Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are touting their support of immigration reform ahead of the Florida primary next week. But both took more firm stances against illegal immigrants in previous years.
During the Univision debate in Miami Wednesday, Clinton, a former secretary of state, attacked Sanders for opposing an immigration reform bill that President George W. Bush was ready to sign in 2007. Sanders did, though, vote for the 2013 "Gang of Eight" immigration bill, which also had a guest-worker provision.
However, Clinton, during an interview in 2003 on "The John Gambling Radio Show" when she was a New York senator, asserted, "I am, you know, adamantly against illegal immigrants."
Clinton certainly contradicted this stand by her support for giving legal status to illegal immigrants, said Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform, or FAIR, a pro-border enforcement group.
"If you are adamantly against an act, or adamantly against the people committing the act, rewarding the people committing that act does not seem like a good way to show that adamance," Mehlman told TheBlaze. "She voted for the 2007 amnesty bill that was almost identical to the 2013 Gang of Eight bill. She was preparing to run for president, and decided the best political path was to support amnesty at that point."
During the same interview, Clinton talked about the problem with employment of illegal immigrants.
"We’ve got to do more at our borders and people have got to stop employing illegal immigrants,” Clinton told Gambling. “Come to Westchester. Go to Suffolk and Nassau counties. Stand in the street corners of Brooklyn and 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.”
Sanders has also modified his position. Talking about the immigration reform bill backed by Bush and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass) during a 2007 CNN interview with Lou Dobbs, Sanders said he couldn’t back the bill in its present form.
“If poverty is increasing and if wages are going down, I don’t know why we need millions of people to be coming in to this country as guest workers who will work for lower wages than American workers and will drive wages down even lower than they are right now,” Sanders told Dobbs.
Sanders went on to say that some immigrants have been brought for lifeguard jobs, while H1-B visas are being used to hire immigrants as elementary school teachers.
“This whole immigration guest-worker concept is the other side of the trade issue,” Sanders continued. “On one side you have large multinationals trying to shut down plants in America and trying to move to China. On the other hand you have the service industry bringing in low-wage workers from abroad. The result is the same. The middle class gets shrunken and wages go down.”
Sanders has shown perhaps more contradiction on the immigration issue.
"The Gang of Eight bill had an almost identical guest-worker program," Mehlman said. "Sen. Sanders gave one of the most impassioned speeches I've ever seen about American workers in 2007. But he apparently thinks if you come here on a visa and take American jobs it's wrong. But if you illegally sneak across the border and take American jobs, it's OK. We want the visa system reined at least that is the law."
During the Democratic debate this week, Sanders said his opposition to the bill was based on the guest-worker provision that he compared to “slavery.” Clinton countered that neither she nor the late Sen. Kennedy would have supported the legislation if that was the case.
“We had Republican support,” Clinton said. “We had a president willing to sign it. I voted for that bill. Sen. Sanders voted against it.”
When Clinton accused Sanders of supporting the Minute Men, Sanders responded: “No, I do not support vigilantes — that is a horrific statement, an unfair statement to make. Madam Secretary, I will match my record against yours any day of the week.”