The questions of whether immigrants living in the U.S. illegally should be afforded a pathway to citizenship, and whether families crossing the U.S.-Mexico border should be separated get plenty of discussion on the Democratic presidential primary campaign trail.
One key element largely missing to the discussion, even in Iowa, is how immigration reform would impact the state’s agricultural community, which employs many immigrants.
The Democratic presidential candidates have been critical of how Republican President Donald Trump’s administration has attempted to crack down on border crossings, including border enforcement officials separating immigrant children from their parents.
They also disparage the Trump administration’s ban on travel from several Muslim-majority nations.
There is widespread support among the Democratic presidential candidates for protecting and even codifying the program that protects from deportation immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.
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The program, known as DACA --- deferred action on childhood arrivals, was instituted under Democratic former president Barack Obama.
Early in the campaign there was disagreement among the Democratic candidates over whether illegally crossing the border should be treated as a civil infraction instead of a criminal offense. Beto O’Rourke, who has since dropped out of the race, during a primary debate advocated for making illegal border crossing a civil infraction. Elizabeth Warren, one of the polling leaders in the race, also supports decriminalizing illegal border crossings.
Some of the candidates also have proposed reforming or outright eliminating federal border enforcement agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection.
Most of the Democratic candidates also have been critical of the Trump administration’s moves to limit the number of refugees accepted by the U.S. And Trump issued an executive order that would allow states to refuse any refugees; that has been delayed by the courts.
The U.S. is on pace to resettle the lowest number of refugees in a single year since 1980, when the nation’s refugee resettlement program was created, according to the Pew Research Center.
What do the candidates say?
Immediately end the separation of parents from their children and reunite families End prolonged detention Reinstate DACA and protect Dreamers Implement effective border screening Ease restrictions on those seeking asylum End the "Muslim ban" Create a roadmap to citizenship for nearly 11 million undocumented people already in the U.S. Reform the visa and temporary visa programs Double the number of immigration judges, court staff and interpreters Offer a $4 billion aid package to Central America to address the root causes of immigration
Open a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented people. Create a new "National Office of New Americans" to support immigrants and refugees Reform employment-based visa system "informed by labor market needs" End family separation and reunite separated families Welcome at least 125,000 refugees in first year of presidency and minimum of 95,000 refugees Create an "independent immigration court system" End “Muslim ban”
End the separation of children from parents at the border and reunite families Pass the DREAM Act and reinstate DACA, which includes protections for minor children brought to the U.S. Provide a pathway to citizenship for the current 11 million undocumented immigrants Reopen international U.S. citizenship and immigration services offices. Pass comprehensive immigration reform
Decriminalize immigration and demilitarize the southern border End the separation of children from parents at the border and reunite families Provide a path to citizenship within five years for 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. Reinstate DACA and immediately offer citizenship to 1.8 million eligible Dreamers Stop deportations until an audit of past practices and policies is completed End the "Muslim ban" End for-profit detention centers Immediately stop construction of the wall Break up ICE and Customs and Border Protections agencies
Decriminalize migration Separate law enforcement from immigration enforcement Eliminate private detention facilities Create independent Article I immigration courts End “Muslim ban” Welcome in at least 175,000 refugees annually by end of first term Provide a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented people Create “Office of New Americans” for new immigrants Restore and increase aid to Central America to at least $1.5 billion annually
Graham Ambrose is the Iowa politics reporter for the Quad-City Times.