Questions and Answers on the Democratic Policy on Immigration

How the Democratic Party Has Persecuted and Deported Millions—and Murdered Thousands—with Their “Moral” Immigration Policy

| Revolution Newspaper |


What do the Democrats really think—and what do they DO—about immigration? The research below takes on two topics: first, the Democrats’ border proposal in the current “budget fight” with Trump; and second, their actual record on the border and immigrants. As shown below in their own words and deeds, and in what they refuse to rule out, while the differences are real, the unity—keeping people who are fleeing U.S.-created oppression OUT while maintaining the right of the U.S. to trample on everyone else’s borders—is more fundamental. They—and most fundamentally, the imperialist system they represent—have no answers.

First: What is the Democrats’ plan for “improving border security”?

Hakeem Jeffries, new chair of the House Democratic Caucus and four-term New York congressman, on the bill that the Democrats were putting on the floor on January 3: “[W]e’re going to allocate $1.3 billion in additional funding to allow for enhanced technology, cellphone towers, satellites, drones, enhanced fencing, increased communication capability, the things that the experts have said are necessary to improve border security.”1 (January 2, 2019)

What is “enhanced fencing”?

“There are areas along the border where there are currently fences that are put up or barriers that need to be enhanced, and consistent with what the policy experts have said are helping to improve our security along the border.” (Hakeem Jeffries, January 2, 2019) The Democrats are not ruling out additional enhanced fencing along the 2,000-mile border if they deem it’s justified.

Second: What has been the actual policy of the Democrats when they have held power?


Military Deployment at the Border

  • From 2010 to 2016, under Obama’s “Operation Phalanx,” 1,200 National Guard soldiers and airmen were deployed to support the Border Patrol in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. This provided time for the Border Patrol to hire, train, and equip the additional Border Patrol agents that had been funded by an emergency supplemental appropriations act.2
  • In February 2012, under “Operation Nimbus,” Obama deployed active-duty soldiers from Fort Hood and Fort Bliss in Texas to the southern New Mexico and southern Arizona borders to support Customs and Border Protection agency with border security. The soldiers conducted 24-hour reconnaissance and ground surveillance using advanced optics and sensor equipment during a high-traffic season for human and narcotics smuggling.3

Holding Refugee Families in Detention at the U.S. Border

  • When the surge of refugee families from Central America began arriving at the U.S. border in 2014, Obama responded to this “humanitarian crisis” by holding families applying for asylum in detention for indefinite periods of time. This didn’t end until the courts stepped in and stopped Obama from doing it. The court said that in addition to holding the families for far too long, federal officials had “failed to meet even [the] minimal standard” of “safe and sanitary” holding cells.4
  • When a surge of unaccompanied minors arrived at the border began in 2014 as well, the Border Patrol began holding children beyond the 72 hours that was legally allowed, and the government began putting children in holding shelters that looked like jails.

People were held in extremely cold detention facilities—called “iceboxes” by the refugees—and given only Mylar (aluminum) blankets, inadequate to keep them warm. According to the court, “deplorable” conditions also included the issue of overcrowding: “Children and their mothers were held for one to three days in rooms with 100 or more unrelated adults and children, which forced children to sleep standing up or not at all.”5

Using the Lives (and Deaths) of Immigrants to “Deliver a Message”

Jeh Johnson, Barack Obama’s secretary of Homeland Security, admitted the Obama administration began detaining immigrants at the border to send a message:

[T]here are adults who brought their children with them. Again, our message to this group is simple: we will send you back. We are building additional space to detain these groups and hold them until their expedited removal orders are effectuated. Last week we opened a detention facility in Artesia, New Mexico for this purpose, and we are building more detention space quickly.” (Johnson, in an official statement before the Senate Committee on Appropriations in 2014)6

The Democrats have never repudiated this practice. Refugees fleeing persecution were being arrested at the border, and forced to return to their countries unless they could prove they had a “credible fear” of persecution if forced to return. After the first year, a “Guardian investigation into consequences of Obama’s migration crackdown reveals US deportees have been murdered shortly after return to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, with study saying as many as 83 killed since 2014.”7

Nevertheless, on June 17, 2014, Hillary Clinton said on CNN, justifying this practice: “We have to send a clear message, just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay.”8


Actual building of a border wall, and the most draconian immigration bill in our lifetime

It was under Bill Clinton that the construction of barriers and walls began:

  • In 1993 “Operation Safeguard” and “Operation Hold the Line” authorized the construction of fences along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona and Texas respectively.9
  • In 1994 “Operation Gatekeeper” authorized construction on a 13-mile “border wall” along a line in the sand between San Diego and Tijuana.10
  • In 1996 Clinton signed the draconian Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), which essentially put into motion the immigration enforcement seen today where deportation is a constant and real threat for millions of immigrants. It was a bundle of provisions with a single goal: to increase penalties on immigrants who had violated U.S. law in some way (whether they were undocumented immigrants who’d violated immigration law or legal immigrants who’d committed other crimes).

IIRIRA greatly expanded the types of crimes that could result in the deportation of a non-citizen, including lawful permanent residents. And the Clinton bill made those changes retroactive, thereby boosting the number of possible deportations. The law also made many immigrants subject to mandatory detention while their immigration cases were being decided. This pretrial hammer was used to make frustrated imprisoned immigrants give up their effort to fight deportation and simply return to their countries of origin. Immigrants convicted of certain crimes or those caught within 100 miles of the border were given summary deportation orders without ever having the chance to see an immigration judge.11

  • In 1994 the Border Patrol, for the first time, issued a national strategy to control illegal border crossing: “Prevention through Deterrence,” a plan for greatly stepped-up patrol deployment and barrier construction on the most frequently crossed stretches of the border. According to the new strategy, many more agents would be deployed at the border, along with installing electronic surveillance at the border, and erecting border things like fences and stadium lighting, to deter illegal entry. A major factor behind this aggressive policy was the anticipated impact of the 1994 ratification of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was expected to greatly increase the number of people trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.12

Deaths and disappearances skyrocket

Together, Clinton’s immigration policies greatly increased the danger of crossing the Mexico-U.S. border, causing deaths and disappearances to skyrocket. According to a report by the groups No More Deaths and Coalición de Derechos Humanos, Extreme heat and bitter cold, scarce and polluted water sources, treacherous topography, and near-total isolation from possible rescue are used as weapons of border enforcement.” The estimate of the numbers killed crossing the border is 8,600. In addition, because of this terrain, within weeks someone can be reduced to bone fragments, or completely disappear. “The region has been transformed into a vast graveyard of the missing.”13

Clinton spoke with pride in his 1995 State of the Union speech about his immigration policy

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 as recommended by the commission headed by former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. 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.14

And finally:

The Secure Fence Act of 2006 was signed into law by Bush II in October of 2006. It “called for construction of 700 miles of fencing and enhanced surveillance technology, such as unmanned drones, ground-based sensors, satellites, radar coverage and cameras.” The bipartisan majority that voted for the act included Chuck Schumer, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton—all top Democratic Party leaders.15


1. Jeffries Decries Trump’s Wall Funding Request but Touts Plans for ‘Enhanced Fencing,’ ‘Border Security,’ Washington Free Beacon, January 2, 2019 [back]

2. Trump says he'll send the military to the border. Bush and Obama did, too,, April 4, 2018 [back]

3. The Border Fetish, Todd Miller, NACLA, April 30, 2018 [back]

4. Obama to Immigrant Children: Detention, Deportations, Ripping Apart Families WELCOME TO THE USA,, June 30, 2014 [back]

5. Judge rules U.S. government should not hold immigrant children, Reuters, July 27, 2015 [back]

6. Statement by Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson Before the Senate Committee on Appropriations,, July 10, 2014 [back]

7. US government deporting Central American migrants to their deaths, The Guardian, October 2, 2015. [back]

8. Hillary: Minors crossing border must be sent home, Washington Post, June 18, 2014 [back]

9. Borders: The Fence: Origins, Georgetown University project [back]

10. The Racism and Immorality of the Operation Gatekeeper Death Trap, Bill Ong Hing, April 13, 2015 [back]

11. The disastrous, forgotten 1996 law that created today's immigration problem,, April 28, 2016 [back]

12. US Border Patrol uses desert as ‘weapon’ to kill thousands of migrants, report says, The Guardian, December 7, 2016 [back]

13. Report Exposes the Strategy and Practice of the U.S. Border Patrol That Has “Disappeared” Thousands of Immigrants,, April 16, 2018 [back]

14. Bill Clinton, Immigration Hawk, Center for Immigration Studies, January 30, 2018 [back]

15. How the Border Wall Is Boxing Trump In, New York Times, January 5, 2019 [back]


Democratic policy on immigration since the 1990s led to thousands of deaths, massive deportations, and criminal treatment for millions of immigrants coming north from Mexico and Central America.

Q&A: Bob Avakian's Answer to People Who Complain about Immigrants Crossing Borders

Share widely on social media

A surge of unaccompanied minors arriving at the border began in 2014, and the government began putting children in holding shelters that looked like jails. Some facilities were extremely cold—called “iceboxes” by the refugees—and Mylar (aluminum) blankets were inadequate to keep them warm. ( Photo: AP)

Marchers carry a casket along a section of the U.S.-Mexico border fence in Tijuana, Mexico ,Oct. 1, 2004, to mark the 10th anniversary of the U.S. border enforcement program Operation Gatekeeper. ( Photo: AP)

Bob Avakian, "Why do people come here from all over the world?"


Get a free email subscription to

Volunteers Needed... for and Revolution

Send us your comments.