Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged Monday that if elected, she would advance President Barack Obama’s policies on immigration, particularly those impacting childhood arrivals and parents of citizens and legal residents, and go a step further by closing private immigration detention centers.
“We can count on me to defend President Obama’s executive actions on DACA and DAPA when I become president,” the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination said to applause at the annual National Immigrant Integration Conference the New York Marriott in downtown Brooklyn.
The former secretary of state used the acronyms for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents initiatives, which in February were temporary enjoined from proceeding.
“We could add hundreds of billions of dollars to our GDP by passing comprehensive immigration reform,” Clinton said, calling the creation of a “path to full and equal citizenship” not just an economic or political issue but a family issue.
Clinton met Monday with the Brentwood-based Suárez family, advocates of DAPA. Osman and Jonaly Suárez, natives of Honduras, are undocumented and have temporary protected status, respectively. Two of their daughters have temporary immigration relief as DREAMers and a third daughter is a U.S. citizen.
“Think how complicated and frightening that must be,” Clinton said of their mixed immigration status and the prospect of being separated.
The 2016 hopeful also said she would close private immigration detention centers, end family detention and give every person seeking asylum a fair hearing.
“I believe in America that is strong, secure and true to our values and I know that is possible,” she said.
Two separate hecklers tried to interrupt Clinton’s speech, one criticizing a corporate sponsor of the convention.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo also spoke, championing a $15 minimum wage for all workers in the state and citing his administration’s efforts to combay exploitation of undocumented workers. The Democrat, like Clinton and others at the event, condemned rhetoric from Donald Trump about banning specific groups from the country.
“It’s the land of immigrants, and don’t you tell anyone that you’re closing the gate, and you’re shutting down opportunity,” Cuomo said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio with his speech announced a $7.9 million city initiative called ActionNYC to provide legal aid and information in preparation for President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration.
Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley are slated to speak Tuesday at the conference.