FLASHBACK: Bill Clinton Gets Standing Ovation for SOTU Pledge to Crack Down on 'Illegal Aliens'

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Posted: Jan 26, 2018 5:05 PM
FLASHBACK: Bill Clinton Gets Standing Ovation for SOTU Pledge to Crack Down on 'Illegal Aliens'

The RNC dug up this little gem and is circulating it in an email blast under the subject line, 'SOTU: Preview.'  I opened the email, assuming it would include some insights into how the president plans to frame the current immigration debate, or tout the significant economic progress that's occurred on his watch, in next week's major national address.  But the message turned out to be a cheeky bait-and-switch.  Rather than highlighting a passage from President Trump's upcoming speech, it quoted a portion of a previous State of the Union Address.  Watch in wonder as Bill Clinton tackles the topic of illegal immigration in 1995, earning a bipartisan standing ovation.  In light of the way the Democratic Party talks about the issue these days, this is even more startling than the throwback clip of Obama we showcased a few weeks ago:

"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. 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. 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... 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." [Applause]...

Clinton employs the term "illegal aliens" on several occasions, which would be hugely problematic among his party's hardcore, race-baiting backers today. Even "illegal immigrants" has been declared insensitive or racist by the Social Justice crowd -- who insist upon the anodyne moniker "undocumented immigrants," which whitewashes violators' lawbreaking.  He also describes illegal immigrants as a drain on taxpayer resources and a threat to American workers.  Clinton pledges to address these "abuses," by cracking down on illegal border crossings and illegal hiring, and chamber reacts with loud approval.  Roughly two decades later, Clinton's wife (who once adopted a much harder line on illegal immigration, too) offered unsubtle winks and nods to open borders zealots during her presidential run, as her party's base now demands:


There's lots of evidence that the Democratic Party has lurched far to the left on immigration in recent years; there's really no denying it.  Significant elements of the party don't even seem to feel the need to pretend to oppose unlawful immigration anymore, preferring to cast any meaningful effort at curbing the practice or reforming the overall system as "white supremacy."  Noah Rothman and David French have tracked Democrats' radicalism on this front, and even some liberal writers have raised a few red flags about the consequences of this profound ideological drift.  We're now at a point where the leading Democrat on Capitol Hill has rejected outright an offer from the Trump administration that was so accommodating that it seriously rankled immigration hardliners on the Right.  My shorthand summary:


A near-immediate amnesty (with a path to citizenship) for up to 1.8 illegal immigrant DREAMers (far more than the number who signed up for Obama's non-permanent deferral program) in exchange for (a) funding for a border wall, (b) additional beefed up security and enforcement measures, and (c) a phased-in shift away from chain migration to a more merit-based overall approach to America's legal immigration policies (which would move the US closer to other Western nations' regimes, like those in Canada and the UK, which are popular with Americans).  All in all, remarkably generous -- too generous for many conservatives' tastes, in fact.  But Chuck Schumer said no dice -- and Allahpundit is right that preening anti-Trump petulance for the consumption of his base is only part of the explanation for why he said 'no,' so loudly and so quickly:

The “problem” with Trump’s offer yesterday wasn’t the wall component, it was the rollback of chain migration, which is an absolute dealbreaker for the left. Legalizing upwards of two million illegals who are already here is nice but there’s a much larger universe of foreigners out there for them to import. They’re not going to trade 10 million would-be constituents in the future for two million illegals who are destined to be legalized sooner or later anyway given the breadth of popular support for doing so...what incentive does Schumer have to do a deal that involves any meaningful concession by the left? He has a short-term problem in that his base expects him to shut down the government to force a deal on DACA, but Trump has a short-term problem too in deciding what to do about his deadline to end DACA in March. He’s probably going to cave and keep the program going and Schumer knows it, which will soften the disappointment to left-wing amnesty shills if there’s no DACA deal in February. And then Schumer will remind them that, as angry as they are, the way to force Trump to bend a knee and agree to a DACA amnesty on even more favorable terms to the left is to hand Democrats more congressional seats in November.

Read AP's Eeyore-ish, but not necessarily inaccurate, assessment of why Democrats believe the political dynamics of this work in their favor.  That may be true, unless they really believe Trump is willing to let DACA just run out, and to allow very unpopular deportations to commence.  Either way, I can see why Democrats would strongly oppose any significant change to US legal immigration policies under a DACA compromise; they want to keep some topics totally off the table until the next inevitable round of "comprehensive" reform talks.  Maybe the White House's final offer should focus more on the wall and border security -- and perhaps ramped up e-verify.  "Cracking down on illegal hiring" was a step that Bill Clinton touted, after all, and e-verify was an element of the Gang of Eight compromise we've mentioned before in this context.  And if Democrats keep playing hardball, Trump can threaten to walk away from the wider 1.8 million number and focus on the DREAMers who actually signed up for DACA.  Democrats must be forced to make some real concessions on enforcement because let's face it: They'll never do so unless they're dragged into it.