On the Issues: Immigration




As the general election nears, The Observer will be running a series of articles on political issues that interest students. In our coverage, we will analyze each of the four presidential candidates’ (Clinton, Johnson, Stein and Trump) stated platforms on these issues and examine how they compare to one another. If you would like a particular issue to be covered or want to cover an issue yourself, please reach out to us at [email protected].

5439999805_4280c8bcef_oDonald Trump, Republican Party

For the vast majority of his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump’s rise has been fueled by his insistence on a tightly regulated border with Mexico and harsh restrictions on immigration. His policy has been marked by bold proclamations, such as his famous “We’re going to build a tremendous wall…and Mexico’s going to pay for it.” His campaign website is filled with his promises on immigration policy, calling for a three-fold expansion of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), increased penalties for violating the terms of a visa and the end of birthright citizenship.

In the summer, news had arisen of a possible “toning down” of his immigration policy. According to CNN, Trump said in  July “that he would favor a ‘merit-based system’ for undocumented immigrants in the U.S.” However these rumors of a “softening” were dispelled after he announced at a rally in Phoenix that he would see the creation of a “deportation task force…focused on identifying and quickly removing the most dangerous criminal illegal aliens in America.”

Much of Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric is based in responding to what people want to hear, regardless of the facts. While Trump attempts to paint immigrants as parasites who use up public services and contribute nothing in return, the statistics show a different story. According to U.S. News and World Report, undocumented immigrants contribute $12 trillion per year in national revenue, half of all undocumented immigrants pay income tax and 75 percent pay into the social security system. Regardless of one’s views on the cultural impact of immigration, the idea of undocumented immigrants as thieves and leeches does not hold up to scrutiny or investigation.

25619571572_7cc3450756_oDr. Jill Stein, Green Party

As candidate of the Green Party, Jill Stein has maintained a firm stance in favor of relaxed immigration laws. Her website touts points of her plan such as “Support immigrants’ rights. Create a welcoming path to citizenship for immigrants,” “Halt deportations and detentions of law-abiding undocumented immigrants” and “Demilitarize border crossings throughout North America.”

According to her campaign website, she has criticized the June decision of the Supreme Court to block an executive decision by President Obama that would have prevented the deportation of four million undocumented immigrant parents, calling for “a just immigration system that won’t allow the ruling elite to divide working people. That means halting deportations.” With this statement, she endorses a view of the relationship between American-born and foreign-born workers as a kind of kinship; a class united against a class that exploits it. To Jill Stein, it is not a case of immigrants “stealing” jobs from hard-working Americans, but of greedy business people operating within a system that allows them to choose workers that can be more easily exploited.

Stein should be commended for her commitment to protecting the human rights of undocumented immigrants, and for her recognition of the class dynamic at play in American immigration. However, she often fails to offer more in-depth plans regarding her intentions. She gives no plan for how deportations will be halted, or how the border crossings will be demilitarized. This is a weakness; having a comprehensive plan would give added weight to the kinds of radical proposals she suggests. Bold statements make for excellent public discussion, but when new ideas are suggested, specifics are necessary to back them up.

6184191171_f38a5b7af3_oGary Johnson, Libertarian Party

In an op-ed he wrote for CNN, Gary Johnson directly states, “No caps. No categories. No quotas. Just a straightforward background check, the proper paperwork to obtain a real Social Security number and work legally or prove legitimate family ties.” Johnson continues, “We really are a nation of immigrants, and we’ve become the greatest nation on earth without big walls and nativism.”

His campaign website says, “We should focus on creating a more efficient system of providing work visas…and incentivizing non-citizens to pay their taxes.”

Johnson rejects the idea of militarizing the border and building fences, claiming that these are “popular rhetoric, not practical solutions.” The Libertarian candidate also looks at the situation from a capitalistic perspective, stating, “It’s no coincidence that recent history shows the only successful way to reduce illegal immigration is to have a recession.”

Johnson also defended President Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) policy expansion via executive action in an interview on Politico, which would have granted undocumented immigrants with children a three-year work visa and the ability to become full citizens, explaining that stating,“[he] saw it as a reasonable use, challenging Congress to action.”

In an interview on MSNBC earlier this month, Johnson admitted that he did not know what a moderator meant by Aleppo, the epicenter of the Syrian refugee crisis. This was either a lapse in judgement or an indication that he is not well-versed on the subject, a troubling shortcoming for a presidential candidate.

Additionally, for all of his talk of a simplification of the system, there are very few actionable details on his campaign website.

Hillary Clinton, Democratic Party

Hillary Clinton states on her campaign website she promises to “fix our broken immigration system… and treat those who come to our country with dignity and respect—and that we embrace immigrants, not denigrate them…I think it’s important that we move to our comprehensive immigration reform, but at the same time, stop the raids, stop the round-ups, stop the [deportation] of people who are living here doing their lives, doing their jobs, and that’s my priority.”

According to NBC news, she “pledged to pursue legislation creating a path to citizenship for qualifying immigrants in her first 100 days in office,” and “to “go even further” than President Obama in using executive action to shield undocumented immigrants from deportations, and pledged she would not deport children or break up families.”

Another major point in her platform is to expand the Affordable Care Act to all those who want to purchase insurance, regardless of immigration status.

Many of Clinton’s proposed reforms would be extremely costly, such as her proposed Office of Immigrant Affairs, which would require a $15 million grant for its establishment.

During the PBS Democratic Primary Debate, Clinton stated, “Preventing Muslims from immigrating is un-American,” and Breitbart reports that “she would expand Muslim migration by importing an additional 65,000 Syrian refugees into the United States during the course of a single fiscal year.” A specific stance on Syrian refugee immigration is not stated anywhere on her website.

Among other rhetoric featured on her website is a promise to “Enforce immigration laws humanely,” which is too vague to for real policy. The practicality of ensuring that all refugees will have a fair chance to tell their stories is questionable.