Stand up for the facts!
Misinformation isn't going away just because it's a new year. Support trusted, factual information with a tax deductible contribution to PolitiFact.
I would like to contribute
Donald Trump repeated his claim that Hillary Clinton supports open borders, pointing to an excerpt of a leaked speech as new evidence.
Wikileaks released more than 2,600 hacked emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, including an email with brief sections of Clinton’s paid remarks to Wall Street banks. (The Clinton campaign hasn’t confirmed or disputed the authenticity of the emails.) According to Trump, these speeches show "she wants the United States to surrender to global governance with no controls over trade or immigration."
"Hillary Clinton's radical call for open borders, meaning anyone in the world can enter the United States without any limit at all, would end the United States as we know it today," he said at an Oct. 10 rally in Pennsylvania.
"By the way, weeks ago, I called out Hillary Clinton for supporting open borders and the media said I was wrong. Now, I've been proven right," he continued. "Where is the media rushing to correct these false stories? Because in the Wikileaks, it was all about open borders, free trade for everybody."
Is Trump right that Clinton really does want open borders?
The leaked excerpt does contain the words "open borders," but that alone doesn't make Trump's claim correct. Experts suggested Clinton could have been talking about free travel or open trade, or immigration policy. It's just not clear. What's more, Clinton's official immigration position does not contain a proposal for an open border.
Clinton’s immigration plan
As evidence for Trump's claim, the Trump campaign referred us to Clinton's pledge to offer immigration legislation within her first 100 days in office as well as her support for sanctuary cities. We've looked into this before, and concluded that equating Clinton's immigration plan with "open borders" is not accurate.
Clinton supported 2013 legislation (which never passed) that included a path to citizenship with conditions and billions for border enforcement for new surveillance equipment and fencing along the Mexican border, as well as adding 20,000 border agents.
As a candidate, she has said she would focus on deportations for violent criminals or those who pose threats.
Clinton, however, does want to make it easier for many undocumented immigrants to obtain a legal status. That’s not the same as getting rid of enforcement, of course, and it’s a far cry from Trump’s characterization: "Anyone in the world can enter the United States without any limit at all."
Clinton’s paid speech comment on open borders
According to Trump, the Wikileaks hack vindicates his earlier charge. The speech excerpt is more ambiguous than he’s suggesting, but she does use the words "open borders."
On Jan. 25, Clinton campaign research director Tony Carrk sent an email to Podesta that contained excerpts of Clinton’s paid speeches to Wall Street banks. (For months Clinton has faced calls to release the speech transcripts but hasn’t done so.)
She mentioned open borders in her remarks on May 16, 2013, to the Brazilian bank Banco Itau. The excerpt, in its entirety, reads:
"My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere."
It’s difficult to discern exactly what she was referring to here, because we don’t have more context. The Clinton campaign didn’t respond to our request for the full speech.
But a campaign spokesman pointed to statements by Podesta and Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook on Oct. 9. Both said the context of that sentence related to green energy -- and wasn’t about people immigrating to the United States.
On Face the Nation, Mook said she was talking about integrating green energy between north and south America.
"But if the question is does Hillary Clinton support throwing open our borders, absolutely not. And she is going to do everything she can to fight to protect the interest of workers in this country. That is actually why she voted against the Central American free trade agreement when she was a senator," Mook said.
On Fox News Sunday, Podesta also said she was referring to clean energy.
"When she was secretary of state, she talked about creating a hemispheric effort to bring clean energy across the continent from the tip of South America to Canada, to invest in clean and renewable energy, to invest in the transmission that would clean up our energy system," Podesta said. "And I think when you look at what she said about immigration, she's for comprehensive immigration reform that takes people out of the shadows, emphasizes family unity, but also has -- modernizes our border security.
Are her remarks a call for open borders for immigrants?
We interviewed three immigration experts and asked them if they thought she was calling for open borders for immigrants and whether it was in conflict with her campaign immigration plan.
The experts said Clinton’s remarks were not a clear-cut call for open borders. They also said that her statement sounded aspirational and contained no timeline or explanation as to how she would make it happen politically.
"I would note her emphasis on a ‘hemispheric’ common market, an idea that became more concrete in 1994 when her husband, Bill Clinton, hosted the first Summit of the Americas meeting in Miami," said Stephen Kelly, a Duke University public policy professor.
That summit involved 34 democracies, and "open markets, hemispheric integration, and free trade" were all cited as a means of increasing prosperity at the meeting, Kelly said. Those summits have continued, and Clinton attended one in 2012 as secretary of state.
"My guess would be that Clinton's Brazil speech reflects this broader call for greater hemispheric cooperation on a variety of issues, including trade," Kelly said. "Given this context, and without seeing the rest of her speech, I would also guess that the ‘open borders’ she mentions relate to the movement of goods and capital, but not people."
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focused on foreign policy and national security, said that Clinton seemed to refer to something related to travel such as the Schengen Agreement, which abolished many of the European Union’s internal borders.
For example, if the United States and Canada had such an agreement, that would not mean an open border for free immigration, but rather for free travel.
"I don't think she is calling for open immigration, but the context of her remarks shows that when she says ‘open borders,’ she doesn't just mean open trade," he said.
Jacob Vigdor, professor of public policy and governance University of Washington, said Clinton appeared to be talking about both trade and immigration.
"I would read the remark as calling for open borders with regard to both trade and immigration. Otherwise the term ‘open trade and open borders’ would be redundant," he said.
However, he said he saw no timetable in her remarks beyond "some time in the future," or discussion about how to make it happen.
"I don't necessarily see a contradiction between a statement of ideals and a more pragmatic policy agenda for reality," he said. "One can dream of a crime-free world where there is need for neither police nor prisons while still supporting those things in reality."
Trump said, "I’ve been proven right" about "Hillary Clinton's radical call for open borders, meaning anyone in the world can enter the United States without any limit at all."
Trump is referring to a leaked speech excerpt in which Clinton purportedly says, "My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere."
We don’t have more context about what Clinton meant by "open borders" because she has not released the full speech. Her campaign has said she was talking about clean energy across the hemisphere.
Trump argues that it directly applies to her current immigration policy. She has not called for open borders in this campaign. Clinton has proposed making it easier for the current undocumented population to gain a path to citizenship with conditions, but she has also supported beefed-up border security.
The statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.
WikiLeaks, HRC Paid Speeches email, Jan. 25, 2016 published by WikiLeaks Oct. 7, 2016
Washington Post, "Clinton's speeches to bankers revealed," Oct. 8, 2016
BuzzFeed, "WikiLeaks Appears To Release Hillary Clinton’s Paid Speech Transcripts", Oct. 7, 2016
New York Times, "Leaked Speech Excerpts Show a Hillary Clinton at Ease With Wall Street," Oct. 8, 2016
Face the Nation, Transcript, Oct. 9, 2016
Fox News Sunday, Transcript, Oct. 9, 2016
Summit of the Americas, Declaration of Principles, 1994
CATO, "We don’t need more border patrol," July 6, 2016
GovTrack, Senate Bill 744, 2013
Hillary Clinton campaign website, Immigration reform, Accessed June 22, 2016
Politico, "Full transcript: Donald Trump NYC speech on stakes of the election," June 22, 2016
MSNBC/Telemundo, Transcript of Clinton-Sanders Town Hall, Feb. 18, 2016
Washington Post/Univision, Transcript of Miami debate annotated, March 9, 2016
Los Angeles Times, "Clinton slams Trump's immigration plans, nudges Sanders to exit race in L.A. stops," May 5, 2016
Latino USA, "Clinton: you have to control your borders,"Nov. 9, 2016
Associated Press, "Clinton pushes immigration overhaul to campaign forefront," May 6, 2016
Washington Post, "Clinton’s stance on immigration is a major break from Obama," March 10, 2016
Washington Post, "What did Hillary really propose on immigration?" May 6, 2016
Breitbart, "Hillary Clinton releases plan to dissolve border within 100 days," May 25, 2016
Huffington Post, "Hillary Clinton Pledges To Take On Immigration Reform In First 100 Days," Feb. 19, 2016
Factcheck.org, "Trump’s attack on Clinton’s character,"June 22, 2016
BuzzFeed News, "Number Of Undocumented Immigrants In The U.S. Declines To Lowest Level Since 2003, Study Says," Jan. 20, 2016
New York Times editorial board, "Parsing the Senate’s immigration bill," April 18, 2013
PolitiFact Florida, "Rudy Giuliani wrongly says Hillary Clinton is for open borders," July 18, 2013
PolitiFact Florida, "Donald Trump says Hillary Clinton would create ‘totally open borders,’" June 23, 2016
PolitiFact, "Compare the candidates: Clinton vs. Trump on immigration," July 15, 2016
PolitiFact, "Clinton reaches too far on immigration claim," April 24, 2016
PolitiFact Florida, "Bernie Sanders says that Hillary Clinton opposed driver's licenses for illegal immigrants,"March 9, 2016
PolitiFact, "Rand Paul said that Marco Rubio is for an 'open border,'" Dec. 15, 2015
Interview, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Oct. 9, 2016
Interview, Jacob Vigdor, professor of public policy and governance University of Washington, Oct. 9, 2016
Interview, Stephen Kelly, public policy professor Duke University, Oct. 9, 2016
Interview, Josh Schwerin, Hillary Clinton campaign spokesman, Oct. 9, 2016
Interview, Steven Cheung, Donald Trump campaign spokesman, Oct. 11, 2016
Read About Our Process
In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.