SEATTLE, Washington — Immigration reform has been among the most discussed topics in the 2020 race for the presidency. Among the many candidates running for president, three democratic contenders stand out in regards to immigration policy. Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke and Julian Castro have crafted complete and comprehensive immigration policies that they would implement as head of state.
The Importance of the Immigration Topic
Immigration is a major topic in the 2020 presidential race due to the humanitarian crisis at the southern border of the U.S. and Mexico. An influx of migrants and asylum seekers are arriving at the southern border each year. So far this year, a total of 688,375 individuals have already been apprehended at the border.
Families and individuals who arrive at the border often come from countries that suffer from instability, corruption and violence. A majority of migrants and asylum seekers who cross the border come from the Northern Triangle, which includes Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. These countries suffer from unstable governments and prevalent gang violence, which increases the flow of migration to the U.S.
U.S. officials have been debating solutions to this issue for years. In 2020, it has become central to many candidates’ campaigns. Currently, the U.S. is detaining migrants and asylum seekers in detention centers. The Trump administration also aims to make a stricter vetting process for people seeking citizenship. It also intends to strengthen the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency by increasing deportations and ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA or Dreamer Act). DACA is an act that decriminalizes undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as minors.
Many critics of the immigration policies in place aim to pursue a different approach to immigration with solutions such as decriminalizing undocumented immigrants and providing a path to citizenship rather than enforcing deportation. The upcoming presidential election will determine the direction of immigration reform. Below are the candidates who are leading the discourse on the future of immigration in the U.S.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren is in the top three for the democratic primaries. She has been polling at 14 percent as of mid-July 2019. Sen. Warren’s polling numbers have been gradually increasing, and some of Politico’s polls place her in second place, only a few numbers ahead of Sen. Bernie Sanders. Sen. Warren has proposed several immigration policies including making border-crossing a civil offense rather than a criminal offense. This immigration reform would prevent family separation at the border, but it would still label border-crossing as unlawful.
Additionally, Sen. Warren proposes to eliminate the use of detention centers at the border and replace them with electronic and social work monitoring for the people awaiting their court date. Sen. Warren also aims to create independent courts for immigration rulings and to provide legal counsel for immigrants in court. Moreover, Sen. Warren would reassign ICE to tasks involving screening cargo, identifying counterfeit goods and preventing smuggling and trafficking.
Furthermore, Sen. Warren proposes to reinstate DACA. With the help of Congress, she also plans to expand DACA by incorporating the families of DACA recipients and providing them with a pathway to citizenship. Sen. Warren also aims to expand programs that welcome refugees and asylum seekers. She pledges to admit 175,000 refugees by the end of her term. Lastly, Sen. Warren supports decreasing the barriers to legal immigration. She plans to do this by distributing more visas and lowering the application fees of naturalization.
Former House member Beto O’Rourke’s popularity grew among democratic voters when he ran for Senate in the 2018 midterm elections. As of mid-July 2019, O’Rourke is in sixth place for the democratic primaries. Immigration reform is the center of O’Rourke’s campaign. Earlier this year, O’Rourke released a 10-point immigration plan that briefly outlined each of his policy plans.
The first part of his 10-point plan focuses on reinstating and expanding DACA. O’Rourke aims to extend citizenship to more than a million Dreamers. Furthermore, he wants to give permanent legal protections and a path to citizenship to the parents of Dreamers. He also intends to ensure that Dreamers can register with the government in order to gain status to legally work and pay taxes.
O’Rourke also targets major causes of migration by proposing to reduce illegal drug trafficking and stop human trafficking by investing in infrastructure, technology and personnel at U.S. ports of entry. He also plans to make Central America a top foreign policy priority, end the global war on drugs and be more responsive to migrants seeking asylum.
O’Rourke also wants to encourage legal immigration by increasing the current caps on visas to address the variety of opportunities and needs met by the number of people allowed into the U.S. He will also address visa overstays through better tracking and by providing notifications to visa holders, such as text message reminders.
Former U.S. Housing Secretary and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro is another major candidate focusing on immigration policy. Though polling low at one percent, Castro proves to have a key role in the conversation about immigration policy. He is equipped with one of the most detailed immigration plans among all the 2020 hopefuls.
Similar to Sen. Warren and O’Rourke, Castro also plans to reform immigration policies by reinstating DACA, providing Dreamers a path to citizenship and making border-crossing a civil, not a criminal, offense. However, Castro’s unique proposals include ending “287(g)” agreements, which allow local law enforcement to perform deportations. Castro also intends to eliminate three and 10-year bans that prevent re-entry for undocumented immigrants whom the U.S. deported. He also plans to abolish the ICE agency and hand immigration tasks over to the Justice Department. Overall, one of Castro’s primary objectives with immigration policy is to significantly restrict immigration enforcement.
Aside from reconstructing immigration policies, Castro also advocates for other solutions to the migration crisis. Castro supports increasing foreign aid and assistance to countries in the Northern Triangle to reduce the flow of illegal immigration. This policy aims to target the root cause of migration by stimulating economic development and decreasing violence and instability in the Northern Triangle.
The Future of Immigration
U.S. policy on immigration is important not only to national security but also to the millions of migrants seeking security and opportunity. U.S. officials have a responsibility to create effective policies that place the safety of human beings at the highest priority. Further discussion in the upcoming presidential debates is imperative to the future of immigration and may alter the course of America’s long-standing policies in 2020 and beyond.
– Louise Macaraniag