Hillary Clinton has said she dreams of 'open borders,' but it's not clear if that applies to people desperate to cross them

Business Insider

clinton trump debateREUTERS/Joe Raedle/Pool

Trade and immigration have become focal points of this year's presidential election.

Republican candidate Donald Trump has promised to be harsh on free trade and to crack down on illegal immigration.

While Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has also said she would be more circumspect on trade issues — the Trans-Pacific Partnership in particular — Clinton's view on US borders may be more expansive.

Here's what Clinton suggested during a May 2013 speech, recently revealed by Wikileaks:

"I think we have to have a concerted plan to increase trade already under the current circumstances ... and we have to resist, protectionism, other kinds of barriers to market access and to trade," she said at the time, adding:

"My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere."

Those comments indicate Clinton may seek to expand trade flows, economic growth, and renewable-energy use, but conflict with her past statements on immigration.

Mexico Central America migrant HondurasREUTERS/Joe Raedle/Pool

At the height of the 2014 Central American migrant crisis, when more than 60,000 migrants from the region fled violence there and crossed into the US illegally (creating a severe problem in Mexico along the way), Clinton told CNN the US needed immigration reform, while calling for deportations:

"They [migrant children] should be sent back as soon as it can be determined who responsible adults in their families are, because there are concerns whether all of them should be sent back. But I think all of them who can be should be reunited with their families. ...

But we have so to send a clear message, just because your child gets across the border, that doesn't mean the child gets to stay. So, we don't want to send a message that is contrary to our laws or will encourage more children to make that dangerous journey."

Those statements came before Clinton officially announced her candidacy.

But little over a year after she made those comments, Clinton reiterated her backing for deportations of some migrant children, saying that since the flow of migrants had diminished from its 2014 peak, a deterrence policy was necessary.

UAC apprehensions 2008 2016REUTERS/Joe Raedle/Pool

"If you remember, we had an emergency, and it was very important to send a message to families in Central America: Do not let your children take this very dangerous journey," Clinton said at a press conference in August 2015, continuing:

"Because the emergency is over, we need to be moving to try to get people out of these detention centers, particularly the women and children."

"I think we need more resources to process them, to listen to their stories, to find out if they have family in this country, if they have a legitimate reason for staying."

"So I would be putting a lot of resources into doing that, but my position has been and remains the same."

In court cases in 2015, a federal judge called the Obama administration's deterrence strategy unlawful and that the detention practices accompanying it "particularly harmful to minor children," while another judge criticized the strategy as "lacking in scientific rigor."

Over the last year, Clinton has moderated her stance on immigration.

She has voiced support for President Obama's stalled executive orders meant shield undocumented immigrants who meet certain criteria from deportation.

She has called for ending family detention for parents and children who arrive at the US border in desperate situations. Clinton has also backed closing private immigration-detention centers, which now hold about two-thirds of the 31,000 detainees in custody on a typical day.

Immigrant family detention centerREUTERS/Joe Raedle/Pool

In spite of these newer positions and her stated hope for "open borders," Clinton is regarded warily by some because of her prior stance toward migrants.

“I can’t see Clinton doing anything different on immigration,” Rosa, an immigration activist in Philadelphia, told The Huffington Post in July. "She wanted to send the kids back ... Based on what we know, with Hillary’s involvement in Honduras, you see there's kids fleeing and that’s her response?" Rosa added.

Rosa was likely referring to the 2009 coup against the government in Honduras, which Clinton is seen as having supported and legitimized. After that, instability and violence in Honduras — which is now seeing the return of death squads, according to one activist — and in the rest of the region created the migrant push that Clinton wanted to deter in 2014.

Clinton's positions on the border and immigration are radical departures from those of Donald Trump, who has denigrated Mexicans and other immigrants and threatened to round them up and deport them.

But even though her current positions are in marked contrast to Trump's, and more beneficial to migrants in need, her previous stances on immigration and deportation are not likely to be forgotten by the people they would affect.

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