Hillary and Undocumented Immigrants

05/13/2015 06:27 pm ET | Updated May 13, 2016

As far as immigration rhetoric goes, Hillary has created what can be called a seismic change in the rhetorical field on the issue. This has sent everyone from other candidates like Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, to even the current White House, scrambling as they attempt to either change, clarify or reinforce their current position.

While there was much said, and most of it was the safe sort of "hard-working immigrant" rhetoric that is essentially "political fluff," considering where we are in the very long 2016 race, she did say a lot of things that turn into political liabilities if not acted upon.

Perhaps the most important quote from Hillary's meeting with Dreamers was "... if Congress continues to refuse to act, as President, I would do everything possible under the law to go even further [than President Obama]." When Hillary was talking on this, she was referencing DAPA and DACA, and talked about how "There are more people with deep ties and contributions to our communities who deserve a chance to stay."

Building on her theme, she called for "a simple, straightforward, accessible way for parents of Dreamers and others with a history of service and contribution to their communities to make their case and to be eligible for the same deferred action as their children." This could potentially allow for some of the more sympathetic cases that don't quite qualify for DACA or DAPA to remain in the country, and could potentially cut down on forcing immigrants to be unnecessarily detained in one of the GEO Group's detention facilities.

Hillary then made points on the detention system:

I also am very worried about detention and detention facilities for people who are very vulnerable, and for children. I think we could do a better job if we kept detention to people who have a record of violent illegal behavior and that we have a different approach for people who are not in that category, and I don't think we should put children and vulnerable people into detention facilities because I think they're at risk, their physical and mental health are at risk.

This, and her saying that we should have representation for the children that wind up at the border, are a bit of a departure from her notedly harsh rhetoric on sending the border children back as soon as a responsible adult in the family can be located in the past.

These centers Hillary referenced have horrible conditions where every corner on detainee health and welfare is cut to provide a larger margin of profit for the corporation, typically the Corrections Corporation of America or the GEO Group.

There has been arbitrary use of solitary confinement for offenses like not speaking English, patterns of unchecked violence from guards with no accountability, maggot-infested food, background checks so poor they have enabled pedophiles to guard (and sexually molest) teenage girls in facilities, and this is just a few items on a list too long for this article.

Anyone who focuses on LGBT and women's rights within immigration have heard how the conditions in detention facilities are even worse for them: LGBT people are about fifteen times more likely to be raped while in one, and there has been a mothers' hunger strike in Karnes center after a string of sexual assaults from the guards. This facility is only one of many known for rape problems that are part of a multi-billion dollar detention industry that spends tens of millions of dollars lobbying Congress and the Dept. of Homeland Security, as well as donates at least hundreds of thousands of dollars to candidates on both sides of the aisle (though with so much dark money, I would wager it's in the millions).

This industry has shown, time and time again, that it does not care for the human rights of those in their facilities.

That is why it was particularly welcome when Hillary started talking about the bed mandate and private detention centers:

I'm not sure that a lot of Americans know that the detention facilities for immigrants are run by private companies, and that they have a built-in incentive to fill them up. That there is actually a legal requirement that so many beds be filled. So people go out and round up people in order to get paid on a per-bed basis. That just makes no sense at all to me, that's not how we should be running any detention facility.

Lastly, however, Hillary reminded us a bit that she is running, decrying a "second class status" that other countries have which we should not. This was seen as a thinly-veiled shot at Rubio and Bush, who are talking about offering some status short of citizenship to undocumented immigrants in the country.

In the cynicism of politics, we need to consider the source: Hillary Clinton just got a primary challenge from Bernie Sanders, and either is or should be trying to mess with the GOP field: putting pressure on Jeb to move further to the left on immigration while Walker can continue to jump rightward and fire up an anti-immigrant base that can hurt Jeb, the most likely general election opponent, during the primary.

For a politician like Hillary, going on the record is a strong sign that she intends to follow through. While the plans are still quite vague, it is still very early, and we will have a long time to drag out details.