Clinton Says Some Lawmakers Fear Backing Immigration Law

Hillary Clinton made a robust argument for major revisions to U.S. immigration policy during an appearance in Chicago as she began to re-enter the nation’s political debate as part of her book tour.

“We are stronger if we move toward immigration reform,” the former first lady and secretary of state said last night of legislation that’s stalled in Congress. “I hope that the Congress can get around to doing it this year.”

Her remarks to a food industry gathering came on the day her memoir, “Hard Choices,” went on sale. The book is seen as laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential bid.

Clinton said she’s “somewhat bewildered by the debate” over immigration because leaders in both the Democrat-controlled Senate and Republican-run House know reforms are needed.

“They are scared because there is a small minority of people in public life -- and those they represent -- who don’t seem to understand one of our strongest and most important attributes is that we are a nation of immigrants,” she said of lawmakers opposing change. “People still want to come to this country, make their stake, prove themselves.”

In the midst of an election year, congressional analysts say the chances of getting immigration legislation passed are slim. Those prospects dimmed even more last night with the Republican primary defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, whose loss may chill others from pushing an issue unpopular with elements of the party’s base. Cantor came under attack for considering debate on rewriting immigration laws.

$200,000 in Fees

Clinton, 66, was the keynote speaker at Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center at a gathering sponsored by the United Fresh Produce Association and the Food Marketing Institute. The former U.S. senator from New York receives as much as $200,000 in fees for speeches she delivers at such gatherings.

She used the address to showcase her experience as secretary of state. “We have to ask ourselves what are the hard choices we’re going to take to protect our country, to defend our values, to seize the opportunities that will help us shape the future,” she said. “A collapsing economy for Athens, Greece, can change the bottom line for businesses in Athens, Georgia.”

She barely mentioned President Barack Obama during her appearance in his hometown.

‘Biggest Regret’

As secretary of state, she said her “biggest regret is what happened in Benghazi,” referring to the 2012 assault on a diplomatic compound in Libya where four Americans were killed, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. Clinton has been criticized by Republicans for her response to the attack.

She’ll decide on a White House run by next year, she has said. Polls of Democrats show she has a huge lead over the party’s other 2016 prospects.

In a question-and-answer session, Clinton said she’s “weighing all the various factors” for a presidential bid and that it is a “really hard choice.”

Today, she’ll take part in a Chicago Ideas Week event where she will discuss her book with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who was a senior adviser in President Bill Clinton’s White House and Obama’s first chief of staff.

While delaying a decision on a presidential bid, Clinton has the backing of an experienced fundraising team, voter-turnout specialists from Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign and endorsements from some well-known Democrats.

Ready for Hillary, a super-political action committee, has raised $5.7 million from about 55,000 donors since it was set up last year.

Before her book tour, the Republican National Committee released an electronic briefing book called “Bad Choices” that criticizes her leadership and argues she should be faulted for failing as secretary of state to boost security in Benghazi.

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