In a newly unearthed speech from November 2006, current Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden touts his support for a 700-mile southern barrier, warns of “tons” of drugs pouring in from “corrupt Mexico” and calls for a crackdown on American employers who hire “illegals.”
CNN’s K-File reported on a YouTube video of the remarks at the Rotary Club in Columbia, South Carolina.
“Folks, I voted for a fence,” the then-senator from Delaware can be heard saying, referencing his backing of the Secure Fence Act. “I voted, unlike most Democrats ― and some of you won’t like it ― I voted for 700 miles of fence. But, let me tell you, we can build a fence 40 stories high ― unless you change the dynamic in Mexico and ― and you will not like this, and ― punish American employers who knowingly violate the law when, in fact, they hire illegals. Unless you do those two things, all the rest is window dressing.”
Former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton ― both of whom were senators at the time ― also supported the bill.
Continuing, Biden, who launched his 2020 bid last month, raised several talking points currently championed by the man who may be his challenger, President Donald Trump.
“Now, I know I’m not supposed to say it that bluntly, but they’re the facts, they’re the facts,” Biden told the crowd during his previous 2008 bid for the presidential election. “And so everything else we do is in between here. Everything else we do is at the margins. And the reason why I add that parenthetically, why I believe the fence is needed does not have anything to do with immigration as much as drugs.”
Biden then stated that “people are driving across that border with tons, tons, hear me, tons of everything from byproducts for methamphetamine to cocaine to heroin, and it’s all coming up through corrupt Mexico.”
Additional speeches uncovered by CNN show Biden’s hardline rhetoric on illegal immigration carried over into 2007.
At a Dartmouth College debate in September of that year, Biden said he would not permit sanctuary cities to ignore the federal law.
At a separate event less than a year before he was announced as Obama’s running mate, Biden again demanded accountability for businesses that employ “illegals.”
“In fact, the person we should send to jail is not the illegals, we send to jail the employers,” he said.
Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Biden’s campaign, defended the former vice president in a response to CNN, stating that the candidate believes secure borders can be achieved “without abandoning our values,” and that “we have to stop trying to scare people and instead have an immigration discussion based on facts.”
Biden’s campaign did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Despite his past statements, during a Tuesday campaign rally near Las Vegas, Biden vowed to end the deportation of noncitizen veterans in one of his first discussions of immigration policy since his campaign began.
“Anybody who’s fought for the United States of America should not be in a position to be deported,” he said, according to Bloomberg.
Biden has also slammed the Trump administration’s separation of families at the border, as well as threats to the status of dreamers ― undocumented immigrants whose parents took them to the U.S. while they were still children.
“Deporting dreamers just a few days before their high school graduation, separating children from their parents on the border,” he said. “That isn’t who we are. We’re better than that.”
Though Biden’s previous remarks may come as a surprise when juxtaposed with his staunch criticism of Trump’s stances on immigration, the Democrat wouldn’t be the first candidate to shift his positions over time.
Obama notably underwent a 20-year transformation on his views of same-sex marriage, supporting it in 1996, becoming undecided in 1998, publicly turning against it in 2004, then becoming the first president to affirm his support for it in 2012.
Likewise, Clinton has also made an about-face on same-sex marriage, as well as a host of other issues ranging from the North American Free Trade Agreement to her vote for the Iraq War.