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Hillary Clinton: GOP 'abdication' forced Obama's hand on immigration

In a rare public statement, Hillary Clinton says she supports President Obama’s new executive action on immigration, lamenting that Republicans forced his hand.

In a rare public statement, Hillary Clinton said she supports President Obama’s new executive action on immigration, lamenting that Republicans forced his hand.

“I support the president’s decision to begin fixing our broken immigration system and focus finite resources on deporting felons rather than families,” the former secretary of state and likely presidential candidate said Thursday evening. “I was hopeful that the bipartisan bill passed by the Senate in 2013 would spur the House of Representatives to act, but they refused even to advance an alternative. Their abdication of responsibility paved the way for this executive action.”

Republicans have called the action a dangerous usurpation of executive authority. But Clinton, like her husband, said she thinks Obama’s move follows “established precedent from Presidents of both parties going back many decades.”  

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Obama's policy is expected to temporarily spare up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. The president announced the plan in a speech Thursday night, saying many immigrants could finally “come out of the shadows and get right with the law.”

Clinton, like Obama, said Congress must “finish the job by passing permanent bipartisan reform.” That should both keep families together and protect the border, she added.

“We should never forget that we’re not discussing abstract statistics – we’re talking about real families with real experiences. We’re talking about parents lying awake at night afraid of a knock on the door that could tear their families apart," Clinton said.

Like most Democrats, Clinton has long supported immigration reform, and was in the White House when her husband took his own executive actions enforcing immigration laws. In the Senate, she voted in favor of overhaul supported by President Bush that ultimately failed. 

During her 2008 presidential campaign, however, Clinton ran into some trouble when she waffled on her position on giving drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants. This year, she’s been confronted and heckled by DREAMers, young undocumented immigrants, at several events.

The fact that Clinton even put out a statement at all is notable. Since stepping down as secretary of state, she has kept a low profile and avoided weighing in on issues of the day unless asked about them -- and sometimes even then dodging. She has been criticized, for instance, for not taking a stance on the Keystone XL pipeline and waiting to speak out on the events in Ferguson.

The quick, strong, and proactive response to Obama’s speech Thursday is unusual, and could signal a new paradigm as she gets closer to a potential campaign.