Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton distanced herself from President Barack Obama on Monday, saying in an interview with Telemundo News that his deportation policies have been too harsh.
In response to a question about how her immigration policy differs from Obama’s, the former secretary of state said she would invest more resources into helping individuals find a path to citizenship as soon as she gets into office. She also said that while Obama deported record numbers of immigrants, she would fight to keep people in the country while they wait for citizenship.
“I will not be deporting parents,” she told Telemundo’s Maria Celeste Arraras. “I will not be breaking up families. I will not be doing what we’ve seen too much of, which is trying to, you know, make immigrants the scapegoat for everything that people are concerned about in the country.”
Clinton then explained that Obama allowed deportation laws to be interpreted and enforced “very aggressively during the last six and a half years” as a way to get Republicans in Congress to support comprehensive immigration reform — a move that ultimately failed.
“I totally understand why the Obama administration felt as though they did what they did under the circumstances,” she said. “But I think we’ve learned that the Republicans, at least the current crop, are just not acting in good faith.”
In 2012, deportations by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials hit a record high of 409,849 immigrants, up from just under 400,000 the two years prior. Critics of Obama’s immigration policy called him overzealous, while others understood that the enforcement effort was part of a larger strategy to convince Republicans to pass immigration reform.
The Senate ultimately passed reform in 2013, but the effort failed in the House of Representatives. Deportation numbers have since dropped, and Republicans — including the current group of presidential candidates — have criticized Obama for being weak on the enforcement of immigration laws.
In 2014, Obama took action to protect some Americans from deportation by expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) programs. According to a study from the Center for American Progress, it would cost roughly $50.4 billion to deport the five million undocumented immigrants who are eligible for protection under Obama’s executive action.
However, Obama’s executive action does not apply to all undocumented immigrants. When it was announced the action last year, the White House said expanding the two programs are “common sense steps, but only Congress can finish the job.”
While the Republican-led Congress has repeatedly failed to pass immigration reform, Clinton vowed in the Telemundo interview that she would go further than Obama if Congress continues to fail to act.