Clinton calls for immigrants to “step out of the shadows”

Monday, January 28, 2008 | 10:31 p.m. CST; updated 3:51 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — Chelsea Clinton told a crowd of students and supporters Monday that her mother wants to invite undocumented immigrants to “step out of the shadows.”

Chelsea Clinton talked about a path that would allow immigrants to become citizens by paying a fine and paying back taxes as a percentage of their incomes over a period of time.

“In terms of the 12 to 14 million people who are here illegally (Hillary Clinton) wants people to come out of the shadows and be registered,” Chelsea Clinton said.

She spoke about her mother’s comprehensive immigration plan. She discussed security issues and workplace laws.

“My mom has said that she supports comprehensive immigration reform ... We do want to be a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants, but it’s also about security,” she said.

Chelsea Clinton also said that her mother encourages people to learn English though she does not support mandating English as the national language.

In terms of focusing on Latino youth, Clinton expressed that her mother has supported the DREAM Act twice, federal legislation that would allow undocumented high school students to be eligible for higher education and legal status. The DREAM Act failed in the U.S. Senate on Oct. 24.

“I think that is really important because we want people to realize their own dreams, and it should be about their dreams and not the choices their parents made to help them realize those dreams,” she said.

Eduardo Crespi is the director and founder of Centro Latino, an organization in Columbia that provides health, education and cultural services to Latinos. He said the best way to encourage people to learn English is by supporting them.

“What the government has to do is put more money and incentives into schools, nonprofit programs and grassroots that are giving immigrants the chance to learn the language,” he said. “The Latino community and other immigrants should learn the language to understand what is going on and make informed decisions.”

Crespi said Hillary Clinton should hold accountable other Democrats that did not support the DREAM Act in the case of Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

Chelsea Clinton said the immigration debate is distinct to the Democratic party.

“If you listen to the Democratic debates, I think this is actually a place where we are really distinctive versus the Republicans in that we talk about immigration,” she said. “I think that the Republicans treat this as something that could just go away, and I want someone to ask them what would that mean.”

Professor John Petrocik, chair of the MU Department of Political Science, said Clinton’s comments are what one would expect from a Democrat, especially to appeal to the Hispanic/Latino constituency.

“This is a not a very distinctive position in my mind because in terms of what she said, you are basically going to be getting the same position from John Edwards or Obama,” he said. “No Democrat is going to take a hard-edge position against immigration.”

Meghan Mercier, a senior political science major who attended the event, said Chelsea Clinton didn’t address the inconsistencies in Hillary Clinton’s platform on immigration.

“On the immigration issue, there weren’t any specific questions dealing with the different aspects of Hillary’s immigration policy. Chelsea says that they want to take count of the people that are here, but her mother doesn’t support driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants,” Mercier said. “Chelsea didn’t address these contradictions because she didn’t have to.”

Crespi said he thinks it is good idea that Hillary Clinton is supporting the comprehensive immigration bill but thinks that more should be done from both parties.

“In terms of immigration, they can talk about it but they aren’t doing anything,” he said. “Nothing has happened on both sides of the aisles, neither the Republicans nor the Democrats.”

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