Former President Bill Clinton gives the keynote speech at the New Republic Centennial Gala Dinner at the Andrew Mellon Auditorium in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014
WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Bill Clinton on Wednesday noted that previous U.S. presidents have issued some type of executive order on immigration, suggesting his Democratic successor was on "pretty firm legal footing."
The former president spoke on the eve of President Barack Obama's scheduled announcement of executive actions that could spare as many as 5 million immigrants from being deported from the U.S. Clinton said during an event honoring the magazine The New Republic that it was part of a larger debate about the nation's role around the globe.
"As far as I can tell every president in the modern era has issued some executive orders affecting immigration, so I think it — I imagine he's on pretty firm legal footing," Clinton said at a gala celebrating the publication's centennial.
Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush extended amnesty to family members who were not covered by the last major overhaul of immigration law in 1986. Clinton sought to frame the debate in a larger context, saying Americans should be optimistic about the nation's future. He said the next two decades could be positive for the country if the U.S. can develop inclusive economics and inclusive politics.
"In a world where borders look more like nets than walls, we are interdependent whether we like it or not, so the only thing that remains is to define the terms of our interdependence," he said. Clinton joked that nobody cares what an ex-president says unless his wife might run for office. Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is considering a White House campaign in 2016.