What in the world has happened to the Democratic party’s approach to illegal immigration over the last dozen years?
Twelve years ago, during a Senate floor debate in October 2006, freshman U.S. Senator Barack Obama supported construction of a physical barrier along the southwest border. “The bill before us will certainly do some good,” he said, before speaking approvingly of a barrier’s ability to “help stem the tide of illegal immigration in this country.”
Today, leading Democrats – including potential candidates for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination – have done a 180-degree reversal. They now oppose construction of a physical barrier, and even demand the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the law enforcement agency responsible for enforcing the laws on the books and removing illegal immigrants.
What happened to the Democratic party in the intervening years? In a word, politics.
Back in 2006, when the Secure Fence Act was being considered in the Senate, Democratic party leaders envisioned a difficult presidential election in 2008. They wanted to secure their right flank against charges of being weak on illegal immigration. Supporting construction of a physical barrier seemed the thing to do. So 26 Democratic senators – including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and Chuck Schumer – voted for it.
But that was then, and this is now.
As they look to 2020 and the chance to take on Donald Trump, they know that before they can engage Trump in the fall, they’ll first have to win their party’s nomination. The Democratic party nomination process is heavily influenced by the hard left, and they know it.
Is it really any wonder so many voters, fed up with a party that had abandoned them in search of new voters, decided to abandon the party of their fathers and grandfathers and pulled a lever for – gasp! – Donald Trump
The hard left hates Donald Trump. The hard left doesn’t want anything to do with Donald Trump. The hard left would turn down anything and everything – universal health care under the guise of “Medicare for all,” or even a universal basic wage (that is, free money from other taxpayers) – if they believed it came from Trump.
If Trump touches it, they reason, it must be bad.
How do I know? Because we all saw the perfect example of this play out earlier this year when President Trump offered Democrats – who were seeking to institutionalize President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program – a path to citizenship (their highest demand!) for THREE TIMES as many illegal immigrants as they had ever hoped to bargain for (!). But there was one hitch – Trump wanted funding for a border wall.
And congressional Democrats knew that the hard left would never let them get away with voting to fund construction of a border wall that might actually reduce the number of illegal border crossings, even if would let them legalize and set on a path to citizenship almost 2 million illegal immigrants. So the Democrats turned him down.
Meanwhile, hard left activists focused on generating energy and excitement for hard left candidates in Democratic party primary elections. They upped their demands on the immigration front – not only did they demand their candidates oppose construction of a physical barrier at the border and support citizenship for illegal immigrants, they wanted to abolish ICE entirely.
When Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stunned the political world by knocking off incumbent U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley – the fourth-ranking House Democrat, and a potential future Speaker of the House – in her June primary election upset, and then brandished her demand to abolish ICE, the movement to eliminate this crucial law enforcement agency took off. Potential candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination like Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand joined the effort, House Democrats introduced legislation to terminate the agency, and leftist candidates all over the country took up the rallying cry.
Here’s the terrible secret about the Democrats’ switch – in going all-in for legalizing illegal immigrants and eliminating the federal law enforcement authority responsible for removing those who have violated our laws: they have betrayed their own lower-income and working class constituents.
Do lower-income U.S. citizens benefit when the terrible schools they’re forced to send their children to see class sizes swell with non-English speaking students? Do working class U.S. citizens benefit when their jobs are taken by illegal immigrants willing to work off the books at far lower costs to their employers? Are any of them benefited when social services must be rationed to accommodate the new illegal immigrant recipients?
Democrats, ask yourselves: Is it really any wonder so many of them, fed up with a party that had abandoned them in search of new voters, decided to abandon the party of their fathers and grandfathers and pulled a lever for – gasp! – Donald Trump, the candidate who was the most anti-establishment candidate of the last generation?
I guess the next elections will tell us whether it was all worth it – but make no mistake what is behind this complete reversal: in a word, politics.