Hillary Clinton Shifts Stance On Major Immigrant Policy Issue

CREDIT: AP/ Bebeto Matthews

Hillary Clinton speaks during her keynote remarks at the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves summit, Friday Nov. 21, 2014 in New York.

Shifting gears away from her position eight years ago, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) now supports granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, Huffington Post reported Thursday.

“Hillary supports state policies to provide driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants,” a Clinton campaign spokesperson told the Huffington Post in a post published Thursday.

Clinton took a markedly different position on driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants during her 2007 presidential campaign. Clinton, then New York senator, waffled when asked about a New York state proposal to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, stating that the plan “makes a lot of sense,” but that she didn’t think it was the best thing for a governor to do.

Two weeks later, she issued a clear statement, saying, “As president, I will not support driver’s licenses for undocumented people and will press for comprehensive immigration reform that deals with all of the issues around illegal immigration, including border security and fixing our broken system.”

Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D-NY) ultimately reneged on a plan to issue driver’s licenses, stating that the proposal would be blocked either by legal challenges, the state legislature, or county clerks refusing to carry out the law.

In the seven years since Clinton made her initial statement, ten states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia have granted undocumented immigrants the ability to receive licenses. Since a California state law took effect in January 2015, about 500,000 undocumented immigrants have applied for driver’s licenses.

Proponents of licenses for undocumented immigrants argue that it could increase the number of better, safer drivers on the roads. A 2012 DMV study found that unlicensed drivers in California, many of whom are undocumented immigrants, are almost three times more likely to cause a fatal crash.

Clinton has otherwise been a consistent advocate for comprehensive immigration reform and a path to citizenship. When a 19-year-old said last year that her undocumented status was her “glass ceiling,” Clinton sympathized. “I believe strongly that we are missing a great opportunity by not welcoming people like you, and 11 million others who have made contributions to our country, into a legal status,” Clinton said.

Still, Clinton has upset immigrant advocates in the past with other statements she’s made on immigration. When asked what to do with the influx of Latin American migrant children through the southern U.S. border last year, Clinton said that the kids “should be sent back” and that the U.S. should send “a clear message.” She said, “just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay.” DREAMers, or undocumented immigrants who came to the country as youths, said last October that Clinton copped out from answering questions about whether she would push the President to grant administrative deportation relief for undocumented immigrants.

Jeb Bush, a Republican presidential candidate, endorsed a state bill in 2004 to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants that would limit them to driving privileges within Florida only. “We shouldn’t allow them to come into the country to begin with, but once they’re here, what do you do?” then-Florida Gov. Bush said, the Associated Press reported. “Do you basically say that they’re lepers to society? That they don’t exist?” he asked. “A policy that ignores them is a policy of denial.” Bush said that the license was “the one document they need to be able to function.”