The Democratic Take: Where the Candidates Stand on Three Key Immigration Policies

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Jamie Lee Nicolas

“Trump’s most hurtful immigration policy is the zero-tolerance policy and how, with it, he put kids in cages,” said Mahnaz Ahmed ’23 as she reflects on what she views as President Trump’s most impactful immigration policy.

As the February 3rd, 2020 Democratic presidential primary draws ever closer, all eyes are set on the Democratic candidates. There are currently fourteen Democratic candidates aiming to become the party’s presidential nominee at the Democratic National Convention set to take place this July. Since its start, fourteen candidates have dropped out of the race. The fourteen candidates still running, in the order of where they stand in the current polls, are former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Congressman Tulsi Gabbard, businessman Tom Steyer, Senator Cory Booker, former Congressman John Delaney, former Governor Deval Patrick, author Marianne Williamson, and Senator Michael Bennet.

Deep into the presidential race, candidates have been able to voice their thoughts on issues that lie at the very core of American society. One such issue is immigration, an immense topic of conversation since the Trump administration took office. Over the past year, the Democratic candidates have been working to show the American people their values when it comes to immigration and have tried to set themselves against both the Republican Party and each other on this prevalent issue. 

With President Trump referring to asylum laws as “ridiculous” and allowing only 30,000 asylum seekers inside the U.S., a large decline from the 85,000 refugees who were allowed entry in 2016, Democratic candidates have been questioned about the number of asylum seekers they would let into the country. If elected president, eleven of the fourteen Democratic candidates will accept at least 110,000 refugees a year. Yang, who is one of the three candidates who has not said that they plan on accepting at least 110,000 candidates a year, has stated that he would support an increase but that the number of refugees would depend on the “specific situations and circumstances” of the time. The responses of the other two candidates, Bloomberg and Gabbard, remain unclear.  

With the current border crisis, another major point addressed in the immigration debate is the decriminalization of illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Currently, illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border is considered a misdemeanor. Decriminalizing border crossings by making crossing the border a civil offense would likely decrease the rate of criminal detention and family separation that is currently occurring. All Democratic candidates except Bennet, Biden, Delaney, Klobuchar, Gabbard, and Patrick advocate for the decriminalization of illegal border crossings. While Bennet, Biden, Delaney, and Klobuchar have all said they will not  decriminalize illegal border crossings, Gabbard and Patrick have not clearly stated their position. Yang was alone in saying that he would decriminalize border crossings for the time it takes the government to find a more efficient way to let people enter the U.S. legally and, once that reasonable way has been found, he would once again make it a misdemeanor to illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border.  

Over the past year, the Democratic candidates have been working to show the American people their values when it comes to immigration and have tried to set themselves against both the Republican Party and each other on this prevalent issue.

Aside from crossing the border, candidates have debated what to do in regards to the U.S.-Mexico border wall that the Trump administration has put up. Asked whether or not they would support expanding the U.S.-Mexico border wall, candidates Booker, Sanders, Steyer, and Warren all said they would not. Bennet, Buttigieg, Delaney, Gabbard, Williamson, and Yang all have said that they would act on the advice of experts if elected. Buttigieg, Delaney, and Williamson want a combination of technologies to try to ensure national security. To date, Biden and Kloubuchar’s opinions on whether or not they would expand the U.S.-Mexico border wall remain unclear. 

Though they disagree on the fine details of what should be done in terms of key immigration policies, the Democratic candidates all believe that current immigration policy has to change, and the students of Bronx Science agree. When asked about the most impactful action that President Trump has taken in regards to immigration policy, Jafnoon Khatun ’23 said, “I feel that the Muslim ban is his most hurtful policy. He banned countries with the highest Muslim population. And then he said the ban wasn’t about their religion and that it was about something else.” When asked the same question, Keya Dutta 20’ focused on Trump’s rhetoric rather than a single policy. “Rhetoric. All of his racist tariffs on Mexico and other stuff will go away but he is making quasi-racism okay to younger people,” said Dutta. Lotus Guo ’23 has pointed out why she believes immigrants are valuable to America and why she thinks that current immigration laws should change. “America is made up of a bunch of random people, a group of ethnicities. President Trump’s policies try to keep immigrants from coming in and try to get immigrants out. Immigrants are important to our workforce, and if Trump stops immigrants from coming in and keeps sending them out, our economy will suffer,” said Guo. Sharing similar beliefs, the Democratic candidates are committed to changing current immigration policies.

Over the past year, the Democratic candidates have been working to show the American people their values when it comes to immigration and have tried to set themselves against both the Republican Party and each other on this prevalent issue.

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