Immigration is a central issue in this year’s presidential election. Both Democrats and Republicans are arguing who is more tolerant with undocumented immigrants. The differences between the two main Republican candidates and the two Democrats could not be greater, which makes the choice easier for voters in favor of comprehensive immigration reform.
Still, the recent debate organized by Univision showed Senator Bernie Sanders and ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s true colors as they exchanged mutual accusations in front of a mostly immigrant audience. While they each have their sins, the two candidates showed that they are not the same.
It is true that Sanders opposed immigration reform in 2007. The senator supported the stance of the AFL-CIO union that considered that the clauses proposing a temporary workers’ program were detrimental to the U.S. labor force. At some point, even agriculture leader Cesar Chávez stood against the idea of hiring temporary foreign workers. Sanders, along with 15 other Democratic senators, completed the 53 votes that killed the project.
Clinton’s case is even more problematic, as she has frequently shifted positions regarding topics as important as allowing undocumented people to obtain driver’s licenses. In 2007, the then-senator for New York backed Governor Elliot Spitzer’s proposal to issue such licenses. However, she later changed her mind, and Spitzer said that she pressured him to suspend the plan to avoid contradicting her posture against the licences, which she would express the following year during the 2008 election.
Now, the ex-senator’s conficting opinions are being explained by saying that political circumstances change. This is precisely the most worrisome part. It is wrong for a candidate to base their support for something as crucial as this issue on political calculations.
This leads us to question if the candidates’ postures and promises — which they reluctantly articulate at the insistence of journalists — would be the same had the audience of that debate been a different one. We think that, for better or worse, Sanders would have stood his ground. Hillary’s position is harder to predict.
By now, the Latino community must be aware of the value of the candidates’ promises regarding immigration. The best way to evaluate them is to look to the recent past and measure how consistent they have been.