A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration lawyer. We serve clients in all U.S. states and overseas countries. (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

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Monday, October 21, 2019

Presidential Candidates Position on Immigration

Twelve candidates participated in the fourth Democratic Party presidential debate last Thursday in Ohio.  While it is still too early to know who the final party nominee will be, according to the polls the top five forerunners are: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew
Yang. What are these candidates' positions on immigration?

All five candidates have expressed a need for change in border policy and ICE methods, condemning Trump's zero tolerance policy that has separated and detained families. Warren and also Sanders in particular have voiced the need to restructure ICE, while Yang says he would instead direct ICE to focus on those engaging in criminal activity. Buttigieg has spoken of a need to evaluate ICE practice to end and prevent problems like the current family separation crisis.

The lead candidates also believe that a path to citizenship should be available even to the undocumented. They also believe that DACA should be reinstated. Biden and Buttigieg have stated that those under DACA, or DREAMers, should qualify as Americans.  Warren and Sanders believe that three and ten year bars should be repealed. Sanders wants to expand DACA and provide immediate legal status for those eligible under the program. Warren supports DACA and wants to expand it to cover more young people through measures such as eliminating the application age requirement. She also says a fair path to citizenship should be available for DACA, TPS, and DED holders. Yang specified that he supports a shorter path to citizenship for TPS and DED immigrants, who are here legally, than for illegal immigrants.

There is overall support toward refugees and putting more resources toward border security. All five candidates except Yang agreed they want to raise the refugee cap to at least 110,000 a year. Warren wants to raise the refugee cap to 125,000 in the first year, then to 175,000 by the fourth year.  Buttigieg wants to increase resources toward mitigating immigration and asylum backlogs. Yang supports raising the cap as well, stating that by how much is to be determined by specific circumstances. He also wants increased resources toward processing the asylum backlog and securing the border. Sanders has stated that he supports expanding the asylum process and aiming deportation at dangerous individuals.

In general, their policies are supportive of immigrants and putting resources toward securing the border without building new barriers. Biden has not given much specifics on his immigration policy, while Warren's proposals are the most strongly pro-immigration. Yang and Buttigieg are more moderate in their support for refugees and changing ICE's methods of border control. Sanders strongly supports ICE restructuring and social programs such as a government health program for undocumented immigrants.  Further details should be released from the remaining candidates once we get closer to the Democratic Party primaries.

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