hillary NCLR
U.S. Democratic Presidential candidate and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during the National Council of La Raza annual conference in Kansas City, Missouri July 13, 2015. In her address, she repeated promises on immigration reform, but was short on details. REUTERS/Dave Kaup

Democratic presidential candidates have competed tooth-and-nail for the Latino vote in the past few weeks. Presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders addressed the National Council of La Raza on Monday (NCLR). Immigration was at the forefront of their pitches. Sure, they’ve addressed other issues important to Latinos in particular -- the Puerto Rico debt crisis, Haitian immigrants in the D.R. and racism in the U.S. -- but immigration is still the best barometer of their focus on Hispanics. In front of the NCLR, Clinton repeated promises that she made in a May speech to Dreamers, saying that she woule continue and expand Obama’s immigration policies.

Clinton’s pledges may or may not be significant , but the are certainly vague (and there’s not much point in asking for comment or clarification). She promised to “go further” than Obama, using executive actions within the bounds of the law (that’s a big caveat; the White House measures are already being held up by the courts). She promised push for a pathway to citizenship (just as Obama did in his campaigns). She Pledged to reform the “humane” immigrant detention system (such reform is already underway). For a few months, she held the most pro-immigrant stance on a large field of presidential candidates.

Now she’s got a serious challenger on immigration: O’Malley. The former Maryland governor held his own roundtable this week In New York. In what has become a virtual auction for the pro-immigrant vote, he matched Clinton’s pledges and upped the ante. He went as far as to promise Dreamers and their parents access to healthcare. It wasn’t just what he promised, but how. In addition to talking with pro-immigrant activists, he released and 8-page policy statement that details how he’d pursue them. According to immigration activists, it’s the most detailed and extensive immigration reform plan released by a candidate so far.

Even pro-immigrant journalist Jorge Ramos gave the plan a nod.

O’Malley’s roundtable included more than just Latinos. South Korean, Kenyan and Irish leaders were also present, according to the Dream Act Coalition.

The entire plan is available to read online, but here are some highlights from the 8-page proposal. We’ve excluded promises to push congress to do something and focused on executive actions that a president could hypothetically put into place alone.

  • Require Customs and Border Patrol agents to wear body cams, in an effort to reduce abuse of undocumented detainees.

  • Expand access waivers to the three and ten-year bars, which, as the American Immigration council explains, makes immigrants “choose between leaving the country and taking the risk they might not be able to return, or remaining in the country illegally.”

  • Push congress to end the bed quotas in immigration detentions centers.

  • Limit the use of immigration detainers by requiring federal agents to get a warrant for each arrest. This goes way further than Obama’s recent gutting of the Secure Communities program, now a limited program called the Priority Enforcement Program or PEP, which allows federal agents to request detainers without a warrant.

For pro-immigration voters, O’Malley’s proposal is reads like a wish list. What more could one ask? (It’s not a rhetorical question; please comment below if you can think of anything). For immigration conservatives, O’Malley’s plan might be a nightmare. For example, O’Malley promises to “significant outreach and educational programs to promote naturalization” and “to have access to the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.” In other words, he wants to get more permanent residents citizenship so that they can vote -- manifesting the fears of the far right like Ann Coulter who think that the GOP can’t win the immigrant vote.

How will O’Malley’s pledges play out in the primaries? Can he pressure his rivals to meet his bid at the immigration “auction?” Senator Sanders’ Latino outreach is on training wheels. Serving the overwhelmingly white state of Vermont for his entire career his campaigns aren’t used to minorities and it shows (we send emails, he doesn’t reply). With his socialist take, it would be interesting to see Senator Sanders policy as detailed as O’Malley’s. Still, Sanders responded to pressure to join the immigration debate. He gave speeches at both the NCLR and NALEO. Immigration advocates hope that O’Malley’s proposals push Clinton even further to the left or at least get a bit more specific (and answer question from the press on immigration? We can dream, can’t we?)

© 2024 Latin Times. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.