Mrs Clinton’s Mixed Immigration Message

In Thursday night’s Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton defended her past statements that Central American migrant children needed to be sent home from the border to “send a message” to other families: Don’t come.

Wrong answer — which Bernie Sanders immediately pointed out.

“Who are you sending a message to?” he said, reminding her that mothers and children were fleeing Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala to avoid being murdered. “I don’t think we use them to send a message. I think we welcome them into this country and do the best we can to help them get their lives together.”

The sharp exchange on refugees was a welcome break from the Democrats’ one-note squabbling over who is a progressive and who hates the banks more. The border is a subject of manic intensity on the Republican side, but Mr. Sanders and Mrs. Clinton have not been talking about it much. They generally agree that President Obama’s enforcement policies have been too harsh, and they promise to do more than he did to help immigrants live and work without fear of deportation. On the trail, though, they have not always led with this information.

Over the years, Mrs. Clinton has shown an unfortunate tendency to oscillate between harshness and compassion on immigration questions. She seems to reach instinctively for the tougher-sounding policy before coming around, eventually, to positions that more closely reflect American ideals of welcome — ideals that Mr. Sanders voiced fluently on Thursday night.

Running for president in 2008, Mrs. Clinton gave a muddled answer to a debate question about driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. She later clarified — she would oppose such driver’s licenses as president — and then, more recently, decided that she supports them after all.

By The Opinion Pages
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