditions including paying a fine to the government, paying back taxes, and learning English.

And she has also said children who cross the border illegally from Central America should be "sent back as soon as it can be determined who responsible adults in their families are, because there are concerns whether all of them should be sent back. But I think all of them who can be should be reunited with their families. … We have to send a clear message, just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay. So, we don’t want to send a message that is contrary to our laws or will encourage more children to make that dangerous journey.”