President Donald Trump’s policies on illegal immigration have long prompted accusations of racism, but in decades past, his views on protecting the border and controlling immigration levels might not have been seen as extreme — even by liberal lawmakers.
In 1993, it was former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada — before he took on that leadership position in the Democratic Party — who recognized the problem caused by illegal immigration, and sought a solution to remedy the issue.
Reid introduced legislation on Aug. 4, 1993, that would bring an end to birthright citizenship and deport immigrants who were convicted of certain crimes, according to Conservative Review.
The bill, known as the Immigration Stabilization Act, also clamped down on immigrants seeking asylum, imposed harsher penalties on illegal aliens who re-enter the country, and ensured that even legal immigrants would not be allowed into the country if they “cannot demonstrably support themselves without public or private assistance.”
Reid’s legislation came in response to two terror attacks that occurred earlier in the year — the World Trade Center bombing and the attack on CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, which left two agency employees dead.
The CIA attack was perpetrated by an illegal immigrant from Pakistan, while the group of Islamic terrorists responsible for the WTC bombing also included at least one illegal alien.
In a news release announcing the legislation, Reid specifically cited “increased terrorism,” as well as “abuse of social programs by aliens.”
“Currently, an alien living illegally in the United States often pays no taxes but receives unemployment, welfare, free medical care and other federal benefits,” the release stated.
“Recent terrorist acts, including the World Trade Center bombing, have underscored the need to keep violent criminals out of the country.”
Reid’s office noted that there were roughly 3.3 million illegal aliens living in the U.S. at the time of the 1990 census, in addition to 2.5 million more who had entered the country illegally in the previous year.
That figure is far less than the 12.5 million illegal immigrants estimated to be living in America in 2017, according to the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
Reid’s release quoted the senator himself as acknowledging the “tremendous burdens” placed on society due to the “overflow” of illegal immigrants.
“Our borders have overflowed with illegal immigrants placing tremendous burdens on our criminal justice system, schools and social programs,” Reid said. “Our federal wallet is stretched to the limit by illegal aliens getting welfare, food stamps, medical care and other benefits often without paying any taxes.”
“Safeguards like welfare and free medical care are in place to boost Americans in need of short-term assistance. These programs were not meant to entice freeloaders and scam artists from around the world.”
The Nevada senator also included a line that seemed similar to the language Trump has used when talking about the crimes committed by illegal immigrants.
“Even worse, Americans have seen heinous crimes committed by individuals who are here illegally,” Reid said.
But 22 years later, when Trump similarly called for stronger borders, he was attacked as a racist.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems,” then-candidate Trump said in June 2015, when he was announcing his presidential bid.
“They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they’re telling us what we’re getting,” Trump added at the time.
But despite being accused of racism, Trump has maintained his position that the U.S. needs to implement stronger border security measures — including a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“We need the Wall for the safety and security of our country. We need the Wall to help stop the massive inflow of drugs from Mexico, now rated the number one most dangerous country in the world,” Trump tweeted last week.
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