Latino groups are skewering former Vice President Joe Biden for saying that illegal immigrants should “get in line,” like everyone else, if they want to come to the United States.
At the second Democrat presidential debate last month, Biden was confronted by former Housing Secretary Julian Castro over his position on immigration and border security. Castro, in particular, lambasted Biden for not endorsing his proposal to decriminalize illegal border crossings.
“The fact of the matter is that, in fact, when people cross the border illegally, it is illegal to do it unless they’re seeking asylum,” Biden said in response. “People should have to get in line. That’s the problem. And the only reason this particular part of the law is being abused is because of Donald Trump.”
The statement – although a far call from suggesting Biden wanted to restrict immigration – set off alarm bells among open border activists and latino groups on the left. Many of those activists, who by their own admission do not believe there is “a practical line” for illegal aliens to stand in without employers or family members within the U.S. to sponsor them, were quick to lash out.
Some activists such as Joe Parra, an ex-staffer to former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), even accused Biden of parroting “Republican talking points” to defend his position on immigration.
“Many just don’t understand why he was onstage spewing Republican talking points,” Parra told Politico when discussing why activists were outraged with the former vice president.
The sentiment was echoed by other immigration activists such as Mayra Macías, the executive director of Latino Victory. In responding to Biden’s “get in line’ comment, Macías went to the extent of declaring it was “unacceptable” for any 2020 Democrat to use such rhetoric.
“It is unacceptable for a candidate vying to be the Democratic nominee for POTUS to use language like that used by VP Biden when talking about immigration during the second debate,” Macías told Politico. “We immediately reached out to the campaign and were told it was being addressed.”
But despite her claim that countless worried immigration activists “started blowing up” her phone right after Biden made the remark, Politico reported slightly more than 100 calls and messages were sent to the campaign – a minuscule fraction of the more than 11 million estimated illegal aliens residing in America currently.
Regardless of the size of the backlash, Biden’s campaign seems to have taken the matter seriously, dispatching its senior adviser, Cristóbal Alex, to smooth things over. Those efforts have largely focused on improving the dialogue between the campaign and immigration activists through a series of events, like a recent Latino roundtable held in San Diego, California.
For the most part, though, Alex has attempted to downplay Biden’s “get in line” comment, claiming the former vice president’s full position on immigration could not be explained during one debate appearance.
“It’s hard to convey his true grasp of this issue and it’s hard to convey how much he cares about immigrants in the community in a 15-second retort to someone attacking him,” Alex told Politico.
Since announcing his presidential campaign, Biden has faced scrutiny over his position on immigration, especially in the context of the Obama administration’s record of deporting millions of illegal aliens. Last month, during a campaign stop in New Hampshire, the former vice president was confronted about that legacy when an activist asked him to apologize for deporting so many people.
Biden, who was caught on camera smirking at the notion of apologizing, chose to split the difference, saying he only supported deportation for those convicted of serious crimes.
“I will not apologize for the deportation of people who have committed a felony,” he said. “I will apologize for deportations if in fact you were deported because in fact you were engaged in a misdemeanor… or your family was separated.”
“We need family separation,” Biden added while putting his hands together, appearing to indicate reunification instead.