Here’s Where the Top Presidential Candidates Stand on Immigration Policy

Lead Photo: Ted Richardson
Ted Richardson
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We’re not even a month into the new year, and we already wish Donald Trump and Ted Cruz would STFU about immigration. Both presidential candidates released campaign ads last week that heavily focused on immigration. That coupled with the recent wave of deportation proceedings that have the end goal of repatriating recently arrived Central American immigrants fleeing gang violence has once again put the issue at the forefront.

Though we know that Latinos care about issues other than immigration – like education and health care, for example – we decided to have a closer look at where the top presidential candidates stand on the contentious issue.

Here’s where the top six candidates stand on immigration:


Ted Cruz (R)

In his newest ad, titled Invasion, Ted Cruz suggests that if those crossing the Mexico-U.S. border were doctors, journalists, and other white-collar professionals, the border would already be secure.

Cruz has taken a hardline stance on immigration, saying at the most recent Republican debate that he “led the fight against” legalization and amnesty and to secure our borders. He even said that he’s never supported legalization.

However, in May 2013, he was more open to immigration reform. “I do not want immigration reform to fail,” he said, according to Fox News. “I want immigration reform to pass. And so I would urge the people of good faith from both sides of the aisle that if the objective is to pass common sense immigration reform that secures the borders, that improves legal immigration and allows those who are here illegally to come in out of the shadows, then we should look for areas of bipartisan agreement and compromise to come together.”

Though he previously said that immigration reform would help undocumented immigrants stop hiding, his immigration plan now highlights reversing “President Obama’s enforcement ‘priorities,’ which allow a large number of criminal aliens to unlawfully remain in the United States.”


Hillary Clinton (D)

Hillary Clinton has also done a 180 when it comes to immigration. Clinton’s Twitter account regularly tweets in support of Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

Hillary Clinton has also done a 180 when it comes to immigration. Clinton’s Twitter account regularly tweets in support of Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

As recently as October, Clinton showed just how much she supported immigrants by saying that she wanted to expand health care to include undocumented children. And in her campaign section, she highlights her “longstanding, steadfast commitment to America’s immigrants throughout her career.”

In 2003, however, she said she was “adamantly against illegal immigrants.” “We’ve got to do more at our borders,” she said, according to the New York Post. “And people have to stop employing illegal immigrants.”

Three years later, she was in favor of a path to citizenship, but she was still pro-fence.

Fast forward to today, where her plans for immigration include complete legislative reform with a path to full citizenship, upholding Obama’s DACA and DAPA executive actions, and ending family detention.


Donald Trump (R)

Donald Trump has perhaps voiced his views on immigration more loudly than anyone else. Though he has targeted Mexicans since day 1 of his campaign with his bigoted, vile speech, his new ad mistook the Mexico border for the one in Morocco.

When called out on it, his campaign said, “So it’s Morocco – it’s Mexico. The people are pouring into this country – we don’t know who they are. What’s the difference?” Truly, this is a great summary of his uninformed views on the immigrant community.

Trump, who continues to insist that Mexico will pay for the wall he proposes to erect between the two countries, is all in favor of nationwide e-verify, detention of undocumented immigrants, and defunding of sanctuary cities.


Bernie Sanders (D)

By June, Bernie Sanders had been criticized for not speaking out on immigration. But according to The Huffington Post, that month he definitively stated his position, albeit without articulating any policy specifics. “Despite the central role that undocumented workers play in our economy and in our daily lives, these workers are too often reviled by many for political gain and shunted into the shadows. Let me be very clear as to where I stand,” he said. “It is time for this disgraceful situation to end.”

Since then, Sanders has hired two of the nation’s top immigration activists – Erika Andiola and Cesar Vargas. Sanders now vows to shut down private detention centers and to unify families who have been unfairly targeted.


Marco Rubio (R)

At the fifth Republican debate, Marco Rubio tried to get Ted Cruz to admit that his stance on immigration has changed over the years. Though he was unsuccessful in that aspect, Rubio said he supported a path to citizenship.

“I am personally open – after all that has happened and after ten years in that probationary status where all they have is a permit, I personally am open to allowing people to apply for a green card. That may not be a majority in my party, but that’s down the road. You can’t even begin that process until you prove to people – not just pass a law that says you’re going to have to bring illegal immigration under control. You’re going to have to do it and prove to people that it’s working,” he said.

His campaign site says that the first step is to secure the border, because as it stands, the system is “chaotic” and “archaic.”


Jeb Bush

While Jeb Bush uses the offensive term “illegal immigrants,” he has been vocal about supporting a path to citizenship. In 2014, he acknowledged that many immigrants come to the United States for the opportunities they can’t get in their native countries. Bush called it an “act of love,” and this year, when asked if he still felt this way, he said he did.

“I believe that the great majority of people coming here illegally have no other option,” he said, according to The Hill. “They want to provide for their family, but we need to control our border. It’s our responsibility to pick and choose who comes in.”

His immigration strategy includes getting rid of sanctuary cities and incorporating E-verify, a system where employers will easily be able to see if someone has the right to work in the United States.

“We must find a practical solution to the status of the 11 million people here illegally today,” he said on his website. “We need a vigorous path to earned legal status where people are required to learn English, pay a fine and taxes, pass a criminal background check, work and not receive federal government benefits.”