Launching a Spanish-language media tour, Sen. Timothy M. Kaine, D-Va., vowed that a Clinton administration would begin work on comprehensive immigration reform “in the first 100 days” – echoing promises Clinton has made before, but never in such a setting.
Kaine, who is fluent in Spanish, taped interviews on Sunday with Univision and Telemundo, the nation’s largest Spanish-language broadcasters, that are airing on Monday evening.
On Telemundo, correspondent Rebeka Smyth asked Kaine what would be the first thing he would do as vice president to support immigrants.
“Hillary is going to do that in the first 100 days of her administration,” Kaine said in Spanish, according to a transcript provided by Telemundo. “She is going to make a big effort in Congress to get reform passed, and with my experience in the Senate, with bipartisan colleagues, I am going to work hard – especially in Congress – to help this effort, and other issues, too.”
Kaine learned Spanish in the early 1980s while serving as a missionary in Honduras, and he recounted to Telemundo how the country is suffering from “a lot of violence right now.”
“I hope I could help work with the governments there to support their efforts at economic development, to combat the violence. Our nations should work together to end this situation,” he added.
In the interview, Kaine was reiterating a stance Clinton has taken over the course of her 2016 campaign – and a pledge she first made in 2008. During her prolonged campaign with President Barack Obama, the two rivals sparred over exactly how long it would take them to pass new immigration laws. Initially, Clinton said she would tackle the issue in her first term. Obama one-upped her, saying he’d do it in his first year. So she retorted by vowing to do it in her first 100 days – a pledge Obama wouldn’t make in an interview with Univision’s Jorge Ramos.
“I can’t guarantee that I am going to do it in the first 100 days. But what I can guarantee is that we will have an immigration proposal in the first year that I can support, that I can promote and I want to do that as quickly as possible,” he said in the interview with Ramos.
But Obama later broke that pledge, failing to advance immigration reform in the first year of his presidency amid legislation to shore up the auto industry and launch a federal stimulus program. Ramos has never forgotten Obama’s broken pledge, and the two later sparred in interviews over it.
In the Telemundo interview, Smyth noted that Clinton said in 2014 that unaccompanied minor children who illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border should be deported – a position she has since reversed.
“Can we trust Hillary Clinton on this?” Smyth asked Kaine.
“It’s important to have a system to control the border, and so when we first started getting flooded with people it was difficult to decide what to do,” Kaine explained. “But now we understand the reasons why those children are coming here. Americans buy illegal drugs from south of the border, and the money from those drug deals goes back south. In societies like Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, that money becomes a source of corruption and violence.
“Many of the children who are traveling thousands of kilometers to come here are escaping from the consequences of illegal drugs. We in this country have a responsibility to work together to find a solution to this problem. These children should be able to have a secure future in their own countries.”
Footage or a transcript of the Univision interview wasn’t immediately available. Both Spanish-language interviews were embargoed under an agreement with the Clinton-Kaine campaign that permitted CBS’ “60 Minutes” to be the first program to air an interview with the new Democratic ticket, according to one network official familiar with the arrangement.
But waiting an extra day was worth it for Spanish-language media, which have not had access to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump or many of those closest to him, despite repeated requests.
“We don’t get the access to the top players and that’s frustrating,” said Luis Megid, national correspondent with Univision. “Their strategy doesn’t seem to include the Hispanic voters.”
At the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, the RNC did invite Spanish language media to daily briefings and held Spanish-only briefings for those reporters. Some Spanish-speaking Republican delegates including Bertica Cabrera Morris from Florida did as many as two dozen interviews in Spanish a day in Cleveland.
“It’s very important to talk to Spanish-language media because there are a lot of misinformation like not all Hispanics are Democrats,” she said.
But having delegates is not the same as hearing from the presidential candidate or his running mate.
Megid said he interviewed Clinton just a few weeks ago on Univision. The remarks of guests who do not speak Spanish are translated. At the DNC for Spanish-language media, he said, “It’s a quite different tone.”
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Ed O’Keefe, Mary Jordan