Washington (CNN)Martin O'Malley, days into his presidential campaign, promised to reform the United States' immigration system in the first 100 days of his hypothetical presidency.
O'Malley seeks to outflank Clinton on immigration
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Speaking to the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday in Washington, the former Maryland governor was asked by Javier Palomarez, the group's president, whether he would pursue reform within the symbolically important time span.
"Absolutely," O'Malley said.
The governor argued the issue was not only one of fairness for the millions of immigrants who currently live in the United States without legal documentation, but one that is "essential for our American economy."
The immigration promise is a practical one for O'Malley, who will have to outflank Hillary Clinton, the race's frontrunner, on immigration in order to be successful in the nomination fight. Last month, Clinton used a roundtable discussion in Las Vegas to outline a broad immigration plan that would go further than Obama has.
Clinton called for "a path to full and equal citizenship" and for the United States to allow the parents of "Dreamers," or undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children, to stay in the country just like their children can under Obama's 2012 executive action.
President Barack Obama used his executive authority in 2014 to implement the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents and the expansion of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program that permits teenagers and young adults who were born outside of the United States, but raised in the country, to apply for protection from deportation and for employment authorizations.
Both O'Malley and Clinton's statements raise legal questions. Judges in 26 states are challenging Obama's executive action on immigration and despite it being good politics to say you would go further than the President on the issue, it is unclear whether Clinton or O'Malley could legally do so.
Earlier this year, a judge in Texas temporarily blocked Obama's executive action on immigration. A federal appeals court judge denied a Justice Department request late last month to allow the reform to go into effect pending appeal.