Where the 2020 candidates stand on immigration

By Sommer Brugal

Categories

immigration

Eighteen Democrats and one Republican have announced bids to unseat President Trump in the 2020 presidential race. While they are addressing universal health care, criminal justice reform, tax reform and affordable housing, it’s likely that Trump’s demands for a border wall with Mexico will focus attention on the debate over immigration.

Here’s where the candidates (listed according to date they announced) stand on immigration:

John Delaney
John Delaney, former representative from Maryland’s sixth district (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

John Delaney

Announced July 27, 2017

John Delaney, 55, was the first candidate to announce his 2020 run for president. The former three-term U.S. congressman from Maryland’s 6th District is running as a “progressive businessman.”

  • Delaney supports comprehensive immigration reform, which includes a path to citizenship and increased border security.
  • In 2017, he co-sponsored the DREAM Act, a measure that would have granted legal status to qualifying undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. He later criticized President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
  • Delaney, who founded two companies before running for Congress, has said that immigration reform should be based on a 2013 bipartisan Senate bill that, had it passed, would have increased visa flexibility, and, in turn, helped U.S. businesses and workers.
Julian Castro
Julian Castro, former secretary of Housing and Urban Development (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Julián Castro

Announced Jan. 12, 2019

Julián Castro, 44, is the former mayor of San Antonio and led the Department of Housing and Urban Development under President Barack Obama. He positions himself as a representative of the Hispanic community, noting that his grandmother entered the U.S. from Mexico as a child, settling in San Antonio where she raised her family.

  • Castro supports an earned path to citizenship for law-abiding residents in the U.S. illegally.
  • He opposes Trump’s border wall, saying it’s ineffective and “ultimately a big waste of money.”
  • Castro says the country should instead invest in more personnel along the border, better technology and heightened security at legal ports of entry.
  • He does not support the abolishment of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Kirsten Gillibrand
Kirsten Gillibrand, senator from New York (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Kirsten Gillibrand

Announced Jan. 15, 2019

Kirsten Gillibrand, 52, represents New York in the U.S. Senate and has been an advocate for stricter immigration laws. She has acknowledged her previous stances, but says her opinions changed after meeting with people affected by immigration policies.

  • Gillibrand voted for the DREAM Act in 2010 and has called herself an ally to DACA recipients.
  • In 2018, Gillibrand co-sponsored the REUNITE Act, which would reunite families separated at or near ports of entry along the border.
  • In 2018, she co-sponsored the Keep Families Together Act, which would ban the separation of families at the border unless “there is evidence that a child is being trafficked or abused by his or her parents.”
  • She supports the abolishment of ICE, and was the first U.S. senator to publicly do so.
  • Recently, while campaigning in Iowa, she said people who are in the United States right now “must have the right to pay into Social Security, to pay your taxes, to pay into the local school system, and to have a pathway to citizenship.”
  • In the 2007-’08 session of Congress, she voted in favor of a bill to increase funding for ICE by $9 billion.
  • While serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, Gillibrand supported immigration policies that rejected amnesty for any undocumented immigrants and said border security should be a “national security priority.”
Kamala Harris
Kamala Harris, senator from California (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Kamala Harris

Announced Jan. 21, 2019

Kamala Harris, 54, announced her presidential bid with immigration reform at the top of her list of issues. As the daughter of immigrants — her mother is from India and her father is from Jamaica — the U.S. senator for California and former California attorney general, has long been an ally for immigrants and immigration rights, as well as an an outspoken supporter for DACA recipients.

  • Harris hasn’t confirmed that she would abolish ICE if elected, but instead has called for a “complete overhaul of the agency, mission, culture and operations.”
  • In 2018, Harris co-sponsored the REUNITE Act, which would reunite families who had been separated at or near ports of entry along the border.
  • Harris sponsored eight bills relating to immigration in the 115th Congress, including one to reunite families separated at ports of entry, according to a report from ProPublica.
  • Harris, who doesn’t support Trump’s wall, says the U.S. needs to secure its borders through increased technology. “Let’s upgrade the technology, let’s look at the fact that folks who are working on border security on the ground know that they need upgraded infrastructure around things like drones, and they need cameras,” she said at a town hall in January.
  • In 2017, she became the first Senate Democrat to publicly vow to oppose any government funding bill unless Congress included a resolution to protect the 700,000 DREAMers affected by President Trump’s efforts to end the program.
  • In 2018, Harris co-sponsored the Keep Families Together Act.
Marianne Williamson
Marianne Williamson, author and spiritual advisor (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Marianne Williamson

Announced Jan. 28, 2019

Marianne Williamson, 66, is best known for her career as an author and Oprah Winfrey’s spiritual guru. The child of an immigration lawyer and a homemaker, Williamson has been vocal about her stances on immigration.

  • Williamson supports a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who don’t have serious criminal background issues and supports the need to reduce the cost of naturalization to ease that process.
  • Williamson supports DACA and wants to speed up the process for allowing asylum seekers to arrive in the U.S., according to her campaign website.
  • She does not support Trump’s border wall, but says the U.S. should increase the use of technology to secure the border where needed.
Cory Booker
Cory Booker, senator from New Jersey (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Cory Booker

Announced Feb. 1, 2019

Cory Booker, 49, is known for his work on criminal justice reforms. But the U.S. senator for New Jersey and former mayor of Newark also has been one of the more outspoken Democrats against President Trump’s immigration policies.

  • In 2017, Booker refused to sign an end-of-year spending bill that didn’t include a resolution for DACA.
  • Booker sponsored a bill to protect the personal information of DACA recipients from being given to ICE. He also co-sponsored the REUNITE Act, which would reunite families separated at or near ports of entry.
  • In 2018, Booker co-sponsored the Keep Families Together Act.
  • He was one of 11 Democrats who requested weekly updates about the families who had been separated at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Tulsi Gabbard
Tulsi Gabbard, representative from Hawaii’s second district (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Tulsi Gabbard

Announced Feb. 2, 2019

Tulsi Gabbard, 37, was elected to the U.S. House of Representative in 2012, representing Hawaii’s 2nd District. She is the first Hindu member of Congress. She previously was the youngest person elected to Hawaii’s legislature.

  • In 2015, Gabbard voted in favor of additional restriction on refugees entering the U.S. from Syria and Iraq.
  • Gabbard opposed the Trump administration’s travel ban as well as the president’s decision to end DACA.
  • In 2018, she co-sponsored the Keep Families Together Act in the House.
Elizabeth Warren
Elizabeth Warren, senator from Massachusetts (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Elizabeth Warren

Announced Feb 9, 2019

Elizabeth Warren, 69, is a U.S. senator from Massachusetts. Her campaign will likely focus on economic issues, ending lobbying in Washington and providing health care and affordable housing for middle- and low-income Americans, among others, according to her campaign website. Yet, her support of a comprehensive immigration reform is a message she often touts.

  • In August, Warren said the country needed an “immigration system that is effective, that focuses on where problems are.” She spoke at a press conference after the death of Mollie Tibbets, a 20-year-old college student in Iowa who was killed by an undocumented immigrant.
  • She’s condemned the Trump administration’s previous “zero-tolerance” policy, which led to families being separated at the U.S.-Mexico border. She supports calls to abolish ICE.
  • In 2018, Warren co-sponsored the REUNITE Act, which would reunite families who had been separated at or near ports of entry along the border.
  • In 2018, Warren co-sponsored the Keep Families Together Act.
  • Warren supports the DREAM Act.
Amy Klobuchar
Amy Klobuchar, senator from Minnesota (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Amy Klobuchar

Announced on Feb. 10, 2019

Amy Klobuchar, 58, has been a U.S. senator from Minnesota since 2007. She’s earned a reputation as a moderate, especially on issues dominating the 2020 election cycle, including universal health care, tuition-free college and a higher minimum wage.

  • Klobuchar supports a path to citizenship that would grant most undocumented immigrants legal status under plans such as the 2013 Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, which ultimately did not become law.
  • In 2018, Klobuchar co-sponsored the Keep Families Together Act.
  • She supports reforming the visa system by increasing the number of temporary work visas made available for immigrants.
  • Klobuchar has said she would not abolish ICE, but instead has called for its reform.
  • In a 2006 rally, Klobuchar said companies hiring illegal immigrants should not be granted amnesty. At another debate in 2006, she said she opposed granting Social Security benefits to illegal immigrants.
Bill Weld
Bill Weld, former governor of Massachusetts (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

William Weld

Announced Feb. 15, 2019

In February, William Weld, 73, became the first Republican challenger to President Trump. The former two-term Massachusetts governor opposes many of the administration’s deportation policies.

  • During the 2016 campaign, Weld compared Trump’s rhetoric toward immigrants to Nazi Germany.
  • He says the current H-1B visa program should expand and that the U.S. should invite more foreign students and entrepreneurs to support the country’s economy.
Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders, senator from Vermont (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Bernie Sanders

Announced Feb. 19, 2019

Bernie Sanders, 77, a U.S. senator representing Vermont, ranks among the top potential 2020 candidates in early polls, according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll. This is his second bid for the White House.

  • Sanders has promoted immigration reform around four pillars: addressing the legal status of undocumented residents; ensuring U.S. jobs via visa reform; securing the border without a border fence; and protecting undocumented workers from exploitation.
  • In 2018, Sanders co-sponsored the REUNITE Act, which would reunite families separated at or near ports of entry along the border.
  • In 2018, Sanders also co-sponsored the Keep Families Together Act.
  • Though he supports the DREAM Act and DACA, Sanders says the programs should be expanded.
  • Under his plan, most undocumented immigrants now in the country would be granted a path to citizenship. He voted for the failed 2013 Senate immigration bill, which would have provided a path to citizenship.
  • Sanders said he would “restructure” ICE.
Jay Inslee
Jay Inslee, governor of Washington (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Jay Inslee

Announced March 1, 2019

Jay Inslee, 68, is governor of Washington state and a former state legislator. Inslee is centralizing his campaign around climate change, but has taken action against Trump’s immigration policies.

  • Inslee supports DACA and has advocated for a path to citizenship for those brought to the country illegally as children.
  • In 2014, he signed what was dubbed as the Dream Act of Washington state, which offered college aid for students brought to the country illegally as children.
  • He sued the Trump administration in 2017 over its travel ban on visitors from several Muslim-majority countries.
  • In 2018, in response to Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy, Inslee authorized a $230,000 emergency fund to “support the civil legal aid services for immigrant families.”
John Hickenlooper
John Hickenlooper, former governor of Colorado (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

John Hickenlooper

Announced March 4, 2019

In his announcement video, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, 67, dubbed himself an “extreme moderate,” though he falls in line with most other Democrats on issues such as gun control, climate change, immigration and border security.

  • Hickenlooper publicly condemned the Trump administration’s family separation policies and refused to send Colorado’s National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in 2018.
  • In June 2018, he barred Colorado from using state resources to support federal practices that involved separating families.
  • In 2018, Hickenlooper signed a bill that streamlined Colorado’s immigrant driver’s license program, easing the renewal process and identification requirements for immigrants who have or are seeking a driver’s license.
Andrew Yang
Andrew Yang, venture capital entrepreneur (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Andrew Yang

Announced March 11, 2019

The signature issue for Andrew Yang, 44, is a universal basic income for U.S. adults. When it comes to immigration, the entrepreneur plans to create a “tier of long-term permanent residency” that would enable immigrants living in the U.S. illegally to attain citizenship in 18 years. Yang is the son of immigrants from Taiwan.

  • Under Yang’s proposal, undocumented immigrants who have lived in the country for a “substantial amount of time” could work and live in the U.S. while they wait, as long as they pay taxes and remain free of any felony convictions.
  • Yang plans to boost funding for U.S. ports of entry to thwart drug entry, improve technology to secure the southern border, invest in renewing and maintaining the Rio Grande, support the asylum court system and work with the Mexican government to “ensure a positive relationship” between the two countries.
Beto O'Rourke
Beto O’Rourke, former representative from Texas’ 16th district (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Robert Francis (Beto) O’Rourke

Announced March 14, 2019

Beto O’Rourke, 46, is from El Paso. He represented Texas’ 16th U.S. Congressional District for three terms. He challenged U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018, but was narrowly defeated. O’Rourke has been outspoken in his opposition to Trump’s border wall.

  • O’Rourke has said that “immigration is a cultural and economic good,” and he supports comprehensive immigration reform and a path to citizenship.
  • In 2017, he co-sponsored the DREAM Act.
  • He hasn’t outwardly called for ICE’s abolition, but has said he’s “‘open’ to the idea,” as long as the agency’s responsibilities are acquired by another.
  • In February 2019, when Trump held a rally in El Paso to garner support for his wall, O’Rourke held his own rally on the same night to oppose the wall.
  • In 2017, O’Rourke introduced the Protecting the Property Rights of Border Landowners Act to the House, which would “prohibit the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General from using eminent domain to acquire land for the purpose of constructing the wall,” among other purposes.
Wayne Messam
Wayne Messam, mayor of Miramar, Fla. (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Wayne Messam

Announced March 28, 2019

Wayne Messam, 44, the two-term mayor of Miramar, Florida., announced his presidential bid in a video, vowing to fix Washington. In the video, he says “Washington is broken” multiple times. His campaign will tackle gun safety, climate change, student-loan debt, and health-care costs, among other issues. The son of Jamaican immigrants, Messam has criticized Trump’s immigration proposals and rhetoric.

  • In 2017, Messam proposed immigration officials be required to have a warrant to enter city-owned buildings and some schools.
  • In a March 2019 interview with CityLab, Messam said that parks and recreation centers in Miramar “will not be places where there can be unwarranted immigration enforcement.” He said individuals should feel safe when attending city functions.
  • Messam penned an op-ed in March 2019 urging leaders to oppose SB 168, which would require states, local government and law enforcement entities to cooperate in the deportation of immigrant families.
Tim Ryan, representative from Ohio’s 13th district (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Tim Ryan

Announced April 4, 2019

Ohio U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, 45, is running as a “champion for manufacturing,” tying his bid for the White House to the recent closure of a local GM plant in the Youngstown area. Ryan is a more moderate Democrat who agrees with Trump on manufacturing and trade and opposes NAFTA, but generally aligns with other Democrats on social issues such as abortion rights, stricter gun laws, health care and climate change. He unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in a bid for minority leader after the 2016 election.

  • In 2018, he joined other Democrats in introducing the Keep Families Together Act in response to President Trump’s zero-immigration policy.
  • He voted in favor of providing disaster relief money and funding for the government without money for the wall and voted in favor of overturning Trump’s emergency declaration to fund the wall.
Eric Swalwell
Eric Swalwell, representative from California’s 15th district (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Eric Swalwell

Announced April 8, 2019

Eric Swalwell, 38, Democratic congressman from California and a former prosecutor, is making gun reform central to his campaign. As a member of the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees, Swalwell has been a vocal critic of President Trump and his policies.

  • In 2018, he voted against the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act, which would have amended immigration law, including changes to detention laws that say families coming to the border seeking asylum may be held together indefinitely at the border. The bill also would have included $25 billion for border security.
  • In 2017, he co-sponsored the DREAM Act.
  • He was a co-sponsor of the Reuniting Families Act, which would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act. It would reclassify spouses, permanent partners, minor children, and stepchildren of permanent residents as immediate relatives, among others.
  • Swalwell voted in favor of legislation that would prohibit the use of funds to implement  Trump’s executive order blocking travel or entry of individuals from majority Muslim countries.
    Pete Buttigieg
    Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind. (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

    Pete Buttigieg

    Announced exploratory committee Jan. 23, 2019; officially announced April 14, 2019.

    Pete Buttigieg, 37, is mayor of South Bend, Ind. Buttigieg served in the U.S. Navy Reserves, during which time he was deployed to Afghanistan for seven months and supports comprehensive immigration reform.

    • Buttigieg’s immigration plan includes “a balance of border security, tune-ups to the lawful immigration framework, [and] a path to citizenship for the undocumented.”
    • He says the administration should raise the cap on the number of asylum seekers allowed into the U.S.
    • For Buttigieg, “cybersecurity, climate security and security in the face of white nationalism are all clear and present security threats.” Immigration, however, especially when discussing those fleeing violence, is not, he’s said.
    • Buttigieg supports DACA and a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. He has also spoken out against President Trump’s decision to send troops to the border.
    • Buttigieg also opposes Trump’s border wall. In an interview with PBS News Hour, he said he think it’s “a mistake believing that border security is as simple as putting a wall from sea to shining sea.

The Investigative Reporting Workshop has been tracking immigration issues since President Trump began his term in January 2017. Check out our interactive timeline.

Sommer Brugal is an IRW fellow. Follow her on twitter @smbrugal.

The story has been updated to correct Beto O’Rourke’s birthplace.