Presidential Candidates & Their Stance on Immigration

By Philippa Haven ‘17
Staff Writer

History has proven that when a country’s economy is not doing well – when people see little wage growth, get laid off/face shorter hours, and are unable to keep up with bills – politicians capitalize on people’s financial insecurities by promoting nationalistic policies. This means that politicians, in response to seeing widespread amount of financial frustration, use nationalistic rhetoric to both instill fear of the “other” and to portray themselves as the protector of the nation. Both the United States’ history of limiting, regulating, and banning immigrants and the fact that Americans have faced stagnant wages and no increase in purchasing power coincide to create the perfect political atmosphere for anti-immigration rhetoric. In every presidential election cycle, immigration is a controversial topic, however this year, due to economic reality and political actors, what policies candidates promote is pivotal.  

When one talks of immigration policies, one usually assumes Democrats will call for “comprehensive immigration reform”, a phrase used by the party for decades. What does this reform look like? For Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton this means creating a pathway for the 11 million undocumented immigrants to become citizens. Sanders also hopes to close detention centers, end government raids into homes of immigrants from Central America, and, unlike Secretary Clinton, halt guest-worker programs that limit workers to seasonal stay. Secretary Clinton, who is the only candidate whose support among Latino voters is higher than it is among the general public, has shifted her support on immigration policies over the past few decades. For instance, Clinton fully supports President Obama’s DACA and DAPA executive actions, has co-sponsored the DREAM Act legislation three times, however has also voted several times for construction of a border fence.

Governor Kasich’s views on immigration are also murky, though he has come out in support of two policies the two Democrat candidates endorse: creating a path to legal status and continuing the birthright citizenship policy for undocumented immigrants. Kasich differs greatly from his two Republican rivals, both of whom have made immigration reform a pillar in their campaign platform. There is a long list of legislation Congressman Cruz opposes, however he goes further than just voicing his opposition: his amendment to the bi-partisan Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 aimed to prevent all undocumented immigrants from ever being able to attain citizenship, his sponsored bills seek to increase the severity of criminal penalties for undocumented immigrants, and his promised first action in office will be to revoke all of Obama’s executive actions granting amnesty to undocumented immigrants. It might seem odd that the candidate who was born outside of the U.S. would propose to triple the size of border patrol, increase aerial surveillance, and end sanctuary policies, however many believe Trump’s charged language has pushed Cruz further to right.

Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric – be it on twitter, in interviews, or in speeches – has been criticized, called racist, and, according to President Obama, has disqualified him for running for president. Stripping his language from his policy proposals, one can see the drastic changes he would impose if President: building a wall on the southern border, paid for by the Mexican government, in one day; increasing penalties for overstaying visas; deport 11 million undocumented and 4.5 million citizens born to immigrant parents; and tightening working requirements such as making E-Verify mandatory and ending the J-1 visa job program for young adults. Trump’s rhetoric and policy proposals symbolize a clear attempt to capitalize on Americans’ financial frustration and long standing fear of immigrants.

Sources: - trump