Democratic U.S. presidential hopefuls seek contrast with Trump on immigration


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Candidates running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination have been uniformly critical of the immigration policies of U.S. President Donald Trump, who was elected after promising to crack down on illegal immigration and bolster enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Here is a look at the immigration positions of Trump and the leading Democratic candidates looking to take him on in the November election.


Since entering the White House in 2017, Trump has moved to end former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children from deportation.

He has also curtailed immigration from majority-Muslim countries, and temporarily instituted a policy along the U.S.-Mexico border separating children from the parents or guardians with whom they crossed the border, holding them in separate facilities.


The former vice president struggled in early presidential debates to defend some immigration measures taken by Obama when Biden served under him, including the deportation of more than 3 million immigrants between 2009 and 2016.

But in his immigration platform released Dec. 11, Biden acknowledged the pain caused by the Obama administration moves, even as he harshly criticized Trump’s policies.

The plan cites Biden’s support of DACA and if he is elected president, Biden would immediately reinstate and strengthen the program, including ensuring that participants are eligible for federal education grants to attend college.

Biden would end workplace immigration raids and stop enforcement actions at schools, medical facilities and houses of worship. He would provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and make it easier for those with legal residency to become citizens as well.


Warren, a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, has said she would decriminalize migration by immediately issuing guidance to federal prosecutors that they not pursue cases related to administrative immigration violations.

She would also separate immigration and law enforcement agencies into separate entities, and reshape the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and would support comprehensive reform.

Warren would eliminate privately owned immigration detention facilities and only detain those who pose a flight or safety risk. She would create an immigration court system independent from the U.S. Department of Justice and increase the number of refugees allowed into the country.


Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, says he would work with Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration bill that includes a pathway to citizenship. He has promised to halt all deportations until a full study can be made of current and past immigration policies and practices.

Sanders favors providing immediate legal status for those eligible for DACA. Sanders voted against ICE and would break it up along with CBP, distributing their responsibilities to other agencies.

He would decriminalize unauthorized immigration and streamline the process for applying for citizenship. However he has said that he opposes open borders.


Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, promises to push for a pathway to citizenship for the roughly 11 million people who are in the United States illegally, including participants in the DACA program.

He would back reforms to help those in the country on work visas to move more easily from one job to another. His immigration platform includes expanding visa programs to encourage immigrant doctors and nurses to work in areas where health care providers are scarce, and enacting programs that encourage young immigrants to move to communities that have lost working-age population.

A U.S. Navy veteran, Buttigieg has promised to protect immigrant soldiers from deportation and has criticized the Trump administration’s move to send troops to the U.S.-Mexico border as a waste of time.


Klobuchar, a U.S. senator from Minnesota, says she would push to re-open stalled Congressional negotiations over immigration reform within her first 100 days in office, aiming to pass a comprehensive bill in her first year.

She supports the DREAM act, which would encode in law protections for children brought to the United States illegally as well as a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who are in the country illegally.

Klobuchar would end Trump administration efforts to deport DACA recipients and those who are living in the United States under other programs aimed to protect them from violence and other issues in their home countries, such as Temporary Protected Status.


The former New York Mayor and billionaire founder of Bloomberg News supports a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million people in the United States illegally and an expansion of legal immigration.

He would end family separation at the border and restore protections for refugees. But Bloomberg opposes open borders.


Yang, a technology entrepreneur, supports the DREAM Act. He favors increasing the guest-worker program, while making sure workers leave when the approved time is up.

He supports a pathway to citizenship for people who are in the United States illegally, saying on his website that it would be “prohibitively expensive, disruptive and inhumane” to round up and deport the roughly 11 million people who do not have legal status.


Billionaire climate activist Steyer says as president he would decriminalize border crossings, processing those who enter the country illegally under civil law rather than criminal statutes.

Steyer would restore restrictions on immigrants with temporary protected status due to issues in their countries of origin, and end restrictions on travel from several mostly Muslim countries put in place by Trump.

Steyer backs a pathway to citizenship for people in the United States illegally and says he would reform ICE and CBP.

Reporting by Amanda Becker and Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Lisa Shumaker