Thursday marks the ten-year anniversary of the day Hillary Clinton voted in favor of building a 700-mile fence along the Mexican border, intended to stop illegal immigration.
The Secure Fence Act of 2006’s stated purpose was to check the flow of illegal immigrants, drugs, and other illegal goods into the U.S. by erecting a double-layer fence along large swaths of the border. The law also generally increased funding for border security, authorizing funds for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to purchase cameras, drones, and other assets.
At the time, Hillary Clinton said the law was the only possible fix to a seemingly endless torrent of illegal immigrants entering the U.S.
“There isn’t any sensible approach except to do what we need to do simultaneously: you know, secure our borders with technology and personnel, physical barriers if necessary in some places,” she told the Council on Foreign Relations.
At the time, providing a stronger barrier to illegal entry wasn’t quite as controversial, and the measure was able to easily pass Congress and get President George W. Bush’s signature. On September 29, 2006, the measure passed the Senate by an 80-19 margin, with even Democrats voting 26-17 in favor. Like Clinton, then-Sen. Barack Obama also voted in favor of the fence.
Ten years later, Clinton has a different mentality towards border fortifications. Now, Clinton denounces Trump’s plan to build a more robust wall along the Mexican border as not merely unwise but perhaps also immoral.
“Imagine a tomorrow where instead of building walls, we’re breaking down barriers,” she has said.
Clinton has defended her prior vote by saying her vote helped to secure the border, but now no further construction is needed because the border has been secured. There is little evidence that is the case, though, as a 2007 amendment gave DHS leeway to substantially weaken the fence so that it was much less effective at blocking crossings. Even now, hundreds of thousands of people illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border each year, a drop from the early 2000s but still an immense number.