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Kathy Castor embraces Hillary Clinton’s new stance on immigration reform

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

In Las Vegas on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton came out strongly on the issue of immigration, saying she wants to ensure that undocumented immigrants can gain full citizenship under a reform of the patchwork system and the limited protections President Obama has put in place in the meantime.

“This is where I differ with everybody on the Republican side,” Clinton said. “Make no mistake, not a single Republican candidate, announced or potential, is clearly and consistently supporting a path to citizenship. When they talk about legal status, that is code for second-class status.”

That stance warms the heart of Tampa Bay area U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, who has been a steadfast supporter for comprehensive immigration reform.

“I was very proud of Hillary Clinton to come out in a bold fashion while she was in Nevada to establish a real difference between her position and the position of the other folks who are running for president,” Castor said on Wednesday. “There’s a whole lot (of Republicans) running for president, and she pointed out that none of them right now have a consistent position on a path to citizenship, and the path that I hope will be adopted is a very difficult one, but it’s fair and it does give families the opportunity to earn that citizenship in America, and I think that’s what everybody wants, a fair shot.”

Castor was referring to the Senate immigration bill passed back in the summer of 2013, which its supporters claim is anything but amnesty. It would have allowed the country’s 11.5 million undocumented immigrants to gain citizenship after 13 years if they passed various requirements like background and criminal checks, pay penalties, meet English proficiency requirements, and pay application fees.

The Washington Post reports that Clinton’s immigration remarks left several of the GOP presidential challengers “speechless,” with a few exceptions. Mike Huckabee did tell MSNBC that Clinton was wrong, saying the country needs to focus on border security first — which has generally been the de facto line by Republicans when the issue arises.

On Wednesday, Castor met up with three Hillsborough County- based Hispanic pastors — Angel Marcial, administrative bishop for the Southeast Hispanic Region of the Church of God, Pastor Jesus Fernandez of Iglesia de Dios La Casa del Alfarero, and Pastor Josue Pimental — to discuss information needed about the rights currently for many undocumented students and families who could be eligible to be shielded from deportation because of an executive action President Obama announced last November.

Obama said he was going to expand Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and did expand Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs. But they were blocked by a federal judge in Texas in February. Last month the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans held a hearing on the issue. Expanded DACA and DAPA could temporarily protect up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Castor and the pastors were going over what they call the “Family Defender Toolkit,” a double-sided pamphlet that includes basic information to students and families on the eligibility requirements and the types of documents that should be gathered. It also contains a wallet card that can help an eligible immigrant explain in both English and Spanish that they are eligible for either DACA or DAPA and that they have documents that demonstrate their eligibility.

It was created by Illinois Democratic U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez last fall. Gutierrez visited Tampa earlier this year to meet up with Hispanic religious officials to explain the situation for those who are DACA or DAPA eligible.

“The pamphlet that Congresswoman Castor is putting together is a great initiatve because it’s going to give the Hispanic people to know what’s going on –to acquire some type of knowledge,” said Bishop Marcial, speaking through a translator. “It’s going to give them the ability to have some information as to what are their rights, or where they can help if they need help. It’s so important to reach out to the Hispanic community,” he said, again thanking Castor for her effort.

“This is important because while we’re in this federal stay on the order on immigration, we want families to prepare,” replied Castor. “There are a lot of documents that they’ve got to gather. They’ve got to be able to demonstrate that they’ve lived here in the U.S. for many years. That’s labor intensive.”

Going back to the politics of immigration, Clinton’s announcement on Tuesday certainly isn’t going to hurt her with the Latino vote — and she was already doing pretty well there.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows her leading the most progressive Republican when it comes to immigration, Jeb Bush, by a 66-28 percent margin among Latinos. Clinton also leads Cuban-American U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio 63-32 percent among Latinos.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at [email protected]

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