Former Vice President Joe Biden said on Friday that he does not believe in decriminalizing illegal immigration, opening him up to even more attacks from the left and potentially putting him at risk of losing the support of left-wing Latino Democrats who are still upset at former President Barack Obama’s deportation policies.
When CNN anchor Chris Cuomo asked Biden if illegal immigration should be decriminalized, Biden replied: “No, I don’t. I think people should have to get in line but if people are coming because they are actually seeking asylum they should have a chance to make their case.”
Biden did say, though, that he believed illegal immigrants should have access to health care, especially during emergencies.
“I think undocumented people need to have a means by which they can be covered when they’re sick. And the idea is I think that is what we should be doing by building more clinics around the country, not just for undocumented but other people when they’re ill, when they’re sick. This is just common decency,” Biden said. “Let me tell you something: In an emergency, they should have health care. Everybody should, anybody here in the country. How do you say, ‘You’re undocumented I’m going to let you die, man.’ What are you going to do?”
Julian Castro, the former San Antonio mayor who was Obama’s Housing and Urban Development (HUD) secretary, had his breakout moment at last week’s presidential debate when he called for eliminating section 1325 of the U.S. immigration code that criminalizes illegal immigration and blistered former Rep. Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke for opposing decriminalizing illegal immigration.
Days later, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) released his immigration plan and vowed to “virtually end immigrant detention” though executive orders if he gets elected president.
As Breitbart News has reported, left-wing amnesty activists are still upset at Obama’s immigration policies. Erika Andiola, a prominent Dreamer activist who is now with RAICES, warned Democrats last week that activists do not want more “Obama-type actions” on immigration and demanded that all presidential contenders denounce the Obama-Biden administration’s deportation agenda. She reminded Democrats that Obama created “a big, strong immigration enforcement machine that was taken by [President Donald] Trump and that was made even bigger.”
Biden, who has tied himself to the Obama’s legacy, has no choice but to defend Obama’s deportation policies. During the debate, Biden said Obama “did a heck of a job” on immigration. Though Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) made headlines for confronting Biden on busing, her more significant moment during the debate may have actually been when she pivoted and criticized the Obama-Biden administration’s deportation agenda.
“[T]his was one of the very few issues with which I disagreed with the [Obama] administration, with whom I always had a great relationship and a great deal of respect,” said Harris, who opposed the Obama administration’s “secure communities” initiative when she was California’s attorney general.
Harris’s opposition to Obama’s deportation agenda may have been music the ears of Hispanic Democrats. In a Univision poll conducted after the debate, Harris became the top choice of Latino Democrats after entering the debate as the sixth choice of Hispanic Democrats.
This week, Jeh Johnson, Obama’s Homeland Security Security, warned Democrats that supporting policies to decriminalizing illegal immigration “is tantamount to declaring publicly that we have open borders” and will be unpopular with Americans.
“That is unworkable, unwise and does not have the support of a majority of American people or the Congress, and if we had such a policy, instead of 100,000 apprehensions a month, it will be multiples of that,” Johnson told the Washington Post.
But the party’s left-wing voters may side with Castro, who has called decriminalizing illegal immigration “un-American.” And that could pose significant problems for Biden if gets into a prolonged fight for the nomination after South Carolina in states like Texas and California.