Remarks on plan to strengthen immigrant families at the National Immigrant Integration Conference in Brooklyn

“Our future will be always written in part by immigrants.”

December 9, 2015

During a speech at the National Immigrant Integration Conference in Brooklyn, Hillary Clinton built on her immigration proposals to keep families together by promoting naturalization through the expansion of fee waivers and by providing additional support to help the millions of people who are eligible for citizenship. Clinton also discussed her commitment to comprehensive immigration reform with a path to full and equal citizenship, as well as how she would defend the president’s executive actions on immigration and go further. Congressman Luis Gutiérrez introduced and endorsed Clinton at the event.


Thank you very, very much. It is such a pleasure to be here at this 2015 National Immigrant Integration Conference and I love the idea of integration. We are going to be emphasizing that. We are going to do as much of it as we possibly can. I want to thank National Partnership for New Americans and the New York Immigration Coalition for bringing us together, as well as everyone from the Fair Immigration Reform movement. We could not have picked a better city for this meeting. We would not be New York without the generations of immigrants from everywhere. Asian, Pacific Islander, Latino, African, Caribbean, European, Middle Eastern, everyone who worked hard and raised families and put down roots in this country. We should never forget that. We should never let anyone forget that. This story needs to be told over and over again.

I want to thank my friend and a great leader on so many issues, but particularly on this one, Luis Gutiérrez. Few people have done as much as Luis to make sure that when it comes to America’s policies on immigration, those policies reflect America’s values. He organizes, strategizes, preaches, teaches, inspires, cajoles, whatever it takes to keep this movement moving forward. And you know that he understands the fight to ensure that America’s immigrants are treated with dignity is, as he just said, bound up with all the other fights to advance human dignity and human rights, the fight to defend workers’ rights, to end poverty, reduce economic inequality, the fight for women’s rights, LGBT rights and human rights here and abroad. Ultimate struggles come down to the same fundamental question: Whose humanity will we recognize? And Luis’ answer is the right answer: everyone’s. That’s why he is a great congressman and a great leader, and why I am so proud to have his support in this campaign to become president of the United States.

And to all the lawyers, advocates, organizers, experts, and immigrants who are here today, I want to thank you for what you do every day. You are at the front lines of one of the most complex and emotionally wrenching areas of American law and policy. I know that you advocate for children who are trying to navigate the system alone. I just said hello to a young man that I have seen before because he serves on the wait staff of a restaurant that I go to. He came here alone at fifteen and is making his way. You help people who are desperate for jobs to get work permits. You help parents get legal status so they can stay with their kids. That means we keep families together instead of breaking them apart. You do your jobs expertly with great empathy and a deep commitment to justice. I don’t think you get thanked nearly enough, so thank you. Thank you for doing what is so important and right in our country.

I want to thank somebody really special, which I am sure is going to embarrass her, but I’ll do it anyway. Lorella Praeli, who was born in Peru, came to the United States as little girl for medical treatment. Eventually, she and her mother and sister moved here permanently. Her sister and her father are here with us today. Lorella excelled all the way through school. When it came time for college, she did what millions of high school students do every year, fill out that ridiculous, long, confusing FAFSA form, which I am going to eliminate when I am president of the United States.

Honestly, you should be able to do that in a page, or a half a page, so that’s a promise. It was when filling out the form, she found out she was undocumented. But she went to college anyway because her grades got her a full scholarship. She decided she didn’t want to live in fear or secrecy, like so many undocumented immigrants feel they must do. She was convinced that this was her country, and that she had something special to offer. So she came forward, publicly, as undocumented. She joined the United We Dream movement, advocating for all the young people brought here as children. And in part because of those DREAMers like her, President Obama implemented DACA, he implemented DAPA. Now Lorella is the director of Latino outreach on my campaign. I am so lucky to have her.

Listen to this, because this is really amazing. After this conference, she’s heading down to Washington, where tomorrow, at the National Archives, President Obama will swear her in as a citizen of the United States of America.

Lorella’s story, like so many others American stories, remind us of who we are as a people. We are a big country and we should never forget that and we shouldn’t let anybody on the public stage say that we are mean spirited, that we are going to build walls, mentally and physically, or that we are going to shut doors. We are a country where people of all backgrounds, all nations of origin, all languages, all religions, all races, can make a home. America was built by immigrants, and you know so well our economy depends on immigrants. Our future will be always written in part by immigrants.

I wish all this could go without saying, but look, now more than ever it needs to be said. We are hearing all kinds of anti-immigrant sentiment in the news right now. Candidates for president are calling immigrants drug runners and rapists. They promise, if elected, to round up and deport millions of people, build a mammoth wall, militarize the border, tear families apart. And after the terrorist shootings in San Bernardino, at a time when a lot of Americans are fearful about future attacks here at home, some candidates are even stoking those fears more and turning people against Muslim Americans, saying some really hateful, hurtful things.

Meanwhile, our policies towards immigrants, and also towards refugees and asylum seekers, are being hotly debated. Now this election, which we know is going to have a big impact on our future, has now become even more consequential. So I’m here today to tell you where I stand, what I believe, and what I will fight for as president. And here’s my starting point: our immigration system is broken and we need to keep families together. Millions of undocumented people are living and working and raising their families here, we could add hundreds of billions of dollars to our GDP by passing comprehensive immigration reform, which is why people across the political spectrum from labor unions to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce supported the 2013 senate bill.

But ultimately, for me, this is far more than an economic issue—this is a family issue. I want to put an end to families being torn apart or hardworking, law-abiding parents having to prepare their kids for the day mom or dad might be taken away. That’s why I still passionately support comprehensive immigration reform legislation with a path to full and equal citizenship.

If you work hard, if you love this country, if you contribute to it, and want nothing more than to build a good future for yourselves and your children, we should give you a way to come forward and become a citizen. And you know what? The majority of Americans agree. They know it’s the right thing to do. Now, you know Senator Rubio actually helped write the 2013 senate bill, now he renounces it. They’re all moving toward the extreme end, away from the rest of America. Now, I know it was a blow to a lot of people in this room and across our country when that 2013 bill failed.

We were so close, but we can’t stay discouraged. We’ve got to keep pushing Congress to act and we’ve got to keep raising the stakes, so candidates and elected officials know there will be consequences if they do not support comprehensive immigration reform. But having said that, we also can’t wait for the Congress. Too many families’ futures hang in the balance. So you can count on me to defend President Obama’s executive actions on DACA and DAPA when I am president.

Before coming out here today, the Congressman and I had coffee with the Suarez family, Osman and Jonalee and their daughters Marci, Clarissa and Angie. Osman and Jonalee are from Honduras, they made the journey to the States years ago to get away from rising violence and to give their daughters the chance at a better life. Now the Suarezes live on Long Island. They work hard. They’re a close and loving family, and they’re dealing with the harsh reality of a broken immigration system everyday, because their dad is undocumented.

So in this family of five, think how complicated and frightening that must be. I’m thinking, I was saying to Luis, I don’t know how anyone seeing the Suarezes, hearing their story, don’t see how much they love each other, how grateful they are for being here and how much they love this country, and not think something’s got to change.

These are real live human beings. Yet too often, our system fails to see or recognize that. We have got to do better for the Suarezes and for the millions of other families trying to live decent lives in America, just like the rest of us. Now I know, of course, we’re not only a nation of immigrants; we’re a nation of laws too. And we do have to enforce our laws, but we should do it in a humane, targeted, and effective ways. I agree with President Obama, we don’t have endless resources, so we need to use them wisely. That means prioritize whom to deport: dangerous criminals, yes; DREAMers and their families, no.

There are people in immigration detention right now who are on a hunger strike. We need to be focused on detention conditions, and as president I’ll close private immigration detention centers. This is a critical government responsibility and we should not be outsourcing it to anyone else. I’ll also end family detention, we have good alternatives and we should use them. I’ll work to ensure that every single refugee who seeks asylum in the United States has a fair chance to tell his or her story, this is the least we can offer people fleeing persecution and devastation.

And finally, we’ve got to do more to help people who are eligible for citizenship take that last step. There are millions of people in America who could be naturalized, but for one reason or another, they’re not. So let’s help more of our neighbors claim their rights. It’s so powerful, so precious, to be a citizen of the United States!

To be able to vote in our elections, to have a voice in our future, and I want to take down the barriers that are holding people back. So here’s a few things I will do: I will work to expand fee waivers, so more people seeking naturalization can get a break on the costs. I will increase access to language programs to help people boost their English proficiency. I will enhance outreach and education so more people know their options and are engaged in the process. I don’t want anyone who could be a citizen to miss out on that opportunity.

Something I say a lot on the campaign trail: When somebody tells you what they want to do, believe them. People running for president are telling America that, and by telling them that they are telling us who they are. They are promising to enact harsher laws, they are telling us how they see immigrants as threats and criminals, they are sharing their vision for our country that would drag us backwards.

I believe in an America where everyone is treated with dignity, no matter who you are or where you come from. And where undocumented children who have been here their whole lives and feel like Americans and are treated like Americans. And where families are not ripped apart, but are treated humanely and respectfully. I believe in an America that is strong, secure, and true to our values.

And I know that is possible. And as president I will work with you—I want to be your partner. So thank you for what you are doing, but even more than that, thank you, thank you for what we will do together.

Thank you all very much!

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