WASHINGTON, D.C. — With the 2020 U.S. Presidential election quickly approaching, U.S. citizens are zooming in on potential candidates’ stances on prominent issues. One of these prominent issues is immigration, especially in relation to migration from Latin America. Women, children and families are fleeing the political instability and violent conflict that are pervading the Northern Triangle (Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala) and parts of South America, especially Venezuela. People want to know the 2020 Presidential candidates’ stances on Latin America.
Isa Zisman is a student from Washington University in St. Louis who worked at the Saint Louis Crisis Nursery Latino Outreach Program this summer. She spoke with The Borgen Project about the current state migration from Latin America. The “decision [of these Latino families]to flee their home country was unfortunately not by choice. Rather, it was due to their country’s political and economic instability, as well as escaping an extreme danger/threat.”
To combat the impoverished conditions plaguing areas of Latin America, candidates have proposed their ideas and policies to improve the circumstances for refugees and citizens alike. Detailed below are the 2020 Presidential candidates’ stances on Latin America.
The 2020 Presidential Candidates’ Stances on Latin America
- Donald Trump, President of the United States: In essence, President Trump’s immigration agenda thus far has focused on strengthening border security and deterring migrants from Latin America. Recently, the Trump Administration proposed cutting funding and assistance to the Northern Triangle. Trump proposed that funding may resume if attempted immigration to the U.S. halts. The reduced budget also led to the cancellation of several programs and shelters that were implemented to combat violence and political unrest. Regarding his stance on the crisis in Venezuela, Trump does not recognize Nicolás Maduro as a legitimate leader. His response to this crisis thus far has included expanding sanctions on the Venezuelan economy. He has not yet signed a Temporary Protected Status for Venezuelans currently in the U.S.
- Joe Biden, former Vice President of the United States: To reform immigration, Biden has called upon the U.S. to invest in programs that will address the root problems in the Northern Triangle. Aside from tackling the issues pervading the Northern Triangle, Biden has publicly supported investing in technology for screening procedures at the border as opposed to building the wall. He also advocates working to end the humanitarian abuse inflicted on those fleeing persecution. Biden supports sanctions against the Venezuelan government. On the other hand, he believes that the U.S. should grant Temporary Protected Statuses for Venezuelans currently in the United States. Additionally, Biden suggested that the U.S. support countries, such as Columbia, that are hosting many Venezuelan refugees.
- Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Senator: In her words, Warren calls for “foreign policy for all.” Recently, she unveiled a comprehensive immigration plan in respect to the Northern Triangle. Some of the proposals underlying this plan include allocating $1.5 billion in aid to each year to programs that target and address poverty, crime, sexual violence and at-risk youths in Central America. To respond to the crisis in Venezuela, Warren stated her opposition to the use of U.S. military force. Instead, she supports negotiations in Venezuela as well as humanitarian aid for the poor.
- Bernie Sanders, Vermont Senator: Regarding the relationship between the U.S. and Central America, Sanders has proposed to work directly with the leaders of Central America to determine solutions for the causes of mass migration. Sanders plans to restructure ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to ensure humanitarian treatment of all. Some of the goals of his plans include preventing family separation at the border and establishing oversight on border patrol agencies. Beyond his opposition to military intervention, Sanders has not proposed a concrete plan to resolve the instability in Venezuela. Thus far, he has called for the U.S. to listen to the voices of Venezuelan activists who are fighting economic sanctions and condemn the use of violence against unarmed protesters and citizens with dissenting opinions.
- Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana: Buttigieg proposes a thorough review of ICE’s methods and an end to family separation at the border. Additionally, he supports an increased allowance for refugees from the Northern Triangle along with increased funding for programs that combat humanitarian crises in the Northern Triangle. Similar to Biden’s proposal, Buttigieg believes that the U.S. should support and partner with regional allies like Columbia to respond to the humanitarian crisis affecting the people of Venezuela. Additionally, he proposes the extension of the Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelan refugees in the U.S. Regarding sanctions. Mayor Pete advocates for applying targeted sanctions against regime officials but eliminating broad economic sanctions because they affect the impoverished population in Venezuela.
It is of no question that the 2020 Presidential candidates’ stances on Latin America are at the forefront of people’s concerns within the U.S. On the political level, legislative bills such as the Global Fragility Act and the United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act have been proposed. Both seek to allocate funding and programs that will stabilize impoverished regions, especially in Latin America. Greater national efforts toward addressing the root causes of political instability and violent conflict in Latin America are certainly needed. However, as Ms. Zisman concluded from her time working in the Crisis Center, two measures towards a solution for these issues can begin today: raising awareness of the lack of control refugees have over the violent, unsafe environments they left behind and treating these people with compassion and humanity.
– Sam Elster