President Bill Clinton and the Foundation for Trump
President Bill Clinton
The administration which laid the groundwork for the militarization of the Southern Border was the Clinton Administration. Recognizing the success of the Republican party in garnering support with anti-immigrant rhetoric, Clinton retaliated with proposing punitive policies targeting both documented and undocumented immigrants in his re-election campaign. During his second term, immigrants, particularly Mexican immigrants, were scapegoated as the root of American issues. This was successful in part to the instability of Mexico’s economy at this point in time which influenced greater numbers of migration into the U.S.
In December 1993, Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which aimed to increase trade manufacturing between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The agreement was marketed to Mexico as a multi-billion dollar investment in manufacturing and agriculture, with a promise of millions of jobs. These promises fell short, and following the implementation of NAFTA Mexico’s peso lost value, causing prices to drop and a currency crisis to arise. In this time period, unemployment in Mexico nearly doubled, wages decreased by 13.5 percent for farm laborers, and extreme poverty expanded form 21 percent in 1994 to 37 percent in 1996. Unsurprisingly, Mexico’s recession resulted in increasing numbers of border crossings as individuals sought to escape poverty.
In response to these rising immigration numbers, Clinton approved the Strategic Plan in 1994. The Strategic Plan was developed as maneuvers to prevent border crossing through “deterrence.” In addition to increasing the quantity of border agents patrolling the border to 4,000, the Strategic Plan required agents to use the terrain. This entailed disrupting traditional border pathways to force migrants to cross in harsh desert climates to reduce the number of migrants reaching the border since migrants would “find themselves in mortal danger.” Despite adopting these deadly practices, Border Patrol did not experience a reduction in migrants attempting to cross. Instead, agents saw an increasing quantity of migrant deaths due to climate conditions and dehydration. In 1994, agents recorded fewer than 30 deaths in the California desert. In 1998, the number of migrant deaths in this area increased exponentially to 147; by 2001, this number would more than double to 387.
In addition to this, Clinton signed three pieces of legislation in 1996 which exponentially shaped the immigrant experience in the United States. These include: The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA).
The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act:
Changed the welfare system to eliminate services to legal immigrants for the first five years of residency in the U.S.
The Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA)
Created in response to the World Trade Center and Oklahoma City bombings.
The act allowed all immigrants, documented or undocumented, to be apprehended and detained without due process if they were convicted of an aggregated felony.
The number of immigrants in detention nearly doubled from 8,500 in 1996 to 16,000 in 1998.
The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act
Denied undocumented immigrants from gaining entrance to the U.S. or applying for residency for 10 years if caught in the country without documents.
Expanded the Executive Branch’s authority over border security and permitted the construction of border walls along the Southern Border.
Allowed the Attorney General’s office to interact with local law enforcement on immigration matters.
Deputized local law enforcement as federal immigration officers, allowing local police to ask individuals for their residency documentation.
Limited access to higher-education systems for undocumented immigrants by restricting states offering in-state tuition to those who could not prove legal residency.
President Clinton shaking hands with Trump
-Sand and Blood: America's Stealth War on the Mexico Border by John Carlos Frey