The Democratic Party’s showdown with President Trump over a southern border wall is the culmination of a dramatic shift on border security politics over the past decade.
In the mid-2000s, many prominent Democrats in Congress voted to spend billions on security fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border, and some criticized the “sanctuary cities” that are now in the Trump administration’s crosshairs.
Democrats are now in lockstep against most of Trump’s immigration and border security initiatives, including virtually unanimous opposition to any funding for a proposed border wall.
Democratic evolution on immigration is evident in the contrast between the party’s 2012 and 2016 platforms. Although the 2012 platform promoted a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, it called for them to “get right with the law [and] learn English,” language now considered hostile by many immigrant rights groups.
By 2016, the party officially removed all caveats on the path to citizenship.
Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist, said shifting Democratic attitudes toward immigration are partly explained by their opposition to Trump.
“Democrats want to resist Trump at every turn. They don’t want him to get a legislative victory, and they don’t want him to pacify his core supporters,” O’Connell said.
But Democrats, aside from taking the opportunity to hand Trump a legislative defeat, are unlikely to budge.
“I think the Democrats’ change of heart on immigration is about political survival in elections,” said O’Connell.