Obama In 2009: U.S. ‘Can’t Have Half a Million People Pouring’ Over Border

Video shows Barack Obama saying the United States "can't have a half million people pouring" illegally into the country.

Elon Musk shared a video of Barack Obama on Monday, in which the former president said the United States “can’t have a half million people pouring” illegally into the country.

Musk said on X, “Now, 10 times as many people per year are ‘pouring over the border,’ to use Obama’s words.”

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Fact Check: ‘Correct Attribution’

Some questioned the validity of the clip. They wondered if it was real or maybe taken out of context.

So Snopes fact-checked it.

It’s legit.

From Snopes, “On March 10, 2024, an archival video of former U.S. President Barack Obama speaking on immigration issues, purportedly from 2009, went viral. The captions highlighted Obama’s words, ‘We can’t have half a million people pouring over the border.” 

“The video was shared by Elon Musk and more,” Snopes noted. “One user on X said, ‘About 7 years later these same positions were considered racist and xenophobic by Democrats.” 

The story continued, “Obama did indeed say the above words. While the caption focuses on him talking about the ‘half a million people pouring over the border,’ Obama did have more to add. He said new migrants would have to learn English and would have to ‘earn’ their citizenship, adding that the government has to ‘deal’ with current undocumented immigrants in a ‘humane fashion.'”

“We thus rate this claim as a ‘Correct Attribution,” Snopes concluded.

Obama’s Border Claim

Here are Obama’s words in context using their emphasis.

In the video, Obama can be overheard saying the following (emphasis ours): 

So this is not going to be a free ride. It’s not going to be some instant amnesty. What’s going to happen is you are going to pay a significant fine. You are going to learn English. You are going to — you are going to go to the back of the line so that you don’t get ahead of somebody who was in Mexico City applying legally. But after you’ve done these things over a certain period of time you can earn your citizenship, so that it’s not — it’s not something that is guaranteed or automatic. You’ve got to earn it. But over time you give people an opportunity.

Now, it only works though if you do all the pieces. I think the American people, they appreciate and believe in immigration. But they can’t have a situation where you just have half a million people pouring over the border without any kind of mechanism to control it. So we’ve got to deal with that at the same time as we deal in a humane fashion with folks who are putting down roots here, have become our neighbors, have become our friends, they may have children who are U.S. citizens. That’s the kind of comprehensive approach that we have to take. 

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Musk Has a Point

As for Musk’s claim about there being more illegal immigration today, the Associated Press reported in January, “Arrests for illegal border crossings from Mexico reached an all-time high in December since monthly numbers have been released, authorities said Friday, exposing a growing vulnerability for President Joe Biden in his campaign for a second term.”

“The Border Patrol tallied 249,785 arrests on the Mexican border in December, up 31% from 191,112 in November and up 13% from 222,018 in December 2022, the previous all-time high,” AP added.

And that’s just the amount of illegal migrants that were encountered or arrested. How many others broke into the country undetected?

We’ve got a serious border problem, something Barack Obama was right about all those years ago.

is a professional writer and editor with over 15 years of experience in conservative media and Republican politics. He... More about John Hanson

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