Protesters this fall at campaign stops wanted to know one thing from Hillary Clinton — did she support President Obama's promised executive actions?
She finally answered that question on Thursday night, just after Obama announced the extension of legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants, primarily the undocumented parents of U.S. citizen and legal resident children.
"I support the president's decision to begin fixing our broken immigration system and focus finite resources on deporting felons rather than families," Clinton said in a written statement provided by a spokesman to reporters.
The statement largely echoed the president's remarks, arguing his actions are legal, emphasizing the House's lack of action, and advocating for Congressional action.
Clinton said she'd been hopeful last year that the Republican-controlled House would take up the bipartisan bill in the Senate. "Their abdication of responsibility paved the way for this executive action, which follows established precedent from Presidents of both parties going back many decades."
The 200-word statement was rare for Clinton. After leaving the State Department last February, she seldom waded into matters pertaining to politics — until the midterm elections this year, when she spoke at rallies on behalf of Democrats.
The full statement reads as follows:
I support the President's decision to begin fixing our broken immigration system and focus finite resources on deporting felons rather than families. I was hopeful that the bipartisan bill passed by the Senate in 2013 would spur the House of Representatives to act, but they refused even to advance an alternative. Their abdication of responsibility paved the way for this executive action, which follows established precedent from Presidents of both parties going back many decades. But, only Congress can finish the job by passing permanent bipartisan reform that keeps families together, treats everyone with dignity and compassion, upholds the rule of law, protects our borders and national security, and brings millions of hard-working people out of the shadows and into the formal economy so they can pay taxes and contribute to our nation's prosperity. Our disagreements on this important issue may grow heated at times, but I am confident that people of good will and good faith can yet find common ground. We should never forget that we're not discussing abstract statistics – we're talking about real families with real experiences. We're talking about parents lying awake at night afraid of a knock on the door that could tear their families apart, people who love this country, work hard, and want nothing more than a chance to contribute to the community and build better lives for themselves and their children.
Clinton also tweeted in support of the president's executive actions.
"Thanks to POTUS for taking action on immigration in the face of inaction," she wrote on Twitter. "Now let's turn to permanent bipartisan reform."
In states from Iowa to North Carolina this fall, Clinton was confronted by immigration protesters, largely associated with the activist group United We Dream.
In one particularly effective effort, five successive waves of activists interrupted Clinton during a campaign speech in Maryland.
The attempts to pressure Clinton into publicly stating her position — and ideally her support — for the executive actions was part of a larger effort by activists this year to make the deportation issue a top administration priority.
But the actions are controversial. Republicans argue they are unconstitutional and too broad a use of presidential authority.
Between Republican efforts to stop the actions and the duration of the temporary legal status, the issue is unlikely to be resolved soon. Undocumented immigrants affected by Obama's actions will be given work authorization in three-year periods, meaning that work authorization will end under the next president.