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Presidential Candidates Finally Debate Immigration

FlagWhile the rest of the country has been talking about immigration policies and immigration reform for the better part of the election cycle, the American public has yet to witness its 2016 presidential candidates debate the topic openly – until now.  This next debate between Republican nominee Mr. Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Mrs. Hillary Clinton will specifically focus on the candidates’ positions on critical immigration issues.

Since the outcome of the election will greatly affect the millions of undocumented foreign nationals currently residing in the U.S., as well as the thousands of businesses and foreign nationals who are currently working in the U.S., it is critical to understand the differences between the two candidates’ positions on immigration reform and immigration policy in general.

Donald Trump’s Views on Immigration

Mr. Trump has described the current state of U.S. immigration policy as “worse than anyone’s ever realized it.”  Among other changes he calls for, Mr. Trump wishes to stop accepting foreign nationals who are escaping terrorism in their home countries, saying that the U.S. should improve the conditions of its own citizens before offering benefits to foreign nationals.

Perhaps the most discussed part of Mr. Trump’s immigration proposal is his idea that the U.S. should build a wall alongside its Mexican border and require Mexico to pay for the wall’s construction.  Mr. Trump estimates that the cost of the wall will be $5 billion to $10 billion.  Additionally, Mr. Trump wants to repudiate birthright citizenship and deport any foreign national who is in the U.S. without authorization.  He is also calling for implementing a requirement that U.S. companies try to hire U.S. workers before turning to the foreign workforce.

Mr. Trump’s overarching immigration goal is to reduce the incoming levels of foreign nationals in order to reduce the percentage of the population who are foreign-born.

Hillary Clinton’s Views on Immigration

It should come as no surprise that Mrs. Clinton’s plans are in stark contrast to those of her Republican adversary.  Mrs. Clinton wants to provide legal immigration status to undocumented foreign nationals and places a high priority on ensuring that families are not divided by deportation.  She has even pledged to introduce immigration bills that would establish a pathway to citizenship for these foreign nationals, and she has promised to do so during the critical first 100 days after she takes office.

Mrs. Clinton also aims to end both family detention and privately administered immigrant detention centers.  These facilities have been found to be unsafe and not up to humane standards of cleanliness.  She is also planning to increase the number of lawful permanent residents (green card holders) who can be eligible for waivers of the naturalization application fees and to expand the use of and access to language assistance programs.

Perhaps her most controversial proposal is to expand eligibility for the Affordable Care Act so that foreign nationals may qualify for it as well.  Mrs. Clinton also promises to change the culture of immigration enforcement by instituting a more dignified and humane approach to enforcement policies and by prioritizing criminal foreign nationals for deportation purposes.

The Rant

The differences between the candidates’ polarizing platforms on immigration reform are vast. We have one candidate who proposes to impede immigration at every stage, adopting an enforcement only solution while scrutinizing the existing immigrant population; and we have the other candidate proposing a path to legalizing immigrant status for many of those who are in the U.S. without status, creating opportunities for increased immigration to meet our economy’s needs, continue to use immigration to help address the refugee plight the world is experiencing, and to create assistance for those in the process of naturalizing. The stark contrast of these polarized position leaves no middle ground. Their candidates’ positions on immigration could serve as a proxy for the entire presidential campaign which has been marked by rhetoric, hyperbolic statements about their opponent’s positions, and highlighted by insults and misstatements about one another. I have heard people jokingly suggest that both candidates should be deported so we can move past this divisive election and begin to try to find areas where we can compromise with one another. Whomever is elected, immigration is an area where we must find compromise to fix what is broken. As voters, it is up to you determine who would be the best candidate to help make that happen.

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