“I’ve been a leader on immigration reform,” Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar said last week. “I’m the only one running that’s stood up for immigrants in a really difficult state when it comes to that issue — had ads run against me all the time.”
But Klobuchar’s immigration record has come into question recently as the presidential race heats up. After taking third place in the New Hampshire primary, Klobuchar has come under fire for her past comments on immigration policy:
“I do think that we need more resources at the border, and that includes a fence,” Klobuchar declared during a US Senate debate in 2006. “We also have to stop giving amnesty to companies that are hiring illegal immigrants.” She went on to argue that thousands of immigrants coming into the US “illegally” make it unfair for “people who have been in this country for a number of years who are willing to pay their taxes, who are willing to learn English.”
The following year, Klobuchar voted in favor of an amendment to an immigration bill that aimed to make English the national language. It would have reversed former President Clinton’s executive order that requires federal agencies to provide materials in languages other than English. The sponsor, Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said the amendment was meant to “send a message to all those who have come to our country and all those who will immigrate here in the future that English is the language of our land.” A 2015 Census Bureau report found that at least 350 languages are spoken in the US, and over 5 million English language learners in US public schools.
Klobuchar backpedaled on her vote last week, claiming she has since changed her thoughts and “taken a strong position against.” The English language amendment passed in 2007, but the larger bill — the Immigration Act of 2007 — failed. The Act (which also Klobuchar voted for) would have doubled the number of Border Patrol agents from 12,000 to nearly 24,000. It would have also added more than 800 miles of additional vehicle and fencing barriers along the US-Mexico border.
During Wednesday’s 2020 presidential candidate debate ahead of the Nevada caucuses — a state with one of the largest undocumented immigrant populations — former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg went after Klobuchar on immigration:
“Do you know the message that sends in as multilingual a state as Nevada to immigrants?” Buttigieg asked, adding that she has been the “most likely [among Democrats] to vote for Donald Trump’s judges, who we know are especially hostile to Dreamers and to the rights of immigrants.”
Klobuchar also voted in 2018 to confirm U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan for Homeland Security Security. McAleenan resigned from the position six months later, after attempts to carry out President Trump’s increasingly aggressive immigration crackdowns. McAleenan supervised policies to stem the numbers Central American asylees that advocates argued were “cruel and inhumane.” While Klobuchar argued that McAleenan was recommended by Obama officials, both Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) voted no on his confirmation.
Polls place Klobuchar’s support among Latino voters at 2 percent nationally. Just before Nevada’s 2020 presidential caucus on Saturday, Klobuchar polled at 5 percent among Nevada’s Latino population. With 96 percent of votes reported as of Monday, February 24, Klobuchar ranked last with 4.2 percent of the vote.