Our View | These Leaders Were Right, Until They Flip-Flopped

By The Signal Editorial Board

Here’s what some of our nation’s leaders have said in the past about illegal immigration:

1) “It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years, and we must do more to stop it.”

2) “Real reform means strong border security, and we can build on the progress my administration has already made — putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.”

3) “When we use phrases like ‘undocumented workers,’ we convey a message to the American people that their government is not serious about combating illegal immigration, which the American people overwhelmingly oppose. If you don’t think it’s illegal, you are not going to say it. I think it is illegal and wrong, and we have to change it.”

4) “I voted numerous times when I was a senator to spend money to build a barrier to try to prevent illegal immigrants from coming in. And I do think that you have to control your borders.”

5) “I think we should enforce our borders. To have a situation where 40 percent of the babies born on Medicaid in California today are born of illegal immigrants creates a very real problem for the state… to have 17 percent of our prison population at a cost of $300 million a year, the illegal immigrants who come here and commit felonies, that’s not what this nation is all about.”

6) “We do need to address the issue of immigration and the challenge we have of undocumented people in our country. We certainly do not want any more coming in.”

So, who made these statements? Did any of them come from President Trump? Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell? Former President George W. Bush? Nope.

The first one was former President Bill Cinton. The second was former President Barack Obama. The third was Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer. The fourth was former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The fifth was California’s own Sen. Dianne Feinstein. And, the sixth was current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, speaking a decade ago.

Democrats, all of them.

All of these Democratic leaders in recent years expressed a “get tough” attitude on illegal immigration. You can easily find the video clips online and on social media.

Clearly, not so long ago, the nation’s top elected Democrats favored tough border enforcement, including physical barriers, to protect American taxpayers from the negative impacts of illegal immigration.

But now, they call it “immoral.”

In the midst of a government shutdown that’s reminiscent of the 16-day shutdown during the Obama administration in 2013, President Donald Trump has drawn a line in the sand: He won’t sign off on legislation to restart government operations unless the package includes approximately $5 billion in funding for a wall — or some other physical barrier — along the nation’s southern border.

In response, House Democrats have drawn their own lines in the sand: No border wall funding, period. They say the wall isn’t needed and it’s an unacceptable expense.

They’re kidding, of course. It’s not really about the money. Our congressional leaders spend billions on numerous things without batting an eye. Just look at how much foreign aid pours out of the United States: In fiscal year 2017, a total of $50 billion in U.S. taxpayer funds went to aid foreign countries, according to usaid.com. Yes, $5 billion is a lot of money to just about any individual, but in the context of the federal government’s $4 trillion budget, it’s like a gnat on an elephant’s hindquarters.

No. This is not about fiscal responsibility. It’s about winning. Democrats only flipped 180 degrees on immigration when they saw two things happening:

One, they identified illegal immigrants and their progeny as a powerful potential voting bloc for the left.

And two, Trump made the issue a cornerstone of his 2016 presidential campaign. The Democrats hate Trump and will do anything to stop him from getting a “win” on one of his core issues.

This is not a new phenomenon, by the way. Our flawed two-party system has created an environment, over the course of multiple administrations, in which the two sides would rather sacrifice the good of the public than reach meaningful compromise on key issues.

Trump gained fame as a negotiator. He knows the power of leverage, and he is attempting to use it. He also recognizes that the border crisis is real — as acknowledged previously by Obama, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Feinstein, Schumer and even Pelosi.

But Trump also knows the power of compromise. Both sides need to harness that power, for the good of the country. The ideal solution here is one in which each side gets some, but not all, of what they want. There has got to be a reasonable middle ground somewhere.

At one time, there seemed to be a consensus among government leaders that there’s an important distinction between legal immigration and illegal immigration. This debate is not, and should not be, about those who follow the rules and come into this country legally. We are, after all, a nation of immigrants, and proudly so. Sure, broader immigration reform is a legitimate discussion point. But so is border security, and the use of fencing and barriers as one of many tools to enforce it.

The Democrats were, at one time, right about illegal immigration, and the need for a physical barrier on our southern border. But they abandoned that position purely as a political strategy, for their own gain, at the expense of the American people. They’ve indicated an unwillingness to even talk about making any concessions, despite the fact that they are on record as favoring strong security and barriers on the southern border.

It’s not “immoral” to enforce a sovereign nation’s borders. What’s really immoral is holding Americans hostage rather than negotiating a fair compromise.

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