Hillary Clinton says her deportation policies would be different from Obama’s. But they sound the same

Clinton debate
Captio Hillary Clinton speaks at the Univision, Washington Post Democratic presidential debate in Florida.
(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

During Wednesday's Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton said her deportation policies would differ from President Obama's; immigrant advocates have dismissed him as "deporter-in-chief" for forcibly removing more immigrants than any other president.

Clinton said that unlike Obama, she would focus on deporting "violent criminals, terrorists" and others who want to do harm.

In fact, that is Obama's policy almost verbatim.

In 2014, Obama took executive action to offer temporary protection from deportation to roughly 5 million immigrants in the country illegally with long-standing ties to the U.S. and no serious criminal records. The policy is on hold while a lawsuit accusing Obama of overstepping his power works its way through the federal court system.

When Obama originally acted, he also clarified who his administration would prioritize for deportations. Like Clinton, he said he would deport only criminals, a continuation of official Homeland Security guidelines.

Immigrant rights groups say that policy has looked very different in practice. They say immigration agents have deported hundreds of thousands of immigrants with no criminal records or only minor records, which they say has forged distrust in law enforcement by immigrant communities.

Clinton did distinguish herself from Obama in one clear way, saying she would not deport immigrant children who are already in the United States.

Obama's administration has not offered such protections to all children, and has deported many immigrants fleeing violence in Central American who entered the U.S. in recent years seeking asylum.


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