Obama reportedly contemplates deportations; how will Hillary respond?

The Washington Post reports that the Department of Homeland Security has begun preparing for a series of raids that would target for deportation hundreds of families who have flocked to the United States since the start of last year. This plan isn’t exactly draconian. According to the Post, it would target only adults and children who have already been ordered removed from the United States by an immigration judge.

Even so, the plan reportedly is controversial within the Obama administration. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson has been pushing for the deportations as a response to a recent spike in the rate of illegal immigration. However, opponents argue that the spike is a response to growing violence and persecution in Central America.

If the administration goes through with the deportation program, it will put Hillary Clinton in an interesting position. Frank Sharry, a leading advocate for illegal immigrants, states the obvious when he says that there would be intense pressure on Clinton to denounce the new policy. Bernie Sanders is already trying to make an issue out of the contemplated deportations.

But if Clinton denounces the new policy (assuming it’s actually implemented), she would have to break with the administration and move to the left of Obama on the issue of illegal immigration. Politically, that won’t be a great place to be next summer.

The Post’s Greg Sargent reminds us that Clinton has faced a similar predicament before. In 2014, when the crisis of unaccompanied children crossing the border dominated the news, Clinton got on the wrong side of advocates for illegal immigrants by suggesting that the children should be sent back. Clinton subsequently “clarified” her position, arguing that the process should be improved so those children who are genuine refugees would be recognized and treated as such.

Sargent says that the episode called into question whether Clinton can take Latino support for granted. Maybe. But now, as the presumptive Democratic nominee who likely will be facing a strident foe of illegal immigration, I believe she can. And I suspect that Sharry is exaggerating the extent to which the Obama administration’s proposed deportations would pose political difficulty for Hillary because he wants to dissuade Team Obama from implementing the plan.

So far Clinton has contented herself with vague statements of “concern.” Her campaign says she “believes it is critical that everyone has a full and fair hearing, and that our country provides refuge to those that need it.” We “should be guided by a spirit of humanity and generosity as we approach these issues,” it adds.

That should be more than sufficient to get her through the early primary and caucuses, after which, if the issue is still alive, she can consider her options.