NEW YORK—Hillary Clinton met with a father living in the U.S. illegally, his wife and children on Monday, and reiterated her promise to push for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Speaking at an immigration conference, Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic front-runner for president, practically shouted her vow to use executive power to protect people from deportation as well as to push for Congress to act on permanent legislation.
“We are a country where people of all backgrounds, all nations of origin, all languages, all religions, all races can make a home,” she said at the National Immigrant Integration Conference. “America was built by immigrants.”
Mrs. Clinton emphasized her differences with the policies and views voiced by many Republican presidential candidates, who emphasize the threat some pose as well as the need to support the rule of law.
“We are hearing all kinds of anti-immigrant sentiment in the news right now,” she said. Referring to the GOP presidential field, she added, “They’re all moving toward the extreme and away from the rest of America.”
Her rivals for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Iowa and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, planned to address the group on Tuesday, organizers said.
As for policy, her speech, and a campaign immigration fact sheet, mostly reiterated positions she’s already taken. She reaffirmed her support for legislation providing a “full and equal” path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. And she promised to try to expand Mr. Obama’s contested move to give undocumented immigrants work permits and a temporary reprieve from deportation.
She repeated that she would close private immigration detention facilities, adding she would do more to help those who are eligible for citizenship to become citizens, including expanded fee waivers.
Mrs. Clinton announced that one of her campaign aides, Lorella Praeli, was being sworn in as a citizen by President Barack Obama on Tuesday at the National Archives. Just over a year ago, Ms. Praeli was an outspoken immigration activist, staging protests and pushing the White House to act on its own in the face of congressional inaction.
On Monday, Mrs. Clinton was the target of similar protesters, who tried to shout down her speech and held a sign in the back of the room asking, “Do you stand with us? People are starving for freedom,” to support immigration detainees on a hunger strike to protest their conditions. Ms. Praeli followed some of them out of the room.
Ahead of the speech, Mrs. Clinton met with a family from Long Island that includes parents, Osman Suarez and Jonaly Canales—he is here illegally, and she has temporary protective status — and their three children. One of the children is a U.S. citizen and the other two were given a temporary reprieve from deportation known as DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, because they were brought to the country illegally as children.
Under an Obama policy now under review by the courts, the parents would qualify for a similar reprieve under the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program, or DAPA. The meeting was part of a series of discussions organized by immigration advocates called “DAPA dinners,” but since this conversation was held before an afternoon speech, it took place over coffee.
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