Chris Chmielenski's picture


  by  Chris Chmielenski

There are few areas where Democratic Presidential Hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders differ on immigration, but Thursday night's debate put two of them on display.

Both Clinton and Sanders embraced lifetime work permits for 11 million illegal aliens and a massive expansion of legal immigration through their united support of "comprehensive immigration reform." But they clashed on their past Senate votes on immigration and how to handle the surge of Unaccompanied Alien Children who continue to stream across the southern border.

In both cases, the candidates held their ground on past positions but tried to offer some finesse that would keep them in line with the open-borders philosophy that has taken over the Democratic Party.


Back in 2014, when we saw an unprecedented surge of Central Americans illegally crossing the southern border, Clinton broke from many in her Party by saying the United States needed to send a message to other countries that our borders are not open. She maintained that position last night.

"[W]ith respect to the Central American children, I made it very clear that those children needed to be processed appropriately, but we also had to send a message to families and communities in Central America not to send their children on this dangerous journey in the hands of smugglers. ...

"The fact is that there was a great effort made by the Obama administration and others to really send a clear message, because we knew that so many of these children were being abused, being treated terribly while they tried to get to our border."

The "great effort" made by the Obama Administration included the apprehension of 121 illegal aliens and the eventual removal of 77. Compare that to the more than 100,000 illegal aliens who came across the border during the 2014 surge.

Despite Clinton's support of the Administration's "effort", she joined Sanders in rebuffing the recent enforcement actions.

"I am against the raids. I'm against the kind of inhumane treatment that is now being visited upon families, waking them up in the middle of the night, rounding them up. We should be deporting criminals, not hardworking immigrant families who do the very best they can and often are keeping economies going in many places in our country."

-- Sec. Clinton

"I disagree with his recent deportation policies. And I would not support those."

-- Sanders

Those "hardworking families" who had been apprehended had all come to the country since 2014 and likely skipped their immigration court dates. Even under the Gang of 8 amnesty that both Clinton and Sanders supported, they wouldn't be allowed to receive legal status and work permits.

In her defense of her position but opposition to enforcement actions, Clinton failed to explain how she would send a message to Central America.


Shortly after we started evaluating the Presidential Hopefuls nine months ago, we were ecstatic to see an interview that Sanders gave to Vox founder Ezra Klein where he said, "Open borders? No, that's a Koch brothers proposal. ... That's a right-wing proposal, which says essentially there is no United States."

With Sanders' opposition in 2007 to the McCain-Kennedy amnesty bill, we thought there was a possibility that he would move away from the mainstream of his Party and take a stronger position on overall immigration numbers. While he defended his 2007 vote last night, our hopes have now been dashed with his actions and further comments.

Since that 2007 vote, Sanders voted for the Gang of 8 amnesty bill in 2013, which was the largest immigration expansion bill in our nation's history and would have quadrupled existing guest-worker programs. He maintained his support for that vote Thursday night.

"I believe that we have got to pass comprehensive immigration reform, something that I strongly supported. I believe that we have got to move toward a path toward citizenship."

-- Sanders

And in December, he bucked his comments to Vox when he supported the recent omnibus spending bill that quadrupled the H-2B low-skilled guest-worker program for 2016 -- a program that allows employers to import foreign workers who compete directly with young Americans -- one of the major voting blocks that he's getting support from.

Further, Sanders' support to allow the recent border surgers to stay and work in the United States embraces the "open-borders" position that he called a "right-wing proposal".

He tried to claim that Central Americans are coming to the U.S. because there are "violent areas of Honduras and neighboring countries, people who are fleeing drug violence and cartel violence." But a January poll conducted in Honduras by a Honduras-based group found that 77% of those who left the country to come to the United States did so for economic reasons. Only 16% said it was to escape violence.

As with all debates, Sanders spent most of the night beating up on Wall Street, but it's Wall Street, as Sanders noted in his 2015 interview, that benefits the most from the massive increases in foreign workers that he now supports. On a separate topic last night, Sanders said, "If that's not hypocrisy, I don't know what hypocrisy is." Well, if Sanders' current positions on immigration aren't hypocrisy, then I don't know what hypocrisy is, either.

CHRIS CHMIELENSKI is the Director, Content & Activism for NumbersUSA

Elections 2016

Updated: Mon, Feb 29th 2016 @ 10:20am EST

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