Elections 2020FederalImmigration & BorderIssuesCongressional Democrats, Presidential Candidates Abruptly Reverse Border Stance

Just a few months ago, congressional Democrats and presidential contenders claimed there was no border crisis. Now, they are singing a much different tune.
June 26, 2019
Yesterday, House Democrats approved their version of a border supplemental plan the Trump administration initially requested almost two months ago. The Democrats version, however, does not fully deliver on what was requested by the administration. 

Specifically, the bill appropriated zero dollars for additional personnel and beds for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to improve conditions at border facilities for immigrants being housed. And the Democrat’s version also had $60 million less than what the Trump administration requested for “operations and support” functions.

Earlier this afternoon, the GOP-controlled Senate defeated the House bill 37-55 as they prepare to move their own version.

Some House Republicans, such as Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX-21), have been trying to get House leadership to follow through on the Trump administration’s funding request using procedural tactics designed to draw attention to the border crisis.

The effort did eventually succeed in bringing the Democrats to the table, but it did not yield an acceptable product to most House Republicans. All but three voted against the bill. Texas Republican Will Hurd (R-TX-23) was one of the three who voted for the measure.

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All of this comes as the chaos continues to worsen.

January through May of 2019 has seen a 118 percent increase in border crossing apprehensions from the same time frame in 2018 and since March, the monthly apprehensions have not dipped below six figures.

Small Texas towns like Uvalde have seemingly been turned upside down as a result.

Indeed, fiscal year 2019 apprehension numbers are already over 600,000 with June numbers likely coming in the next week and total apprehensions on pace to exceed 1 million by the end of the fiscal year.

The Democrat Party’s position on the issue has changed quite rapidly. In the past few months, talking points have shifted from denying there is a crisis to claiming the crisis is manufactured to declaring a full-on humanitarian crisis.

In February, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) emphatically stated, “There is no crisis at the border.” Yesterday, touting the border supplemental bill passing the House, Hoyer called it an “urgent humanitarian situation at our border.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on January 19, “President Trump tried to claim there was a crisis at the border.” Schumer later said in June, “We have to grapple with the real challenges at the border, and do more to reduce the number of migrants who feel they need to flee their countries in the first place.”

Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) called the situation a “fake crisis on the border” on March 14, but on June 25 tweeted a video highlighting her trip a year ago to McAllen and stating “a year later” that “this is a humanitarian crisis, and [Donald Trump] is responsible for it.”

On May 22, former Texas congressman and current Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke accused the Trump administration of “manufacturing a crisis through a series of lies.” 

Two months earlier, O’Rourke said of the ongoing border crisis, “[This is] a problem that we do not have.”

And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), in response to Trump’s January State of the Union address, outright stated, “The President must stop manufacturing a crisis.” Then in May, she backtracked and said, “We have never not [sic] said that there was a crisis. There is a humanitarian crisis at the border.”

In mid-April, Texas Democrats — joined by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX-20) — held a press conference at the Texas capitol stressing the border “crisis” was not what the President and other Republicans were saying it was.

Even the media participated in the rhetorical shift. 

This video by the Washington Free Beacon shows the likes of CNN’s Chris Cuomo, Erin Burnett, and Don Lemon, along with NBC’s Brian Williams and MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, shifting from uproariously stating there is no crisis to admonishing the president for his role in the “bona fide crisis.”

Despite this jarring pivot by many Democrats on the border, congressional Republicans largely put off delivering on President Trump’s biggest campaign issue from 2016 — stemming the flow of illegal immigration — until after they lost the House in 2018. 

During the two years of total GOP control of the federal government, they opted to prioritize tax cuts over border security and immigration reform.

Yet the recent story and horrifying picture of Salvadoran Oscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his young daughter lying dead on a Rio Grande riverbank near Matamoros, Mexico (across the border from Brownsville) have seemingly forced both the media and many national Democrats to publicly reverse course.

Though that reversal on the border crisis has not been without some attempting to place blame on their political opponents.

Last night, the far left activist group Progress Texas tweeted the Ramírez story and their reaction to it, saying “This message brought to you by the Republican Party.”

About the story, O’Rourke tweeted simply, “Trump is responsible for these deaths.”

Rep. Joaquin Castro tweeted in response, “This is [Donald Trump]’s legacy as President of the United States of America.”

Castro’s twin brother Julián, who is running for president on a platform that includes decriminalizing illegal immigration, responded much less pointedly, saying, “We need a more sensible, compassionate immigration system that doesn’t criminalize desperation.”

Texas Democrat Party spokesman Abhi Rahman told The Texan, “We do not condone their [Progress Texas] tweet, but something needs to be done about the issue and the rhetoric needs to change.”

Rahman went on to say, “The way the GOP has demonized immigrants has only worsened the problem.”

James Dickey, chairman of Republican Party of Texas, told The Texan, “Once again Progress Texas is shamelessly trying to blame the tragic consequences of Democrat policies on Republicans. The Democrat-led House in Congress is responsible for utterly failing to secure our border, fix our immigration system and stop the asylum-claimants-bringing-children magnet.”

Dickey added, “It’s time for Democrats to come to the table with Republicans to produce a bill that will secure the border and repair our clearly broken immigration system.”

It is unclear what policy provisions will emerge in a final border supplemental bill, let alone whether it will solve the security and humanitarian issues at hand.

What is clear is that border agents and illegal immigrants alike have found themselves tossed around as political footballs despite the ongoing proliferation of illicit activity and the sometimes fatal human consequences of an unsecured border.


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.