Updated Sept. 20, 2019
Twenty-four 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 alphabetically) stand on immigration:
Announced May 2, 2019
Sen. Michael Bennet, 54, of Colorado, has dubbed himself a centrist Democrat who can offer both business and managerial experience to the presidency. Bennet, an attorney and the former superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, has criticized President Trump’s immigration policies and has been a long-time supporter of Dreamers.
- In 2009, after being elected to the U.S. Senate, Bennet co-sponsored the Dream Act of 2009. He also co-sponsored the Dream Act of 2017.
- He was a member of the “Gang of Eight,” a bipartisan group of senators who produced legislation to overhaul to the country’s immigration system. It changed how the U.S. treated both existing and undocumented workers as well as aspiring immigrants, and extended legal status to most of the 11 million immigrants who entered the country illegally.
- In 2019, he voted to overturn Trump’s emergency declaration that called for a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Announced April 25, 2019
Former Vice President Joe Biden, 76, is running on an anti-populist platform, highlighting his plans for infrastructure reform, tax cuts for the middle class and reducing income inequality. Since leaving office, Biden has been a harsh critic of President Trump and his policies, including those on immigration.
- He refuted Trump’s claims that a border wall would stop the flow of immigrants and illegal drugs and instead advocated for “smart investments in border technology,” according to an op-ed he penned in the Miami Herald in 2019. He also recommends focusing foreign policy on the push factors that have encouraged Central American people to flee north, including a lack of economic opportunities.
- In 2018, he said the administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy was “one of the darkest moments in our history.”
- In 2014, while vice president, Biden said immigrants living in the country illegally were “already citizens” in his view.
- In 2007, Biden, while a senator from Delaware, voted against a cloture motion that would have moved the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 forward to the Senate floor. The legislation would have “tightened border security, cracked down on the hiring of illegal immigrants and provided a path for such immigrants to stay and work legally” in the country.
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.
Announced May 14, 2019
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, 53, is focusing his run for the White House on campaign finance reform that would eliminating dark money from politics, according to a video announcing his 2020 presidential bid. He also is touting his success on progressive issues in a red state, including Medicaid expansion. Bullock served as Montana attorney general for one term before becoming the state’s governor in 2012.
- In 2017, Bullock was one of 11 governors to sign a letter urging Congress to protect DREAMERS and block President Trump’s attempts to rescind DACA.
- In 2018, Bullock denied Trump’s request for Montana to deploy National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to stop illegal immigration and drug trafficking.
- In May 2019, Bullock vetoed an anti-sanctuary bill passed by the Montana Legislature that would have banned sanctuary policies and honored ICE-issued detainees.
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 thinks it’s “a mistake believing that border security is as simple as putting a wall from sea to shining sea.
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.
Bill de Blasio
Announced May 15, 2019
Dropped out Sept. 20, 2019
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, 58, announced his bid for the White House in a three-minute video titled “Working People First.” His campaign will focus on improving lives for working Americans. De Blasio has been a vocal critic of President Trump’s immigration policies and in 2016 vowed to provide legal aid for immigrants facing deportation.
- In May 2019, de Blasio defended his decision to expand the list of crimes under which New York City could turn immigrants over to ICE. Seven “serious” crimes, such as sex trafficking of a child, were added to the list already in force. An immigrant would have to be convicted before being turned over to federal authorities.
- In April 2019, de Blasio responded to Trump’s threat to release detained undocumented immigrants in New York City in statement: “President Trump has yet again proven that the only constant in his immigration policy is cruelty. He uses people like pawns. New York City will always be the ultimate city of immigrants — the president’s empty threats won’t change that.”
- In January 2019, de Blasio announced a $100 million plan to provide health insurance to undocumented immigrants as well as low-income residents.
- In 2017, de Blasio spoke out against Trump’s Muslim ban, saying the decision to mandate an executive order was “un-American.”
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.
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.
Announced Jan. 15, 2019
Dropped out Aug. 28, 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.”
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.
Announced March 4, 2019
Dropped out Aug. 15, 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.
Announced March 1, 2019
Dropped out Aug. 22, 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.”
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.
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.
Announced April 22, 2019
Dropped out Aug. 23, 2019
U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, 40, of Massachusetts’ Sixth Congressional District, is positioning himself as an anti-socialist who opposes the Medicare for All bill, which, if passed, would replace the Affordable Care Act. His campaign will likely focus on national security and defense issues. The three-term congressman, a Marine officer who served four tours of duty in Iraq, has criticized the president frequently, including Trump’s push for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
- In 2018, Moulton spoke out against separating families held at the border.
- He advocates comprehensive immigration reform that supports DREAMERS and a path to citizenship for individuals living in the country illegally.
- Moulton voted against the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2018, which would have required DNA testing to establish family relationships for those seeking entry to the country and appropriations for a southern border wall.
Announced Nov. 12, 2018
Dropped out Jan. 25, 2019
Before his brief bid for president, Richard Ojeda, 48, was formerly a Democratic state senator in West Virginia. The retired Army paratrooper announced his campaign at the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C. on Veterans Day. He said he voted for Trump but reversed his opinion early in his presidential term.
- Ojeda said he disagreed with Trump’s zero tolerance immigration policy, saying he was personally touched by the issue since his grandfather was undocumented, The Hill reported.
- In 2018, Ojeda called Trump’s deployment of troops to the U.S.-Mexico border “a political stunt” on MSNBC’s Morning Joe show.
- In 2017, Ojeda tweeted that immigration is economically beneficial for the United States.
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.
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.
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.
Announced June 22, 2019
Joe Sestak, a 67-year-old former Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania, is running on the platform that his experience as Navy admiral gives him the understanding it takes to shape foreign policy.
- Sestak said he would grant all immigrants and asylum-seekers the right to an attorney, timely due process and decent conditions in detention, according to priorities he posted on his website. He also called the policy of separating children “shameful” and said he would end it.
- During a failed bid for the U.S. Senate in 2016, Sestak announced his plan for “a tough but fair path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants,” according to a local Pennsylvania newspaper he spoke to.
Announced July 9, 2019
Tom Steyer, a 62-year-old hedge fund founder and billionaire philanthropist from California, kicked off his campaign for the Democratic nomination pledging to spend at least $100 million of his own money to beat Trump. Steyer has launched an organization that creates TV ads and a petition to encourage Congress to start impeachment proceedings against the president. Steyer also founded NextGen America, a non-profit that registers young people to vote on issues relating to climate change, women’s reproductive rights, affordable health care and immigration reform.
- With a net worth of $1.6 billion, the causes Steyer donates to reveal his agenda, including giving at least $3.3 million to immigrant legal aid groups that fight deportation cases. He also spent seven figures on a commercial, aired in English and Spanish, with audio obtained by ProPublica of immigrant children crying in a detention facility after being separated from their parents. The ad encouraged viewers to call Congress about what Steyer deemed Trump’s inhumane treatment of children.
- Steyer has spoken against the current treatment of children at the border, calling the facilities they are kept in “concentration camps.” Steyer said his objection stems from his belief that the children and families seeking asylum have the right to be in the U.S. In 2019, he tweeted: “Seeking asylum in the United States is legal. Nobody deserves to be held in indefinite detention.”
Announced April 8, 2019
Dropped out July 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Investigative Reporting Workshop has been tracking immigration issues since President Trump began his term in January 2017. Check out our interactive timeline.