With the end of Title 42, border security has become one of the central issues on the U.S. political agenda. Congress is divided on the issue, as Republicans have passed a bill in the House of Representatives that is not likely to gain much Democrat support in the Senate. Years ago, it seems there was more consensus between the two parties on immigration.
The current outlook at the southern border is not encouraging. Gregg Abbott, Texas governor, launched an SOS to his 49 governor colleagues to help him secure the border with Mexico. Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) forecasts indicate that the number of illegal immigrants who manage to evade controls and enter the country may exceed 13,000 per day.
In this context, a video of former President Bill Clinton speaking about immigration went viral as he expressed a position much closer to that of current Republicans. The recording dates from the 1995 State of the Union address, when, with Al Gore and Newt Gingrich backing him, the Democrat expressed his concerns about U.S. border security.
Bill Clinton and immigration
"All Americans, not only in the states most heavily affected but in every place in this country, are rightly disturbed by the large numbers of illegal aliens entering our country. The jobs they hold might otherwise be held by citizens or legal immigrants. The public service they use impose burdens on our taxpayers," Clinton began 28 years ago.
"That's why our administration has moved aggressively to secure our borders more by hiring a record number of new border guards, by deporting twice as many criminal aliens as ever before, by cracking down on illegal hiring, by barring welfare benefits to illegal aliens," he continued.
At the time, the president was coming off the heels of the 1994 midterm elections, in which he lost both the House and the Senate. The gains in The House were impressive, as the GOP managed to flip 54 seats, thus regaining the majority after 42 years.
Clinton expanded the initiative of his predecessor, George H.W. Bush, to build a border wall between the United States and Mexico to reduce drug trafficking. In addition, enacting the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 authorized more miles of wall and the reinforcement of existing construction.
The legislation, which among other things, allowed for civil penalties for first-time illegal border crossers, passed with bipartisan support in both chambers. It even earned current President Joe Biden's vote in favor.
"In the budget I will present to you, we will try to do more to speed the deportation of illegal aliens who are arrested for crimes, to better identify illegal aliens in the workplace as recommended by the commission headed by former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan," Clinton continued in the 1995 State of the Union, his second since entering the White House in 1993.
"We are a nation of immigrants. But we are also a nation of laws. 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," he concluded.