Former AG Holder Says Democrats Need to Understand That ‘Borders Mean Something’

By Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan is a reporter based in New York covering the Justice Department, courts, and First Amendment.
September 14, 2019 Updated: September 15, 2019

Former Attorney General Eric Holder defended the Obama administration against criticism over an immigration policy that saw thousands of deportations, while warning 2020 Democrats that the United States needs borders.

“The emphasis there was on people who had criminal records, people who posed a danger, a public safety risk. Those are the people who we emphasized, you know, deporting,” Holder said during an interview with CNN’s David Axelrod, which was published on Sept. 14.

“Democrats have to understand that we do have to have—borders do mean something,” he said.

Axelrod then asked the former attorney general, who served under then-President Barack Obama, what he thinks about proposals by 2020 Democratic presidential candidates to decriminalize illegal border crossings and make them into a civil offense.

“No, I don’t think that’s right. I mean, the law that is on the books has been there for about 100 years or so,” Holder said.

“Would it send the wrong signal to decriminalize?” Axelrod asked.

“It might send the wrong signal. But it would certainly take a tool away from the Justice Department that it might want to use,” Holder said.

This comes after many Democratic candidates expressed support for decriminalizing illegal border crossings. During the first Democratic presidential primary debate in late June, all but one candidate from the second night showed support for decriminalizing illegal immigration, an indication of the Democratic Party’s position on the issue.

Similarly, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) unveiled a plan in July in a blog post on Medium to repeal a law that makes unauthorized entry into the United States illegal.

But not all 2020 Democratic candidates support open borders. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) said in a recent interview that she doesn’t support open borders and underscored the importance of securing them.

During an appearance with the Rubin Report on Sept. 8, host Dave Rubin asked Gabbard about her stance on the issue.

“I don’t support open borders. Without secure borders, we don’t really have a country,” Gabbard told Rubin. “And while some of the other Democratic candidates will say, ‘Well, open borders, that’s a conservative argument, and that’s not really what’s being advocated for,’ if you look at some of the practical implications of some of the things they are pushing for, it is essentially open borders.”

Gabbard went on to provide suggestions for immigration reform.

“One is we’ve got to have secure borders. This is not Trump’s wall from sea to shining sea.”

“It’s about seeing again what makes sense. I look at things from a practical, objective-oriented standpoint. I’m a soldier. So I look at what’s our objective: Secure the borders. In some places, it may make the most sense to have a wall or some kind of physical barrier in place. In other places, it won’t make sense. So you use technology and you use all the other tools that you have ultimately to accomplish that objective of security at the borders,” she said.

Epoch Times Photo
Border Patrol apprehends illegal aliens who have just crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico near McAllen, Texas, on April 18, 2019. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

President Donald Trump has made stopping illegal immigration a priority during his two years in office. In the past year, federal immigration officials have reported record highs in the apprehension of illegal immigrants at the border to Congress this year, saying that the numbers have overwhelmed Border Patrol facilities and resources.

The president has repeatedly criticized Democrats for pushing what he perceives as an open-border agenda.

“Despite the Democrats wanting very unsafe Open Borders & refusing to change the Loopholes & Asylum, tremendous progress is being made [at] the Southern Border,” Trump wrote. “We all waited because we assumed the Dems would ultimately be forced to change the horrible Immigration Laws. They didn’t!”

Apprehensions at the southern border fell by 56 percent within three months since record-high numbers in May, after the United States and Mexico reached a deal to expanded implementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), commonly known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, and increased security at the southern border. The number also includes people who were deemed inadmissible.

Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan is a reporter based in New York covering the Justice Department, courts, and First Amendment.