Amusingly, the fact-less fact-checkers over at PolitFact are pretending otherwise. In response to Trump’s January 8th prime time address on the border wall where he claimed that “Sen. Chuck Schumer, who you will be hearing from later tonight, has repeatedly supported a physical barrier in the past along with many other Democrats,” Politifact’s Manuela Tobias calls the claim a “mischaracterization” that was rated as “mostly false.” Why? Because Democrats voted for 700 miles of fencing with the 2006 Secure Fence Act, while Trump wants concrete.
That’s seriously Politifact’s basis for claiming that Democrats haven’t done a 180 on the issue of border security. Perhaps some quotes where the same Democrats opposing Trump today echoed his rhetoric will help explain just why they supported such a fence:
- “The American people are a welcoming and generous people. But those who enter our country illegally, and those who employ them, disrespect the rule of law. And because we live in an age where terrorists are challenging our borders, we simply cannot allow people to pour into the United States undetected, undocumented, and unchecked. Americans are right to demand better border security and better enforcement of the immigration laws.” – Senator Barack Obama, April 2006.
- Mexico is such an important problem. The Mexican government’s policies are pushing migration north. There isn’t any sensible approach except to do what we need to do simultaneously; secure our border — with technology, personnel, physical barriers if necessary in some places. We need to have tough employer sanctions, incentivize Mexico to do more.” – Senator Hillary Clinton, 2006.
- “[t]he American people need to know that, because of our efforts in Congress, our border is far more secure today than it was when we began debating comprehensive immigration reform in 2005. This progress includes … construction of 630 miles of border fence that create a significant barrier to illegal immigration on our southern land border.” – Chuck Schumer, 2009. Schumer’s website also boasted a 27% decline in illegal border crossings in 2009, “suggesting major progress in sealing off the border.”
So if they were to support a fence to curtail illegal immigration, why not a wall, which would be an order of magnitude more effective? One word: Trump.
Democrat Support for a Border Wall Tanked Immediately After Trump Became the GOP Nominee
The smoking gun proving that the renewed border debate is all political comes from the fact that Democrat support for the wall didn’t tank until after Trump became the Republican nominee (with the border wall central to his platform). As pollster Emily Ekins noted:
In early 2006 a Time/SRBI poll found that a slim majority (52 percent) of Democrats also favored “building a security fence along the 2,000-mile US-Mexican border.” Sixty-one percent (61 percent) of Republicans also agreed. Between 2005 and 2015, polls show that nearly half of Democrats continued to support building a border barrier of some kind.
For reference, Trump became the GOP nominee in July 2016, and you can see what happened immediately next:
Democrats Voted to Fund a Wall…. in 2018
Voting for walls is A-OK for Democrats in the Trump-era, but apparently only if they’re overseas. In 2016 VICE Magazine ran a piece on the “Great Wall of Jordan,” which detailed America’s strategy to keep ISIS out of their country. “The Obama administration is spending close to a half a billion dollars to build a sophisticated electronic fence along Jordan’s northern and eastern borders, a wall which US strategic planners hope will stem the flow of refugees and also wall off the increasingly important American base from the disintegration of Syria and Iraq,” they reported at the time.
The article further describes that “When completed later this decade, the border wall will have a camera-studded high-security fence, plus a network of ground sensors and a set of fixed and mobile surveillance towers that will be able to see and detect activity five miles away on either side of the fence.” Not bad – and in March of last year Congress (including all Democrats) voted for an Omnibus bill that continued funding Jordan’s border.
As Neil Munro noted, the omnibus budget says on page 394:
SEC. 9011. Up to $500,000,000 of funds appropriated by this Act for the Defense Security Cooperation Agency in ‘‘Operation and Maintenance, Defense-Wide’’ may be used to provide assistance to the Government of Jordan to support the armed forces of Jordan and to enhance security along its borders.
On page 375, the omnibus says:
For the ‘‘Counter-Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Train and Equip Fund’’, $1,769,000,000, to remain available until September 30, 2019 …
That these funds may be used in such amounts as the Secretary of Defense may determine to enhance the border security of nations adjacent to conflict areas including Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, and Tunisia resulting from actions of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Granted, Jordan’s border was built for counterterrorism purposes, but I don’t remember hearing any Democrats arguing their border is “immoral.” Nor do I remember hearing that “walls don’t work.”
After that omnibus bill was initially proposed, Rep. Jim Jordan went on Fox News to blast the spending bill because the border wall is “the one thing” it refuses to fund. “The one thing we don’t fund is the one issue we all campaigned on, a border security wall, and that is not in the legislation,” He was half-right – Congress only couldn’t be bothered to fund a wall for America.
The fact of the matter is that Democrats know that borders do work. After all, if they didn’t, they wouldn’t have much reason to fear Trump’s wall.