Donald Trump
stated on January 8, 2019 in a televised speech:
Says Sen. Charles Schumer "repeatedly supported a physical barrier in the past along with many other Democrats. They changed their mind only after I was elected president."
true barely-true
President Donald Trump talks before signing anti-human trafficking legislation, Wednesday Jan. 9, 2019, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP) President Donald Trump talks before signing anti-human trafficking legislation, Wednesday Jan. 9, 2019, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP)

President Donald Trump talks before signing anti-human trafficking legislation, Wednesday Jan. 9, 2019, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP)

Manuela Tobias
By Manuela Tobias January 9, 2019

Did Democrats reverse border wall position after Donald Trump was elected?

In his call for a border wall, President Donald Trump said Democrats made a U-turn on immigration after he was elected president.

"Sen. Chuck Schumer, who you will be hearing from later tonight, has repeatedly supported a physical barrier in the past along with many other Democrats," Trump said Jan. 8 in his prime time address on the border wall. "They changed their mind only after I was elected president."

That’s a mischaracterization of the barrier that won Democratic support 13 years ago.

Just over half of Democrats in the Senate voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush, including then-Sens. Barack Obama, Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton. Most Democrats in the House voted against it, including Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

The law authorized a fence along about 700 miles of the border between the U.S.-Mexico border. By 2015, U.S. Customs and Border Protection had constructed 654 miles of fencing, the Government Accountability Office reported.

The fence was different from the wall Trump promised to build on the campaign trail, which he said would be made of "hardened concrete" as tall as "95 stories" with a "very big, very beautiful door."

Trump derided the 2006 fence as too modest during the 2016 campaign — he said it was "not a wall" but a "little fence" that could be scaled with a ladder.

"Now we got lucky because it was such a little wall, it was such a nothing wall, no, they couldn't get their environmental — probably a snake was in the way or a toad," Trump said. (Actually, the project didn’t face environmental hurdles; we rated that part of the claim Mostly False.)

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A 2016 Associated Press report from the border described the fencing as "rust-colored thick bars" that form "teeth-like slats." That includes the steel fence dividing Nogales in Arizona and Mexico, which is between 18 and 26 feet tall. "There are miles of gaps between segments and openings in the fence itself," the AP reported.

The Democrats’ offer to Trump is a continuing resolution on last year’s appropriations act, which provided $1.3 billion for fencing and additional money for other types of border security. The language made it so that the funds could only be used on repairing or extending fencing that had already been built under the 2006 law.

We’re rated similar statements in which the Trump administration has claimed Democrats wanted a wall as Half True, but here, Trump goes farther. Democrats have not changed their stance on the border fencing they previously supported; they simply don’t support the more ambitious wall Trump proposes.

Our ruling

Trump said Schumer has "has repeatedly supported a physical barrier in the past along with many other Democrats. They changed their mind only after I was elected president."

Schumer, along with tens of other Democrats including former President Barack Obama, voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which authorized building a fence along about 700 miles of the border between the United States and Mexico. That’s the majority of the barrier in place today along the southern border.

However, the fence was mocked as a "nothing wall" by Trump in the past and was far less ambitious, both politically and physically, than the wall Trump wants to build now.

Finally, Trump says the Democrats no longer support their previous position simply because he wants it. But Democrats have actually proposed current funding for the fencing that was approved in 2006. 

We rate this statement Mostly False.

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PolitiFact rating logo PolitiFact Rating:
Mostly False
Says Sen. Charles Schumer "repeatedly supported a physical barrier in the past along with many other Democrats. They changed their mind only after I was elected president."
In a speech
Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Our Sources

Phone interview with Justin Goodman, press secretary for Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer, Jan. 9, 2019

New York Times, Full Speech: Trump Addresses Nation on Immigration, Jan. 8, 2019

New York Times, House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Schumer Deliver Response to President Trump's Address on Homeland Security and the U.S.-Mexico Border, Jan. 2019

PolitiFact, Fact-check: Did top Democrats vote for a border wall in 2006?, April 23, 2017

The Boston Globe, "In 2006, Democrats were saying ‘build that fence!’" Jan. 27, 2017.

Government Accountability Office, Progress and Challenges with the Use of Technology, Tactical Infrastructure, and Personnel to Secure the Southwest Border, March 15, 2018

The Guardian, "Unfinished US-Mexico border wall is a costly logistical nightmare in Texas," Jan. 1, 2016

GovTrack, H.R. 6061 (109th): Secure Fence Act of 2006, accessed Jan. 9, 2019

GovTrack, H.R. 6061 (109th): Secure Fence Act of 2006, accessed Jan. 9, 2019

Washington Post, Pelosi, Schumer to meet with Trump, offer $1.3 billion for border as shutdown looms, Dec. 10, 2018

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