COLUMN: The Democratic party’s dark legacy with immigration paves way for Biden’s betrayal of the Latinx community

Pro-immigrant rhetoric cannot make up for the Democratic Party’s failings on immigration policy.

Galen Zavala Sherby is a sophomore journalism major at MU. He is an opinions columnist who writes about politics for The Maneater

The national dialogue surrounding immigration isn’t anything new, but the intensity that the American political system has experienced around this topic in the past decade (and especially in the last four years) has been particularly pronounced. While polarization surrounding the issue has occurred nationwide the Democratic party, in particular, has seen internal division about how to approach the problem.

Thus far, the more conservative elements within the Democratic party have won out, using progressive rhetoric while conducting mass deportations and remaining entirely unwilling to tackle comprehensive immigration reform. In the midst of the nationalist, far-right hysteria that grips the nation, the party’s utter failure to address its betrayal of the Latinx community is all the more disappointing.

It may come as a surprise to learn that the Democratic party has undergone a complete 180 in its rhetoric since the late 1990s when discussing immigration. Bill Clinton’s administration was particularly invested in painting itself as being tough on undocumented immigration, going as far as stating that Clinton had “made the strongest commitment to fighting illegal immigration in history.”

In a lot of ways, Clinton made good on this promise, investing billions of dollars into border security measures and enacting draconian standards for deporting migrants, including legal residents. The Clinton Administration was ultimately responsible for the deportation of nearly one million migrants.

The 2008 elections were meant to be a new start for the Democratic party with the beginning of Barack Obama’s presidency. One of the major promises that Obama made as part of the presidential race was that he would address immigration. The opposite proved to be the case, as he went on to deport over three million immigrants, more than any other president in American history.

These were decisions that directly tore apart tens of thousands of families and led to the disillusionment of many advocates for immigration reform within the Democratic party. President Obama’s betrayal of undocumented folks remains one of the single most disappointing facets of his time in office.

Obama’s record has not aged well and remains a dark stain on the legacy of the Democratic party as we enter into the Joe Biden presidency. The impact of the mass, systemic deportation effort undertaken by Obama from 2008 to 2016 was not ignored during the most recent election and was brought up multiple times during the Democratic primary debates.

This history has led to a large degree of distrust by Latinx advocacy groups toward Biden, leading to at least one direct confrontation with an immigrants’ rights activist. The worries voiced by this activist have already come to pass, seeing as Biden recently backtracked on his promise to hold a 100-day moratorium on deportations upon his inauguration.

Members of the Democratic party rank-and-file cannot ignore that Biden, at best, remained silent about the shortcomings of the Obama administration while in office and, at worst, actively took part in the systematic mass deportation of millions of people. Now it appears that history is repeating itself, and the prospect of state-sponsored terror being inflicted on migrant communities while under a Democratic president is back in full swing.

There is a lingering and understandable fear that Biden will continue to roll back his vocal support for immigration reform and go right back to business as usual in the same manner that Obama did. This is why it is of the utmost importance that voices for social justice within the Democratic party do not relent in their demands for equitable and humane immigration policy; the alternative is unthinkable cruelty.

As part of our commitment to social justice initiatives, we at The Maneater encourage you to consider making a donation to the Bail Project, an organization committed to ending bail and assisting those incarcerated in the fight for racial justice all across the country. The link to donate is

Edited by Sydney Lewis |

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