Hillary wants to build a U.S.-Mexico fence first â and she's right
Apart from a well-chosen warning about criminalizing Jesus, Sen. Hillary Clinton hasn't waded too deeply into the details of the immigration mess. Until now.
In an interview Friday, she cited specific goals that could, and hopefully will, become the heart of bipartisan legislation that might actually fix this national crisis.
A fence or a wall? She's for it.
A two-step process, where our borders are secured before the 11 million illegal immigrants already here begin to get legalized? She's for that, too.
The sudden crackdown by Washington on employers who hire illegal immigrants? She welcomes it.
The work and school boycott advocacy groups are planning for May 1? She's against it.
And she said she favors a "carrot-and-stick" approach with Mexico to provide that government and its "oligarchs" the incentives to give Mexicans more and better jobs in their own country.
"A country that cannot control its borders is failing at one of its fundamental obligations," she said of America's "broken system." She also said that "we do need an earned path to citizenship" for illegal immigrants here.
Because she is effectively embracing both conservative and liberal goals, and because she attaches a caveat to each, she will be accused of Clintonesque parsing and wanting it both ways. She may well be guilty, but, on the basis of two conversations with her, I'm persuaded she believes in both border security and firm, practical measures to deal with those already here.
Most important, her support for a time lag between the two steps, with border security coming first by as much as two years, could be the right mix that breaks the congressional deadlock and solves much of the immigration problem.
"I would not support it if the legislation was just for border security and we had to come back to Congress for everything else," she said. "We need to structure it as one piece of comprehensive legislation, with a staged implementation." For example, she said, the legalization process could begin "12 to 24 months" after border control measures take effect.
As for how to stem the tide of illegal immigrants, "A physical structure is obviously important," she said. "A wall in certain areas would be appropriate," as long as it was not a "dumb wall" that could be scaled or tunneled. Advocating "smart fencing," she added, "There is technology that would be in the fence that could spot people coming from 250 or 300 yards away and signal patrol agents who could respond."
She also talked of using drones and infrared cameras and, when asked, agreed that Israel's anti-terror wall, which she has seen, might help guide the U.S.
When Congress returns tomorrow from its two-week spring break, immigration will be front and center. Clinton, correctly, is suspicious of the timing of the crackdown announced by Homeland Security on Thursday. Seven managers of a Houston-based pallet supply company were arrested and more than 1,100 illegal immigrants were detained in what officials said was a start to aggressive enforcement of employer sanctions.
"It's obviously a political decision, but I welcome it," Clinton said. "We need to send a clear message to employers and anyone else who would exploit immigrants, including smugglers." Lest anyone think she's soft on President Bush, she faulted his administration for being "incompetent and all over the place" on enforcement.
Yet neither is she behind advocates who want an immigrant boycott of school, work and shopping for May 1. "To me, it's not necessary," she said.
Although she attended a New York rally where she had only praise for marchers, who included illegal immigrants, she seemed exasperated at being categorized. "I'm frustrated and I'm in an uncomfortable position," she said. "People often want to put you in an either-or category in American politics. It can be difficult to stay where you are."
Whoa â she might have been talking in cosmic terms there! No matter. On immigration, she has found the right mix. Here's hoping she stays where she is.