Presidential candidates shouldn’t run in 2016 unless they support a path to citizenship, presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton will announce during a roundtable at Rancho High School in Nevada on Tuesday. According to an advisory provided by a Clinton official, the Democratic presidential candidate is set to state that she would support “nothing less than a full and equal path to citizenship” and would not settle for proposals that provide undocumented immigrants with a “second-class” status. Her remarks could set her apart from Republican presidential candidates, who have fastidiously avoided committing to a position to appease more conservative voters.
The “path to citizenship” was a key component of the Senate’s 2013 comprehensive immigration bill. The bill would have allowed the country’s 11.5 million undocumented immigrants to gain citizenship after 13 years if they passed various requirements like background and criminal checks, pay penalties, meet English proficiency requirements, and pay application fees.
Rancho High School has a student body population that’s about 70 percent Hispanic, including undocumented youths who may be aided by the president’s executive action on immigration. Nevada state also has a population that’s 25 percent of Hispanic and at least 7.6 percent of Nevadans are undocumented, making it the state with the highest proportion of undocumented immigrants per capita. A 2014 Latino Decisions poll reported that 45 percent of Hispanic voters consider immigration reform to be the most important political issue, in part because the Hispanic community has a vested interest. Another poll found that at least 67 percent of Hispanic registered voters personally know an undocumented immigrant.
Cristina Jimenez, managing director for the largest undocumented activist organization United We Dream, said in a press release, “Our message to Hillary Clinton, and any candidate, is that we expect them to promote existing deportation relief programs and pledge to expand deportation protections should they be elected. Simply declaring support for immigration reform in Congress is not enough.”
Republicans have thus far resisted efforts to rally around immigration, stalling at the congressional level and neglecting its goal set by the 2012 post-election minority outreach autopsy report. A Republican pollster found in 2013 that two-thirds of Republican voters would support citizenship as long as it includes increased border security and other measures. And in November 2014, a Quinnipiac poll found that 45 percent of American voters say immigrants should be allowed a path to citizenship.
Here’s a look at where (the long list of) presidential candidates and potential candidates stand when it comes to granting a path to citizenship to undocumented immigrants:
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (Candidacy announced)Position: Against path to citizenship.Just last week, Cruz told the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce that he rejected immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and wanted to instead focus on “securing the border.”
Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI)Position: Against path to citizenship.The Wall Street Journal reported in March that Walker privately told donors that he supported the idea of providing a path to citizenship, a position that he said in 2013 “makes sense.” A spokesperson refuted the WSJ account, stating that Walker “does not support citizenship for illegal immigrants.”
Jeb Bush (R)Position: Leaving his options open. Last week, Bush touted an immigration overhaul at the National Christian Hispanic Leadership Conference stating that “11 million people … should come out from the shadows and receive earned legal status.” He added that immigrants would have to pay taxes, be allowed to work, and would not receive governmental benefits. Bush admitted in March that he “could also be supportive of a path to citizenship for people in the country illegally — as he did at one time — but said there currently isn’t sufficient political support for it” the Wall Street Journal reported.
Still, in his 2013 book Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution, Bush wrote, “permanent residency in this context, however, should not lead to citizenship.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (Candidacy announced)Position: Fuzzy. Last week, Rubio said to the National Review that the “time has passed” to pass the Senate’s comprehensive immigration bill, which included a path to citizenship, that he helped co-author back in 2013. But his most recent proposal would allow immigrants to receive a “non-immigrant, non-permanent work visa” that lets them stay in the country. “You would have to be in that status for a significant amount of time and at some point, if you choose, you could apply for permanent residency,” Rubio explained.
Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX)Position: Fuzzy.When asked by the Wall Street Journal in January whether a Republican candidate who supports a path to citizenship could get the presidential nomination, Perry responded, “I think a candidate better be talking about securing the border and having a plan to secure the border before they ever have a conversation about what’s next. I’ll let the electorate make that decision.”
Perry said in 2011 that he could support a “path to citizenship for people who are here illegally” if it accompanies border security. As governor, Perry made Texas the first state to sign a state-level DREAM Act, granting in-state tuition to some undocumented immigrants and opposed Arizona’s harsh anti-immigration bill known as SB1070, which essentially criminalized immigrants based on their legal status.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) (Candidacy announced)Position: Incredibly fuzzy, but not against path to citizenship. The conservative-leaning WorldNetDaily published a video clip of Paul in mid-April stating that he “has a lot of sympathy” for so-called DREAM Act kids, alluding to a federal immigration bill that would have granted an earned path to citizenship for some qualified undocumented immigrants. He indicated that it wouldn’t be fair to send those kids back to their countries of origin, but also stated, “But is it fair to say they could stay and everyone else like them in Mexico can come here also? That’s a problem also. So any of the things that ‘normalize’ DREAM kids or worker visas, or anything, can only be done if you fix once and for all the border and you fix the worker visa program.”
Paul once stated that legalization should “start with DREAM Act kids,” alluding to a federal immigration bill that would have granted an earned pat to citizenship for some qualified undocumented immigrants. Yet, he did not support the Senate’s comprehensive immigration bill, which included a conditional 13-year path to citizenship.
Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ)Position: Fuzzy.After he won re-election in 2013, Christie demurred on supporting a path to citizenship stating, “The national solution has to be figured out by those in charge of the national government. My job is to fix what’s going on in New Jersey.” Back in 2010, Christie said on This Week with Jake Tapper that he supported a path to citizenship. He said, “The president and the Congress have to step up to the plate, they have to secure our borders and they have to put forward a commonsense path to citizenship for people.”
Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA)Position: Supports path to citizenship.In 2013, Jindal wrote in the National Review, “For folks who came here illegally but are willing to gain proficiency in English, pay a fine, and demonstrate a willingness to assimilate, we should require them to work here and pay taxes for a substantial period of time after obtaining legal status before they have the opportunity to begin the process of applying for U.S. citizenship.” He indicated that this step would occur only after the country secured the borders.
Carly Fiorina (R) (Candidacy announced)Position: Against path to citizenship.In an interview with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO said that providing a path to citizenship would not be “a fair plan.”
Ben Carson (R) (Candidacy announced)Position: Fuzzy.In his book America The Beautiful, Carson wrote, “Is it moral for us, for example, to take advantage of cheap labor from illegal immigrants while denying them citizenship? I’m sure you can tell from the way I phrased the question that I believe we have taken the moral low road on this issue.” But Carson also wrote in the Washington Times in November 2014 that “It is incredibly unfair to them to grant amnesty to those who have jumped ahead of them in line illegally.”
Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR)Position: Fuzzy. During the National Christian Hispanic Leadership Conference last week, Huckabee declined to state whether he supports a path to citizenship or legal status, but instead focused on border security. He also said, “talking about what to do with the people [illegal immigrants] already here becomes an unnecessary controversy until people are satisfied that we honestly intend to get control of our border.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)Position: Supports path to citizenship. As part of the Senate’s Gang of Eight, Graham supported the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill. According to the conservative-leaning The Daily Caller, Graham told reporters last month, “The truth of the matter is most Republicans are ok with legal status leading to pathway to citizenship if you can convince them we won’t have a third wave.”
Gov. John Kasich (R-OH)Position: Fuzzy. At the Republican Governors Association in November 2014, Kasich said, “My sense is I don’t like the idea of citizenship when people jump the line, [but] we may have to do it. … It may be a laborious and tough process. I would never say we would never do it. … At the end of the day it may be necessary.”
Hillary Clinton (D) (Candidacy announced)Position: Supports path to citizenship. In 2003, then-New York Sen. Clinton told an ABC affiliate, “I am, you know, adamantly against illegal immigration. … People have to stop employing illegal immigrants.” Clinton recently said that she would support granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants after taking a markedly different position in 2007.
Clinton has upset other immigrant advocates with 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.” When confronted by DREAMers who questioned whether she would push the President to grant administrative deportation relief for undocumented immigrants, she dodged and instead responded, “I think we have to elect more Democrats.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) (Candidacy announced)Position: Supports path to citizenship. Sanders voted for the Senate’s comprehensive immigration bill in 2013 and supported President Obama’s use of executive action to grant temporary work authorization and deportation relief to some groups of immigrants, like those brought to the country as children.
Former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-MD)Position: Supports path to citizenship. During an interview with NPR, O’Malley said, “bringing the 11 million people who are right now denied a path to citizenship into the full light of our society so that they can pay into Social Security fully will also help expand and extend the solvency of Social Security.”