Hillary Clinton pledged Monday, if elected, to defend President Barack Obama’s immigration policies impacting arriving children, and parents of citizens and legal residents.
She said she would go even further by fighting for parents of so-called DREAMers, young immigrants brought to the United States illegally as minors and protected under another Obama order.
Dangerous criminals must be deported, but the parents of DREAMers must be permitted to stay, she said.
“I believe in an America that is strong, secure and true to our values, and I know that is possible,” she said at the New York Marriott in Brooklyn, site of the annual National Immigrant Integration Conference.
The front-runner for the Democratic nomination spoke to frequent applause but also was forced to speak over two hecklers condemning a corporate sponsor of the conference.
“You can count on me to defend President Obama’s executive actions on DACA and DAPA when I become president,” Clinton said, using the acronyms for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents initiatives.
“As president, I’ll close private immigration detention centers,” Clinton vowed, saying she would also end family detention.
The former secretary of state met before delivering her remarks with the Suárez family, advocates of DAPA from Brentwood who came to the United States from Honduras.
Osman Suárez is not living in the country legally. His wife, Jonaly, has temporary protected status. Two of their daughters have temporary immigration relief as DREAMers, and a third is a U.S. citizen.
“Think how complicated and frightening that must be,” Clinton said on stage of their mixed immigration status and the prospect of being separated.
Marcy Suárez, 20, a Suffolk Community College student and a member of the Make the Road New York advocacy group, said afterward that her family asked Clinton to address “inhumane treatment” of some immigrant detainees. Suárez said she showed Clinton photos of relatives who were subjected to harsh conditions.
Clinton said that as president she will also give those seeking asylum a “fair chance” to tell their stories and expand fee waivers and English language programs.
“We could add hundreds of billions of dollars to our GDP by passing comprehensive immigration reform,” Clinton said, adding that the goal should be a “path to full and equal citizenship.”
Clinton seized on the “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, saying, “We are great, and we’re going to stay great, and we’re going to get greater.”
Trump, through a spokeswoman, responded that with him as president, the country “will be greater than ever before,” according to The Associated Press.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo also spoke at the conference, championing a $15 minimum wage for all workers in the state and citing his administration’s efforts to combat exploitation of undocumented workers. The Democrat also condemned rhetoric from Trump, who recently called for a temporary ban on Muslims at the border to protect the country.
“It’s the land of immigrants, and don’t you tell anyone that you’re closing the gate, and you’re shutting down opportunity,” Cuomo said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, in his speech, announced a $7.9 million city initiative called ActionNYC to provide legal aid and information in preparation for Obama’s executive action on immigration.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who are also contenders for Democratic presidential nomination, are slated to speak Tuesday at the conference.