An old video from 1994 that surfaced online this week shows just how dramatically the Democratic Party has changed its position on immigration in just 23 years.
The video shows a segment on immigration from the CBS News show “Face the Nation” from that year, with a younger Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) sounding like President Donald Trump, referring to illegal immigration as “one of the biggest unfunded mandates” that is costing states dearly.
“Border control is a federal responsibility,” she says. “We simply don’t enforce our borders adequately.”
She goes on to describe, in alarmist tones, the situation at the time in California, with 2,000 people a day “illegally” crossing the border, adding to the 2 million illegal immigrants already living in the state, “who compete for housing, who compete for classroom space.”
In 1988, she said, there were 3,000 illegal immigrants on Medicaid in California. “There are well over 300,000 today who are illegal aliens,” she said. “That presents obvious problems.”
“My position has been, we need to enforce our borders, we can do it. We need to streamline the asylum process and return it to what it should be, rather than sort of a broad, political category, and I think those two things would help us dramatically,” she tells host Rita Braver, the chief Washington correspondent for CBS News who was filling in for Bob Schieffer.
“Border control is a federal responsibility,” she said in 1994. “We simply don’t enforce our borders adequately.”
The video was posted on the YouTube page of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, and shorter clips were featured in a series of tweets sent from the organizations’s Twitter account.
The entire show segment now seems bizarre, as it focuses on the problem of illegal immigration — a topic the mainstream media haven’t shown any interest in exploring over the past several years.
“Immigration. It’s being called the issue of the 90s,” says Braver in the opening. “More and more people each year are coming into this country, legally and illegally. Some states just can’t afford the cost of medical care, education and welfare,” she says, as video is played showing a ship filled with illegal immigrants being detained at sea, with a helicopter shining a light on it from above.
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Braver goes on to ask if maybe a national ID card is needed to address the problem.
Feinstein appeared on the program along with Michael Ratner, a pro-immigration activist, and Dan Stein, head of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
Feinstein at the time, Dan Stein told LifeZette this week, occupied the middle ground on the immigration issue. Her position on illegal immigration was “responsible, mainstream, law-and-order.”
Illegal immigration was a “hot, hot issue in 1993” he says, and most Democrats were on the side of border security, as was their labor union base.
But that changed, he said, when the Service Employees International Union split from the AFL-CIO in 2005, mostly over the issue of immigration. SEIU was the biggest union at the time with about 1.7 million members, an increasing number of whom were immigrants.
And by the time President Barack Obama took office in January of 2009, the Democratic Party had ceased to stand in opposition to illegal immigration.
“What we see today is radical, it’s without precedent in American history,” said Stein of the Democratic Party’s position on the issue.
Harry Reid, the former Democratic leader of the Senate, was once strongly in favor of border control and immigration enforcement, as was former President Bill Clinton, and even younger politicians like Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who was opposed to any amnesty for illegal immigrants when she was first elected to a House seat in 2006, representing the state capital of Albany.
Now, they’ve done a 180. Feinstein has opposed Trump’s plans to enforce the nation’s immigration laws, telling CNN in April that enforcement of the laws would “cripple agriculture” in her state, as illegal immigrant farm workers do jobs that Americans won’t do. She even voted against “Kate’s Law” — the bill to honor Kate Steinle, the 32-year-old who was gunned down in Feinstein’s hometown of San Francisco by an illegal immigrant who’d been deported five times. The bill would have meant harsher penalties for people who return to the U.S. after they’ve been deported.
“It’s like aliens invaded their bodies,” says Stein.
It’s hard to watch Feinstein on “Face the Nation” in 1994 without considering this possibility.
Braver asks her, at the start of the segment, whether she’d support the governor of California, then Republican Pete Wilson, suing the federal government for reimbursement for the $3 billion in costs the state incurs to provide schooling, medical care, criminal justice and other services for illegal immigrants. And Feinstein doesn’t stay no. Instead, she goes on to agree with Gov. Wilson that the costs of supporting illegal immigrants are awfully high, and later in the program talks about the situation in the state where 40 percent of the babies born on Medicaid are born to mothers who are illegal immigrants, saying it “creates a very real problem for the state.”
“That’s not what this nation is all about,” she says.
It didn’t used to be.