Young undocumented immigrants, known for their assertive, and often provocative style of pushing for measures that will provide a path to legal status, have been attending events featuring possible presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton and trying to pin her down on her views on immigration issues.
The immigrants, commonly known as Dreamers – after a proposed measure called the DREAM Act, which calls for a chance for undocumented people brought as minors to legalize their status – are taking some of the frustration they feel about the failure of President Obama and Congress to revamp the immigration system and directing it at Clinton, the New York Times reported.
At a recent campaign stop in North Carolina to support U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat who is facing a challenge from Republican Thom Tillis, immigrant activists and their friends and relatives in the crowd tried to get Clinton to address immigration.
Oliver Merino, a 25-year-old whose mother, an undocumented Mexican immigrant, faces deportation, carried a sign that said: “Hillary, do you stand with our immigrant families?”
He yelled out to the former secretary of state that his mother was terrified she would be deported.
“I have to say that I understand immigration is an important issue, and we appreciate that,” Clinton said, according to the Times. “We thank you for your advocacy.”
Dreamers have been particularly upset with Congress, where there have been measures to stop an initiative that the Obama administration launched in 2012 giving undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children a reprieve from deportation and a chance to obtain work permits and driver’s licenses during that time.
And like many other advocates of immigration reform that would pave the way for many undocumented immigrants, not just Dreamers, to legalize their status, Dreamers have been increasingly exasperated by Obama’s unrealized indications that he will take unilateral steps to give some kind of break to undocumented immigrants if Congress does not act.
The Times noted that Clinton enjoyed strong Latino support when she ran in the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries.
But since then, growing disillusionment over the failure of lawmakers to make substantial changes to the immigration system, and do something to address the roughly 12 million people living in the United States illegally, has spread from being directed at Republicans to Democrats and the Obama administration.
Increasingly, Latino leaders say that Democrats in general also have not done enough to move immigration reform forward, and they are telling them that they will pay the price at election time.
That is one key reason, the Times said, that activists have decided to start now putting pressure on Clinton, who has not yet said if she will run for president in 2016.
“Immigration is not the only issue, but it is the defining issue, and she will need to learn that the old lines and old dynamics no longer apply,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a group that favors more lenient immigration measures.
In particular, the activists were not happy that Clinton was stumping for Hagan, who was one of a small group of Democrats who voted against the Dream Act a few years ago.
Yash Mori, 19, who was at the North Carolina campaign event with the immigrant advocacy group United We Dream, said, “If she stands with Hagan, then she obviously doesn’t stand with the Latino community.”
Clinton has said she supports the Dream Act and comprehensive immigration reform, the Times noted.
“I think it’s important to provide opportunities for young people, many of them brought here as babies or young children who have imbued the American dream in their genes,” the Times quoted Clinton as saying earlier this year.
But she also has come under fire for saying this year that she felt that unaccompanied children from Central America who approached the U.S. border illegally in a surge should be returned to their countries. She said doing otherwise would encourage more to make the dangerous journey.
That angered many in the immigrant advocacy community, which called for the United States to try to let them stay here.
“If you’re going to pick politics over our families, you should know that you can’t take this constituency for granted,” said Cristina Jimenez, managing director of United We Dream, the largest national network of young undocumented immigrants.