Hillary Clinton waded into the racial debate spurred by the turmoil roiling Ferguson, Missouri, saying Americans “cannot ignore the inequities that persist in our justice system.”
“Nobody wants to see our streets look like a war zone, not in America, we are better than that,” Clinton, 66, said yesterday at a technology conference in San Francisco, referring to the military-style weapons deployed by police in response to protests over the Aug. 9 killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black, by a white police officer.
“Watching the recent funeral for Michael Brown, as a mother and as a human being, my heart just broke for his family,” she said.
Clinton, who is considering a run for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, had been criticized by civil-rights leaders, including Al Sharpton, for not speaking out at the height of the protests. In her comments yesterday, the clearest indication of her status as a presidential aspirant was the consistency of her equivocation on major domestic and international issues.
She embraced the concept of granting visas to high-tech workers abroad while insisting that an “extra effort” be “made to try to fill jobs with those who are already here.”
She said there is “constant tension” between personal privacy and data collection to stop terrorist attacks, and that “we have to keep striking the right balance.”
Clinton praised “the many decent and respectful law enforcement officers who showed what quality law enforcement looks like” during the protests in Ferguson, while saying the justice system is stacked against blacks. One-third of blacks go to prison in their lifetime, get longer prison sentences and are subject to searches at police traffic stops more often than whites, she said.
During the session hosted by Nexenta Systems, Inc., a Santa Clara, California-based maker of software-defined storage, the former secretary of state kept her policy options open for future debates.
Revising immigration policy is a goal for the technology industry that has pressed Congress for more H-1B visas to fill highly skilled jobs with foreign-born workers. Clinton told the audience of about 500 people that while she supports the visas, “given the Great Recession and the fact that so many people lost jobs across the economy, including in the tech field, there has to be an extra effort made to try to fill jobs with people who are already here.”
“If that’s not possible, you have a good-faith argument that you tried,” she said. “Too many people feel like the H-1B visas are -- instead of an opportunity to get good, strong talent -- a way of avoiding hiring American workers.”
Asked about data privacy during a question-and-answer session, Clinton said: “Our privacy and our security are in a necessary, inevitable tension.”
While the government may gone too far in gathering private data since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, “we are living in a world in which a lot of bad actors have access to the technology that many of you have created,” she said. “There needs to be a global compact about surveillance and about information and what it’s used for.”
Polls show Clinton remains the overwhelming favorite for her party’s presidential nomination, though in recent surveys the margin by which she is leading potential Republican opponents has narrowed.
Clinton lost the Democratic nomination to President Barack Obama in 2008, then served as his chief diplomat from early 2009 through early 2013.