If you examine the past rhetoric of prominent Democrats throughout the years like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama many of them have taken tough stances anti-illegal immigration in the past that you would likely only see from Republicans today. Although Donald Trump has built his presidency around his stance on illegal immigration, numerous Democrats have had a history of being much tougher on illegal immigration than they are today.
To be clear, all Democrats are against illegal immigration. It would be nonsensical for them to support people coming to this country illegally because it is in violation of our laws. However, some people believe that Democrats today are soft on illegal immigration because they support legislation like DACA that allows the children of illegal immigration to stay in the U.S. However, Democrats weren't always as soft on illegal immigration as they are today, here are six Democrats that used to have much harsher beliefs about illegal immigration than they do today.
1. Bill Clinton
In his 1995 State of the Union Address, President Clinton warns about the "large number of illegal aliens entering our country." In addition, he mentions that these immigrants may be placing burdens on America's taxpayers and taking advantage of public services. Clinton then mentions that he had his administration significantly increase the amount of security at the border between Mexico and the United States. Finally, Clinton ended this speech saying he was going to deport as many illegal aliens as his administration could. This anti-immigrant rhetoric of Clinton in the '90s was much more conservative and very unlike his political beliefs today.
2. John Kerry
In a 2004 debate with George W Bush, Kerry said that "the borders are more leaking today than they were before 9/11. We haven’t done what we need to do to toughen up our borders, and I will." This would a very tough stance to take on immigration for a Democrat because most Democrats today would likely not agree that border security is the solution to illegal immigration.
3. Barack Obama
Interestingly enough, as of May 2018, Trump had deported fewer immigrants than Obama. In order to try to get an immigration bill through Congress, Obama hoped that by having his administration aggressively enforced immigration law would garner goodwill from the Republican majority. However, when the GOP killed his immigration deal in Senate in 2013, Obama realized that Republicans weren't going to compromise so he made his administration become much more lax on deporting immigrants.
4. Hillary Clinton
In 2003 Hillary Clinton said, "Certainly we have to do more at our borders. And people have to stop employing illegal immigrants." While obviously Clinton today is not advocating for people to employ illegal immigrants, she believes in amnesty policies and creating a path to citizenship for immigrants. This type of change in her political rhetoric over the years may stem from her moving from a moderate/borderline conservative candidate to a moderate liberal candidate.
5. Bernie Sanders
In 1998 Bernie Sanders voted NO to increase the number of immigrant visas for skilled workers, which allowed less legal immigration. The bill proposed an increase from 65,000 visas to 115,000 visas available from immigrants. Although Sanders has always been a stringent supporter of immigrants because he believes that we are a "nation of immigrants. That is, in fact, the strength of America," he still voted against allowing in more legal immigrants. It may be a minor thing in the grand scheme of things, but even Democrats who are very soft on immigration still have voted for policies that are tough on immigration.
6. Beto O'Rourke
This extremely popular Texan Democrat has even been tough on illegal immigration in the past. In July 2018 O'Rourke voted against a bill that would have amended immigration laws to allow temporary legal status for DACA recipients. This bill could have protected DACA recipients and would have given them eligibility for a green card on a merit-based system and O'Rourke voted against it. Even today O'Rourke acknowledges that he is not an expert on illegal immigration and there's still a lot he doesn't know. However, with the 2020 election coming up, O'Rourke will likely begin to hone his exact stance on illegal immigration and put some policies forward.
Although it is interesting to see how these politicians have changed their stances on illegal immigration throughout the years, it is important to remember that our politics need to reflect the people. At the time these Democrats were trying to be as moderate as possible in order to appeal to the most amount of Americans. However, I would argue today that there has been a resurgence of leftist Democrats that are less likely to appeal to moderate voters and are stronger in their beliefs that there should be a path to citizenship available for illegal immigrants.