You would be hard-pressed to find a person living in the U.S. who is unaware of President Trump’s stance on immigration. After all, from the first days of his campaign, the issue has loomed large—nearly as large as the nation-spanning wall he has promised time after time. Indeed, the wall serves to assuage the central anxiety of his voting base: that America is being lost to a flood of unwelcome newcomers. This said, most people living in this country are at best uncomfortable and at worst horrified by the 45th president’s stance on immigration. Thus, those tossing their hats into the 2020 election ring need to tackle the issue, leaving no doubt about their stance on the following ten key components.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
Unless you have slept through the last decade, you know about DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, offering work permits to undocumented immigrants brought into the country as minors. Trump tried to axe DACA, but federal courts stymied his attempts. Most Democrats and some Republicans want to offer program recipients a path to citizenship. Hardline opposers maintain that the program in unconstitutional. The key question presidential hopefuls must answer is how many of the estimated 3.6 million total "dreamers" should receive protections.
Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
In similar fashion, Trump sought to abolish the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program offering upward of 300,000 foreigners the ability to work legally in the U.S. as their home countries recover from disaster or conflict. Though widely supported by Democrats, some Republicans insist that the temporary nature of the program ought to be enforced, despite many recipients having lived in the U.S. for more than two decades now. Candidates need to address this nominal stance and argue for how best to reform TPS.
Related is the pressing issue of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living here. Once again, Democrats align behind a solution that offers a “pathway to citizenship” requiring background checks and retroactive payment of taxes, among other conditions. Trump’s administration likens this to providing amnesty to criminals. Candidates seeking the presidency in 2020 must ground their campaign in one camp or the other.
Separation of Immigrant Families
All that has been mentioned thus far circulates in the abstract realm of policy and yet, concrete consequences are implied and are often wrenching. Nowhere was this clearer than when in 2018 more than 2,800 migrant family were torn apart at the border. The culprit: Trump’s “zero tolerance” stance. While systemic separations have since ended, Border Patrol agents continue splitting up smaller numbers of families and—horrifically—will continue to do so until a large-scale reform is implemented. Candidates need to weigh in on whether Congress should get involved and if immigration judges ought to approve future separations.
Not unrelated is the issue of asylum, which is granted to foreigners who fear persecution in their home country based on their religion, race, nationality, political opinion or affiliation with a targeted social group. Democrats uphold the centuries-old idea of the U.S. as a beacon of hope to the most vulnerable. The current White House counters that asylum and refugee claims open the border to abuse and infiltration by terrorists. A key campaign issue is how to best to handle the steady stream of Central American families arriving to the border seeking shelter.
Custody & Care of Detained Immigrants
Once more, this is not merely a policy issue but an on-the-ground and in-your-face crisis. The Department of Homeland Security claims record-numbers of arrivals have overwhelmed its resources. Border Patrol stations and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers are at capacity, leading to migrants being “housed” in tent cities. At least six children have died as a result. Politicians jockeying for office must explain how treatment of migrants in custody will be improved and whether legislative changes ought to be made.
Aid to Central American Countries
In March of this year, Trump cut off $450 million in funding to Central American countries—those by and large responsible for the flood of migrants hitting the border. Democrats and Republicans alike have argued that doing so is counterproductive to resolving the myriad of issues already discussed. Campaigning politicians need to weigh in on the debate, taking a stance on whether aid should be restarted.
Green Card Issuance
The golden ticket sought by most immigrants is actually green and it is a card. About 1.1 million green cards are issued annually in the U.S. with 63% going to those who have family connections to the country. Trump wants to upend this statistic, instead advocating for the sort of “merit-based” system employed by countries like Canada. He proposes a points system rewarding such things as education, language skills, and employment offers. Democrats counter that this locks out those most in need, fundamentally altering a central tenet of U.S. ideology. Presidential hopefuls are expected to articulate their individual notion of legal immigration.
Workplace Raids & the Abolishment of ICE
The imperative topic of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents is another issue making headlines. The massive workplace raids largely eliminated by Obama have become commonplace under Trump. Democrats have cried foul, even going so far as to call for ICE to be abolished. Republicans have defended the crackdown. The key campaign question here is where on this spectrum candidates stand.
In response to the broad, turbulent geography of immigration policy, some cities have positioned themselves as safe spaces. These so-called “sanctuary cities” refuse to comply with federal policy. Trump has sought to punish such local governments, claiming that they endanger national security by allowing dangerous undocumented immigrants into their communities. Democrats support their autonomy and insist that local police forces ought not act as federal agents. Presidential hopefuls need to outline how best to detangle disagreements between local and federal legislation, stating whether sanctuary policies should be permitted.
However overwhelming immigration issues facing the U.S. may seem, no candidate can claim to be fit for the nation’s highest office unless she or he is able to articulate a comprehensive answer to all of the above—and that’s to say nothing of the other tipping points upon which our country teeters.
Should you have thoughts or questions or if you would like more information on critical issues such as these, please contact our firm. In challenging times, we all need to partake in the conversation.
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