If there is an issue that can make a difference in the 2016 presidential election, it is immigration. Hillary Clinton is so very much aware of it that it prompted her to fire first. In front of a young undocumented immigrant audience at Rancho High School in Las Vegas, the Democratic candidate made quite a demanding promise. She said that if she becomes president, not only will she pursue the amnesty of illegal immigrants adopted by Barack Obama, but she will expand it.
If Congress refuses to make a decision, and if immigration reform stays blocked in Capitol Hill, the ex-first lady explained that she will be the one to take care of it using the powers granted by the Constitution to the president. Obama has already used them, enacting executive orders signed in recent months regulating the situation of at least 5 out of 11 million illegal immigrants living on American soil and drastically limiting the number of deportations and forced repatriation. These executive orders are currently blocked by a Texas judge. When the federal government wins its legal battle, the executive orders will eventually be implemented. However, Hillary Clinton announced her intention to go even further than the current president has. She promised that she will extend the right to stay in the U.S. to the parents of immigrants known as “Dreamers,” i.e., young people who entered the U.S. while still young and who were raised in the United States.
The Dreamers number in the millions. Since 2012, they have been protected under a law designed by Obama, but their parents remain illegal. Often, the parents are arrested, put into detention centers and then sent away from the U.S., tearing apart families that have spent years together in the United States. Hillary Clinton promises that this will never happen again. “There are 11 million illegal immigrants in America, we cannot deport them all,”* she said at the meeting in Las Vegas.
The Latinos Votes
But why has Hillary Clinton made this move on immigration? It’s too early to say. The million Latino votes play in favor of the former secretary of state. A few aspects play in her favor at home. In 2008 during the primaries, Democratic voters of Hispanic origin preferred Hillary over Barack Obama. Then, we know how it all ended up. Now that she is in the presidential race, this preference has re-emerged and Hillary Clinton wants to make the most of it. The millions of parents of the millions of illegal immigrants — most of them Latinos — who will vote in 2016? Those who want to keep families together or those who want to separate them? Hillary has no doubts and is aiming at open immigration policies.
What the Republicans Say
On the other side, the Republican candidates are really struggling over this topic. They have to contain more conservative voters and need to be more careful not to risk losing those votes. In doing so, they have not been very successful at luring these decisive ethnic (for now) minorities. This is the case with Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. They are both from Florida, the land of Hispanic immigration, and the name and surname of the Republican senator shows it. Both of them are enticing Latinos, but have just not fallen in love yet. Both of them are wavering about immigration reform, showing signs of stopping deportations, but preferring to put an emphasis on border security.
Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett Packard, in the race on the Republicans side, has a more pragmatic vision. According to her, her party, which controls the Senate, should delegate reform on immigration with a series of measures that would take the ball out of Barack Obama’s and the Democrats’ hands. For Fiorina, the strategic mistake has been that Republicans are giving too much space to their adversaries’ offensive, unaware of the fact that they are giving away millions of Hispanic votes to their rival party.
In view of this pragmatism, Rand Paul, another Republican candidate, is completely taking sides with the immigrants. In a recent interview, he said that one way or another, the 11 million illegal immigrants should be regularized. On the Republican side, he is a strange case. His positions are the most original and cross-cutting. Some people think that he could have an advantage in the race to the White House. For now however, the polls don’t tell the same story.
The Tea Party
The son of a Cuban immigrant who immigrated to Canada and of an Italian-American woman, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is among the Republican candidates who have adopted the hardest stance. An adept member of the tea party, Cruz is going all in the border security issue to avoid the admission of illegal immigrants, and he was an advocate and leader of the battle in Congress against the large amnesty ratified by Barack Obama. He is not afraid of losing the Latino vote because he is sure that he will fill the gap by strengthening his consensus with the most conservative voters.
Whoever will win the Republican primaries in the end will, in any case, have to offer an answer, a summary, on immigration. It won’t be easy when you consider the spinning vortex the issue has created. For Hillary Clinton, it is much easier. She has already been decisive on the issue. While the Republicans are trying to find the best thing to do, the former first lady has already made the move that could allow her to win the Latino vote.