Did Barack Obama Express Opposition to ‘Undetected, Undocumented, Unchecked’ Immigration?

A 13-year-old quotation from the former Illinois Senator was reintroduced into public debate in the context of President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy.

In the summer of 2018, President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy was met with widespread criticism, prompting the Trump administration to scale back elements of the plan (which saw thousands of children separated from their parents at the southwestern border) after less than three months.

However, the opposition to that policy prompted allegations of hypocrisy leveled by supporters of President Trump against his predecessor, Barack Obama. Some of those comparisons were inaccurate and misleading, as we have examined here previously.

Commentators and social media users brought up an old statement made by Barack Obama back when he was a U.S. Senator representing Illinois, in which he expressed opposition to “undetected, undocumented, unchecked” immigration. The highlighting of that statement was intended to create an equivalence between the views expressed by Barack Obama in 2005 and the “zero tolerance” policy enacted by his successor in the White House in 2018, and (either explicitly or implicitly) level the charge of partisan opportunism and hypocrisy against liberal opponents of Trump’s policies.

On 23 June, Fox News contributor Gary Kaltbaum appeared on Cavuto Live and read out the statement in question:

On 18 June 2018, the quote was posted on the popular pro-Trump Reddit forum /The_Donald, and on 23 July, Val DiGiorgio (chairman of the Chester County, Pennsylvania Republican party) posted a meme showing a photograph of Obama along with the same quote that Kaltbaum read out on Fox News:

Obama did indeed speak these words in 2005, and also said something very similar in 2006, although his expressed opposition to unchecked illegal immigration in 2005 was not the same as support for the “zero tolerance” immigration policy implemented by the Trump administration in 2018.

On 15 December 2005, Barack Obama joined Republican Senator Mel Martinez of Florida in a press conference about bipartisan efforts to bring about immigration reform, during which the former stated:

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