Arizona Should Consider Hillary Clinton's Poor Record on Immigration Before Presidential Primary (Letter to the Editor)

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Arizona Senator Martin Quezada was one of the first Latino leaders in the country to endorse Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, and with tomorrow's presidential preference vote in Arizona, Quezada explains that it's time to set the record straight on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's immigration record.

To the editor:

Throughout this election season, immigration has been a critical issue in both parties, and as a border state, Arizona has an important role to play in choosing the Democratic and Republican nominees.

On the Republican side, we have the horrendous and shameful bigotry of Donald Trump, a man blazing his path to the nomination in a trail of bullying and divisive rhetoric largely targeted against immigrants. In Arizona, I fear, he could find his crowning moment.

But while Republicans worry that their front-runner’s extreme immigration positions could cost them the election, I think Democrats are not taking a close enough look at the immigration record of our front-runner, Hillary Clinton.

Clinton supporters often tout her long resume of powerful and influential positions in our government. But throughout her career, she has consistently failed to show the leadership to stand up for immigrants at times when she could have made a difference.

As First Lady, Clinton had arguably the most important position of power in her husband’s Presidential administration for eight years. She touts her role in many policy battles of the time, including an attempt to reform our healthcare system and the way she used her platform to declare that “women’s rights are human rights.”

What about immigrant rights?  During his 1996 re-election campaign, Bill Clinton signed into law the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which ushered in the era of criminalizing immigrants. The bill throws immigrants without proper documents into jail for up to two years without a trial, though the sentence was shortened after the Supreme Court deemed the bill’s indefinite detentions unconstitutional.

The bill also deputized local law enforcement authorities to spend their time targeting harmless immigrants without the right paperwork, providing them a steady and seemingly endless stream of unaccountable federal funding and a perverse incentive for racial profiling.

Around this time, President Clinton also instituted “Operation Gatekeeper,” a militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border in California and Texas that forced migrants into the deadly deserts of Arizona. Since the Clinton administration, more than 6,000 people have died trying to enter our country along our southern border. Using the Map of Migrant Mortality app created in collaboration with the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner, you can see for yourself the drastic increase in migrant deaths along the border during President Clinton’s administration and following it.

Did Hillary use her power in the Clinton administration to try to stop these disastrous policies from being enacted? It's a question more Democrats should ask.
In 2000, Hillary Clinton was elected to the United States Senate to represent the people of New York. In this capacity, she provided none of her enormous influence and leadership in support of progressive immigration reform. Instead, she has always navigated between the desires of an often-xenophobic public and labor groups whose endorsements she sought.

During her time as senator, she opposed the issuance of driver’s licenses to immigrants and constantly referred to undocumented immigrants as “illegals.”

Even as the nation rumbled in massive immigration rallies in response to the horrible Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 (more commonly called the Sensenbrenner Act) you can Google search day and night and only find one statement from Hillary fighting to defend immigrants as she now does.

The truth is, as a U.S. senator, Hillary Clinton was missing in action in providing leadership on immigration, and was in fact counterproductive and offensive.

Most recently, Hillary Clinton served in President Obama’s cabinet, as his Secretary of State. During this period, we saw the largest use of Bill Clinton’s 287(g) program, under which we watched the greatest number of deportations the country has ever seen.

Was there a moment when Hillary Clinton went into the White House and said, “Enough with the deportations, enough with the horrible conditions and excessive detention in private-prison immigrant-detention centers, and enough with the separation of families?”

To the best of my knowledge, it never happened. 
She’s also never visited the border to observe the humanitarian crisis or expressed concern about immigrant incarceration in detention centers and private prisons or immigrants receiving due process in such horrible programs as Operation Streamline.

And then as thousands of Central American youth risked their lives to escape poverty and violence and search for a better life, Hillary’s first response was to send them all home.

Many Democrats say we Latinos will vote for a candidate with so much experience in government, even in light of her inconsistencies with regard to immigrants.

But elections are about choices, and in this one, Democrats can choose a candidate who has not played it safe on immigration and racial profiling, but one who has been a consistent champion for immigrants.

Bernie Sanders, who has served as the mayor of Burlington, Vermont, and has represented that state in Congress, does not have long relationship with many of us out west. But he has consistently stood with working people and los de abajo (the underdogs).

He can be trusted because he is a man of integrity, honor, and commitment who always does the right thing, not just when it is politically convenient.

Martín Quezada was elected to the Arizona Senate in 2015 after serving as a member of the Arizona House of Representatives from 2012 to 2015. 

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