Hillary Clinton Apologizes Sort Of To Hispanics For Using The Phrase Illegal Immigrants During November Campaign Stop: That Was A poor Choice Of Words
Hillary Clinton fell on her espada during a Facebook Q&A on Tuesday, pledging that she will stop using the term 'illegal immigrants' to refer to people who are in the United States unlawfully.
Immigration activist Jose Antonio Vargas upbraided her for her choice of words during a Nov. 9 campaign stop in New Hampshire, where she hinted at a subject she usually avoids: a series of Senate vote she once cast to bulk up security on America's southern border.
'I voted numerous times when I was a senator to spend money to build a barrier to try to prevent illegal immigrants from coming in,' she said then. 'And I do think you have to control your borders.'
Vargas threw down the gauntlet on Tuesday as Clinton prepared for Colorado campaign stops in Boulder and Denver, saying 'illegal immigrant' is 'an offensive term that many leaders and media have abandoned in recent years' and asking Clinton to pledge never to let it escape her lips again.
'Yes, I will,' Hillary replied to the challenge. 'That was a poor choice of words.'
'POOR CHOICE OF WORDS': Hillary stopped short of telling Hispanic voters 'I'm sorry' but promised never to do it again
ROCKY MOUNTAIN SIGH: Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged to avoid 'illegal immigrant' rhetoric an hour before speaking to supporters in Boulder, Colorado – and then ignored the immigration issue almost entirely in a 53-minute speech
'I’ve talked about undocumented immigrants hundreds of times and fought for years for comprehensive immigration reform,' she said, no longer crowing about her work funding border fences.
'And I will continue to do so. We are a country built by immigrants and our diversity makes us stronger as a nation.'
The modest Q&A event – Clinton answered only a tiny fraction of the questions posed to her in English and Spanish – was conducted by the Spanish-language TV network Telemundo, which caters to Americans who make up the crucial Hispanic voting bloc.
One man responded to Clinton's soft mea-culpa with outrage, saying that he is an immigrant who came to the U.S. legally.
'What term would be better?' he asked. 'Criminal immigrant? Non-law abiding immigrant?'
'If you have broken our federal immigration laws, you are not law abiding. It is unfair to those who have immigrated legally.'
In Boulder, Clinton made scant reference to America's immigration battles, limiting her weigh-in to a single line in a state where an estimated 200,000 immigrants reide without any legal papers.
'I will fight for comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship,' she said, in a brief nod sandwiched among a host of other issues including voting rights, access to abortion, campaign finance laws, Obamacare, criminal justice reform and gun control.
Clinton has a tortured history with immigration politics.
In 2003 while she was a U.S. senator from New York, she said during a radio interview on WABC in New York City that 'I am, you know, adamantly against illegal immigrants.'
'Clearly, we have to make some tough decisions as a country, and one of them ought to be coming up with a much better entry-and-exit system so that if we’re going to let people in for the work that otherwise would not be done, let’s have a system that keeps track of them,' she said then.
That position would be easily mistaken for a Republican platform in the current election cycle.
But in 2003 when her husband's presidency was a recent memory and her own aspirations stopped at the Senate chamber, she sounded like today's Donald Trump, the GOP's front-runner.
''People have to stop employing illegal immigrants,' Clinton said durign that WABC interview.
'I mean, come up to Westchester, go to Suffolk and Nassau counties, stand on the street corners in Brooklyn or the Bronx. You’re going to see loads of people waiting to get picked up to go do yard work and construction work and domestic work.'
But on Tuesday during her Facebook meetup with Hispanic voters, Clinton castigated Trump for preaching much of what she herself said a decade ago.
STUMPING: Clinton is in Colorado for a two-stop barnstorm in Boulder and Denver
OOPS: 'I voted numerous times when I was a senator to spend money to build a barrier to try to prevent illegal immigrants from coming in,' Clinton said on Nov. 9, breaking a major electoral PC taboo
BASTA' (ENOUGH)!: Clinton blasted Donald Trump and other Republicans for not supporting a 'pathway to citizenship' for illegals
'I have just one word for Mr. Trump: Basta. Enough is enough,' she replied to a woman who asked a question in Spanish.
'He’s been trafficking in prejudice and paranoia and it’s bad for our politics and bad for our country.'
Republicans, she claimed, 'don’t support a real path to citizenship. And you’re right: When they talk about "legal status," that’s code for "second class status." That’s why it’s so important to organize, volunteer, vote, and win this election. That’s the only way we’re going to get the comprehensive immigration reform we need.'
'Comprehensive immigration reform' is political shorthand for legislation modeled after a failed 2013 bill pushed by a bipartisan 'gang of eight' senators and endorsed by President Barack Obama.
Among other things it would have established a legal mechanism for millions of border-jumpers to gain citizenship rights.