A Look at the Democratic Presidential Candidates’ Immigration Platforms

Lead Photo: Julian Castro, Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Beto O'Rourke speaks during the first night of the Democratic presidential debate on June 26, 2019 in Miami, Florida. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Julian Castro, Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Beto O'Rourke speaks during the first night of the Democratic presidential debate on June 26, 2019 in Miami, Florida. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
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Immigration is not the only (or even the most) important issue to Latino voters, but especially with the current administration’s attacks on these communities, it’s necessary to address the United States’ broken immigration system. As of now, in the very packed field, there are only a handful of Democratic presidential candidates who have revealed their detailed plans – with Julián Castro, who released his plan in April, leading the pack.

While each of these plans have similarities – i.e. they’re not Donald Trump-approved – they also have several differences. Below, read on to learn what each candidate hopes to achieve if they win the election.

Editor’s Note: This article will be updated as politicians release more details of their immigration plans. 


Cory Booker

Cory Booker has vowed to make the immigration system fairer from day one. “We can’t wait for Congress to act, which is why, as president, Cory will start on Day One to end the abuses of the Trump Administration and use his executive authority to reform our immigration system…,” his site reads. For him, this means respecting those attempting to enter the country, looking at the “root causes of the migration and refugee crisis,” and undoing much of the harm that Trump has done.

Though he doesn’t aim to shut down detention centers as a whole, he does want to focus on improving conditions in these facilities. Booker also wants to change the system in significant ways, including by not treating immigrants as criminals, reforming Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), ending the backlog of immigration cases, and expanding pathways for refugees and those seeking asylum.

“As president, Cory will meet our international responsibility head-on by removing the unnecessary barriers put in place by the Trump Administration including the Remain in Mexico policy, asylum metering, the asylum ban, guidance that makes it more difficult for gang and domestic violence victims to obtain protection, and the Muslim and refugee bans,” the candidate’s site reads. “Cory would also increase the cap on refugees to a minimum of 110,000, strengthen staffing at the border for interviews for asylum seekers, and strengthen in-country refugee processing in Central America.”

Read more here.


Julián Castro

Julián Castro revealed his plan in a Medium post titled “Putting people first,” which starts with an anecdote about his grandmother arriving in the United States after being separated from her dying mother. Castro has one of the most comprehensive plans – there’s even a section talking about LGBTQ community and the added barriers they face. Because immigrants have been failed by this country, Castro said, the next president of the United States must start by undoing all the harmful policies enacted during the Trump administration. Then, the legal immigration system needs to be repaired so that we can make profound changes.

“We need a pathway to full and equal citizenship for the 11 million people living here peacefully, and contributing to our culture and our economy,” he wrote. “We must protect Dreamers and their parents, and folks under protected status who fled natural disasters, persecution, or violence. We need to revamp the visa system and end the backlog of people who are waiting to reunite with their families.

We must end the three- and 10-year bars that require undocumented individuals – who otherwise qualify for legal status – to leave the country and their families behind, in order to attain citizenship.”

He also emphasized the need to make immigration a civil issue. “The truth is, immigrants seeking refuge in our country aren’t a threat to national security,” he added. “Migration shouldn’t be a criminal justice issue.”

Read more here.


Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris, who touts her history of helping immigrants on her website, says she is dedicated to improving conditions for this community.

“As president, Kamala will fight to pass immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million people living in our communities and contributing to our economy,” her site reads. “While she wages that fight, she will immediately reinstate DACA and implement DAPA to protect DREAMers and their parents from deportation. She will also restore and expand Temporary Protected Status for hundreds of thousands of immigrants who would face war or catastrophe if forced to return home.”

As for immigrant detention centers, Harris is focused on shutting down those that are privately owned. Furthermore, she wants to increase oversight of immigration agencies.

Currently, the Trump administration is making it harder for immigrants to claim asylum at the border, something they are fully within their rights to do. This is something Harris wants to rectify. And though this may be a positive, in the same section, her site explains that she wants to “aggressively pursue a foreign policy focused on stabilizing Central America,” which will likely be a concern to some given the U.S.’s history of interventionism in the area.

Read more here.


Beto O'Rourke

On day one of his presidency, Beto O’Rourke vows to use “executive authority to stop the inhumane treatment of children, reunite families that have been separated, reform our asylum system, rescind the travel bans, and remove the fear of deportation for Dreamers and beneficiaries of programs like TPS.”

He also wants to overhaul the court system by increasing the number of court staff, clerks, interpreters and judges, but also by separating the courts from the U.S. Department of Justice.

While, according to his site, his plan “[represents] the most sweeping rewrite of our nation’s immigration and naturalization laws in a generation,” he didn’t mention repealing Section 1325, which makes coming into the US without documentation a criminal offense. At the first debate, O’Rourke argued that it was “just one small part of this. I’m talking about a comprehensive rewrite of our immigration laws.”

The last part of Beto’s immigration plan includes strengthening our relationships with neighboring countries. “We need to refocus on supporting democracy and human rights and invest in reducing violence because the only path to regional security runs through a more democratic and prosperous Latin America,” the plan reads.

Read more here.


Elizabeth Warren 

Elizabeth Warren’s immigration plan is quite detailed. Her plan includes significantly reducing immigration detention, keeping law enforcement and immigration enforcement separate, and raising the refugee cap.

“At a time when 70 million are displaced around the world, President Trump has abused his authority to lower the refugee cap for the United States, admitting just over 22,000 refugees in total last year,” she wrote. “I’ll welcome 125,000 refugees in my first year, and ramping up to at least 175,000 refugees per year by the end of my first term.”

Warren’s plan acknowledges the importance of creating pathways to citizenship and welcoming more immigrants, but it also takes into consideration those who are new immigrants. The candidate proposes creating an Office of New Americans, which will help new immigrants “transition into our society and economy.”

Though she hopes to move forward with Congress by her side, she is ready to act through executive action if necessary.

“I’ll work with Congress to pass broad-reaching reform, but I’m also prepared to move forward with executive action if Congress refuses to act,” she wrote. “We cannot continue to ignore our immigration challenges, nor can we close our borders and isolate the United States from the outside world. Instead we need big, structural change: a fair immigration system that preserves our security, grows our economy, and reflects our values. That’s good for immigrants, good for workers, and ultimately good for the United States.”

Read more here.