Is there evidence that the Democratic Party defends illegal immigration?

Statements made by Democratic party officials or seat holders are preferable to Democratic leaning media sources.

  • 49
    I think you need to define "defend", "illegal" and "immigration". E.g. would you consider someone who walks over the border, surrenders to the first LEO they find and asks for asylum as guilty of illegal immigration? If someone suggests that their request for asylum should take precedence over enforcing the letter of the law (which says they are guilty), would that be "defending" illegal immigration? What about the "dreamers"? Are they guilty? Is it "defending illegal immigration" to suggest that they be given a path to citizenship? Before your question can be answered you need to scope it. Jun 26, 2018 at 16:08
  • 6
    @PaulJohnson The example you cite, illegal entry into the US I believe is the actual name of the crime, should be sufficient. If the person or persons are here illegally as defined by the criminal statutes of the US, and/or the plenary powers to so define granted to the President by the Congress by 8 U.S.C. §1182(f) of the U.S. Code, then that would be considered an illegal immigrant.
    – user9790
    Jun 26, 2018 at 16:43
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Jun 28, 2018 at 4:38
  • There is a discussion on meta regarding how this question can be made less opinion-based.
    – Philipp
    Jun 28, 2018 at 15:24
  • 1
    I'm voting to close as unclear (see this answer on meta for reasons as well as suggestions on how the question might be fixed).
    – tim
    Jun 29, 2018 at 6:20

5 Answers 5


I would say there are some limited examples, but overall Democrats don't support illegal immigration qua illegal immigration, while sometimes supporting illegal immigrants (the difference is crucial). I have been unable to find any Democrat who says that illegal immigration is a "good thing" or should continue. However, Democrats largely support humanitarian responses to the illegal immigrants themselves (e.g. not deporting millions of people who have lived in the US for years, suggesting they be given a path to citizenship). This is different from supporting the act of illegal immigration, and many if not most Democrats couch it in the language of practicality (e.g. the Wall would cost billions but would be circumvented by a ladder, deporting millions would cost an unsustainable amount) along with some moralizing language (e.g. the family separation issue, claims about dreamers). Democrats have consistently voted to increase border security and curtail illegal immigration--the major difference in their platform is about treatment of illegal immigrants once they're in the country. Obama set the record for deportations, but focused only on criminal cases. The gang of 8 bill, which traded substantially increased border security for a path to citizenship, and repealed the diversity lottery, was supported by all 52 Democratic Senators, but many Republicans voted against it on grounds of "amnesty". In 2006, Democrats (including Obama and Clinton) voted heavily for increasing fencing on the border. Obama set a record for the most border security investment of any presidential administration.

The big piece of evidence is probably the sanctuary city issue. Sanctuary cities are typically a question of resource allocation--the local communities don't want to spend their resources to hold people who may have committed immigration infractions (the one big example I can think of to support your argument is the Mayor of Oakland warning illegal immigrants of upcoming raids, although that is not a majority position in the Democratic party). In general, sanctuary cities in no way stop deportation or defend illegal immigration, but just don't actively do ICE's work for them. The mechanics of sanctuary cities are interesting and often lost in the politics.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Philipp
    Jun 27, 2018 at 12:45

The problem here is that everyone has their own definition of "defending illegal immigration".

For example, you can chose to argue (as some have) that any action taken to make the life of someone who violated immigration laws to stay in this country less than hellish is indirectly supporting illegal immigration. After all, the bigger of an improvement in quality of life an immigrant can expect by sneaking into the USA, the more people will be encouraged to do so. That's basic economics. In this case a whole lot of people qualify as "supporting illegal immigration", including most (probably) Democrats and not a few Republicans as well.

On the other hand, the typical Democratic position (and that of a lot of Republicans up until after Bush II) is that with millions of people unwilling or unable to follow the law, the law itself is clearly what needs to be changed. Fighting against this are interests that benefit from having cheap labor that cannot seek government redress for things that would usually be labor law violations (like not getting minimum wage or overtime pay). The stronger and more draconian the laws are to the undocumented, the stronger the hand of the employers is against the workers (and incidentally, the less competitive are documented workers). That's basic microeconomics.

From this point of view, it is actually the Democrats fighting against illegal immigration, while its business interests (a large amount of which are traditionally Republican) fighting to have as much immigration as possible remain illegal.

So both Democrats and Republicans have arguments they can choose to use to show that the other side is "defending illegal immigration".

  • 1
    I think this is probably the best answer someone can get to this question. The problem is that the opposing question (Is there evidence that Republicans support illegal immigration) can also be twisted in a similar manner to other posters here to answer in the affirmative, really rendering the entire argument moot and just another show of tribal loyalty.
    – user5155
    Jun 26, 2018 at 23:07
  • 4
    This answer is a politically convinient strawman. A vast majority of evidence presented does not fit into "make the life of someone who violated immigration laws to stay in this country less than hellish ".
    – user4012
    Jun 27, 2018 at 10:02
  • 1
    @user4012 He never said it did. He's highlighting the ambiguity in terms and the wildly different viewpoints and arguments that can be obtained from them. By the end of the paragraph where he's talking about "make the life...", he's already moving on to a completely different interpretation. Jun 29, 2018 at 12:51
  • @user_42 The second, third and fourth sentences of the second paragraph should answer your question. Both "Democrats" and "Republicans" (U.S. employers) take advantage of "cheap labor". "There are two to three million farmworkers in the United States. Of farmworkers in the United States, 75% were born in Mexico. According to a 2005 survey, 53% of farmworkers are undocumented (without legal authorization), 25% are United States citizens, and 21% are legal permanent residents." United States Farmworker Factsheet Jun 30, 2018 at 15:50

In the 2016 (most recent) party platform in the section on immigration (pdf page 20):

People should come to the United States with visas and not through smugglers.

Illegal immigration as illegal immigration is against the party platform.

[we want to] create a path to citizenship for law-abiding families who are here, making a better life for their families and contributing to their communities and our country.

This seems to be suggesting that (not-necessarily-legal) immigration is not an unmitigated evil. And implies a focus on illegal immigrant as other immigrants already have a path to citizenship.

We should repeal the 3-year, 10-year and permanent bars, which often force persons in mixed status families into the heartbreaking dilemma of either pursuing a green card by leaving the country and their loved ones behind, or remaining in the shadows. We will work with Congress to end the forced and prolonged expulsion from the country that these immigrants endure when trying to adjust their status.

This seems pretty straight forward in suggesting violators of existing immigration laws should be given better treatment than they currently receive.

In the section A Leader in the World: Americas (pdf page 50):

[We will] tackle the rise of drugs, transnational crime, and corruption.

Which may be read as supporting efforts to attack illegal immigration (explicitly not with a wall and strongly implied with Mexico's cooperation in preceding lines).


It seems the Democratic Party defends illegal immigrants but not illegal immigration directly.

  • 6
    Wouldn't a law-abiding family enter legally and wait in line like the rest of the world? While they refrain from using the exact terms "illegal immigration", this does seem to suggest that they would give those who entered illegally better treatment as you said. Thank you for the platform source.
    – user_42
    Jun 26, 2018 at 18:05
  • 6
    @user_42 The issue of legal immigration has been a moving target in American politics for over 200 years now.
    – user5155
    Jun 26, 2018 at 18:26
  • 2
    @user_42 If you legally grant them amnesty retroactively, they are no longer illegal immigrants. "Legality" changes over time.
    – user2565
    Jun 26, 2018 at 18:35
  • 5
    "This seems to be suggesting that (not-necessarily-legal) immigration is not an unmitigated evil." This is not just "not-necessarily-legal" immigration, but rather necessarily illegal immigration. There's no need to create a "path for citizenship" for people who are already in the country legally. They already have one.
    – reirab
    Jun 26, 2018 at 19:40
  • 3
    @reirab The point is the contrast between past illegal immigration and future/current illegal immigration, which can be considered separate issues. Jun 26, 2018 at 20:52

Yes. There's plenty. Not just in statements made by Democratic officials, but in actual laws passed by them.

For example, there is the California Values Act. This bill is designed, not just to "not do ICE's job for them" as some have alleged, but rather to intentionally fail to cooperate with and even intentionally obstruct ICE in the performance of their duties, including for illegal immigrants in California who have been arrested for the commission of a crime other than just unlawful entry.

For example, the bill attempts to prevent ICE from detaining and deporting illegal aliens who have been involved in drug crimes. From the bill's own Legislative Counsel's Digest:

Existing law provides that when there is reason to believe that a person arrested for a violation of specified controlled substance provisions may not be a citizen of the United States, the arresting agency shall notify the appropriate agency of the United States having charge of deportation matters.

This bill would repeal those provisions.

The stated intent here is clearly to make it difficult for ICE to detain and remove illegal aliens who have been arrested for drug crimes in California.

Furthermore, the bill direct's California's Attorney General to develop model policies for municipalities in California to follow in order to minimize cooperation with ICE. Again from the bill's own Legislative Counsel's Digest:

The bill would require, by October 1, 2018, the Attorney General, in consultation with the appropriate stakeholders, to publish model policies limiting assistance with immigration enforcement to the fullest extent possible for use by public schools, public libraries, health facilities operated by the state or a political subdivision of the state, and courthouses, among others.

(Emphasis mine)

Furthermore, these are not just recommendations. Quoting the same source:

The bill would require, among others, all public schools, health facilities operated by the state or a political subdivision of the state, and courthouses to implement the model policy, or an equivalent policy.

(Emphasis mine)

In case forcing state and local agencies to obstruct the enforcement of federal immigration policy isn't enough, the bill encourages non-government entities to do so, too. Again from the bill's own Legislative Counsel's Digest:

The bill would state that, among others, all other organizations and entities that provide services related to physical or mental health and wellness, education, or access to justice, including the University of California, are encouraged to adopt the model policy.

And in case all of this isn't clear enough as to the purpose, it's stated explicitly:

The bill would require the Attorney General to publish guidance, audit criteria, and training recommendations regarding state and local law enforcement databases, for purposes of limiting the availability of information for immigration enforcement, as specified.

  • 1
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Philipp
    Jun 27, 2018 at 12:44

Yes. UPDATED WITH POLL RESULTS and example of DNCC chair.

  1. According to Harvard poll of Jan 2018, 1/3 (32%) of all Democrats support open borders, meaning they favor illegal immigration:

    Question: IM7 Do you think we should have basically open borders or do you think we need secure borders? (page 70)

                            | Democrats | Republicans |
    Basically open borders  | 32%       | 7% (wut?)   |
    Secure borders          | 68%       | 93%         |

    Poll methodology:

    QuickQuery; Fielding Period: January 17-19, 2018; HCAPS (Filtered on Registered Voters) ;Weighted To The U.S. General Adult Population

  2. Illegal immigrants were pointedly the official guests of Democratic politicians during Obama's 2014 and 2013 State of the Union speech.

    From USA Today:

    For the second straight year, undocumented immigrants will be in the chamber when President Obama makes his State of the Union Address on Tuesday.

    The group will be hosted by Illinois Democratic Reps. Luis Gutierrez, Mike Quigley, Jan Schakowsky, Brad Schneider and Bill Foster, all of whom have been pushing for the House to take up a Senate-passed immigration bill that would allow most of the nation's 12 million undocumented immigrants to apply for U.S. citizenship.

  3. Democratic National Committee deputy chair Keith Ellison proudly wears "No borders" T-shirt:

    enter image description here

    His twitter feed also had a photo of people supporting open borders.

  4. Most Democratic politicians support illegal immigrant amnesty of one sort or another.

    As a legal immigrant who followed the law into this country, to me this crystal clear looks like defending illegal immigration - you are rewarding people for violating immigration law.

  5. Democrats strongly insist on calling illegal aliens "undocumented immigrants".

    Since there is nothing "undocumented" about them (undocumented means "you lack documents and would be A-OK once you have documents", not lack legal standing to be in the country).

    The main purpose of this is to defend illegal immigration by making it sound less of a crime.

  6. Support "sanctuary cities". Enough said, just google them if you aren't familiar with the term.

  • 12
    As Earmi pointed out on another answer with an identical theme, treatment of immigrants once in the country is distinct from supporting illegal immigration itself. All 4 point here suffer from this (purposeful?) confusion.
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 26, 2018 at 22:08
  • 7
    @T.E.D. - I fully disagree with that assertion and consider it disingenuous. If I run a safe-house for thiefs and fence stolen goods, that DOES mean that I support theft. If you run sanctuary cities and help the people who broke the law get unearned citizenship, you can't honestly claim you don't support illegal immigration.
    – user4012
    Jun 26, 2018 at 23:09
  • 12
    There is a difference between running a for-profit based on exploiting criminals (like, say, hiring illegal immigrants at half the legal minimum wage to work twice the hours) and treating criminals like human beings and protecting their rights (like, say, someone hiding an illegal immigrant because if the police catch them they'll be locked up and deported without a fair trial)
    – Erik
    Jun 27, 2018 at 5:50
  • 6
    @Erik - harboring criminals (regardless of motives) is considered a crime and usually unethical. There is no "human right" to not be arrested for committing crime.
    – user4012
    Jun 27, 2018 at 10:03
  • 5
    The "usually" is what makes all the difference.
    – Erik
    Jun 27, 2018 at 10:04

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