Trump vs Biden: What Are Their Stances On Immigration?

Learn about the differences between Donald Trump and Joe Biden's immigration plans and records.
President Donald Trump (AP), Former Vice President Joe Biden ((Gage Skidmore/CC BY-SA), and migrants waiting to request political asylum in the United States, across the border in Tijuana, Mexico – June 13, 2018 (AP Photo/Gregory Bull).

President Donald Trump (AP), Former Vice President Joe Biden ((Gage Skidmore/CC BY-SA), and migrants waiting to request political asylum in the United States, across the border in Tijuana, Mexico – June 13, 2018 (AP Photo/Gregory Bull).

What is Donald Trump’s immigration plan?

President Donald Trump’s immigration plan resides on the official White House site rather than his campaign site, which, instead of plans lists “accomplishments.” Trump, or the White House, touts the “bold” plan, released May 21, 2019, as one ‘that will turn America’s broken immigration system from a source of national division into a point of pride and national unity.”

Well, that’s what it says. Whether that is what it does leaves room for debate. He claims it consists of two parts, “full border security;” and “a new merit-based legal immigration system.” but then breaks it down to the following ideas:

  • Fully secure the border.
  • Restore integrity to America’s exploited asylum process.
  • Modernize the legal immigration process to protect American workers.
  • Promote national unity.
  • Prioritize the immediate families of U.S. citizens and new immigrants.
  • Increases diversity and equality.

Fully secure the border.

That Trump’s wall-mania features prominently should not surprise anyone, and he calls for a permanent “border security fund” as well as the inspection of “100 percent of people and goods entering the United States.”

Restore integrity to America’s exploited asylum process.

The link in the paragraph to support this point leads only to a tweet with a video of Trump claiming there are abuses of the system.

Modernize the legal immigration process to protect American workers.

Here Trump bemoans “chance” deciding which immigrants can gain entry, with the claim that 70 percent of immigrants gain access through family or lottery. The diversity green card lottery allows the admission of 50,000 immigrants per year from countries with lower rates of immigration to the U.S. According to the Migration Policy Institute, for fiscal year (FY) 2018, for 1.1 Million immigrants given green cards:

  • 44% immediate relatives of US citizens;
  • 20% additional family (from countries with immigration caps);
  • 13% employer- or self-sponsored;
  • 4% lottery winners.

Citing the immediate family immigration, which provides the bulk of green card grants, conflicts directly with Trump’s subsequent suggestion to prioritize immediate family. Trump also routinely seeks to hire foreign workers.

Promote national unity.

Trump suggests promoting national unity requires immigrants must assimilate, trotting out the old “melting pot.” He also suggests that potential immigrants pass a U.S. civics exam and an English proficiency test. He does not note whether he is willing to subject himself to the same.

Prioritize the immediate families of U.S. citizens and new immigrants.

That this idea directly contradicts the two paragraphs above is not addressed or clarified.

Increases diversity and equality.

Trump suggests a point system for what he calls the “Build America Visa,” which focuses on the very concrete and not prone to any bias “extraordinary achievement and potential to contribute to our Nation.” There is no further information on how it promotes either diversity or equality.

Trump and/or the White House on his plan:

“The big idea in President Trump’s plan is that “pro-America” and “pro-immigrant” are synonyms.” Further, it continues, “It’s revealing that the only ones opposed to a safer, stronger immigration system are special interests who profit off the horrible status quo. Those forces against change include everyone from the corporations who exploit cheap, illegal labor to the career politicians who benefit from never solving the issue.”

Several major outlets have covered the fact the Trump Organization has used undocumented labor, including The Washington Post, Time, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair.

What is Donald Trump’s record on immigration?

Donald Trump’s actions on immigration sharply contradict his saccharine tone in his new plan, and it didn’t wow Republicans or Democrats. Revealed with the express intention of softening the perception of his stance on immigrants, critics quickly noted it contained nothing regarding undocumented immigrants or DREAMers, undocumented people brought to the U.S. as children.

Trump’s immigration policies to date are described euphemistically as “hardline,” and has included the Muslim Ban, ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), radically reducing the number of asylum claims processed, separating asylee children from their parents, some permanently, and placing the children in crowded camps without adequate food, water or hygiene under his “zero tolerance” policy. He increased ICE raids, targeting places like schools and churches, and the Justice Department, under the Trump Administration, recently created a division to denaturalize naturalized American citizens. He has argued he should have the power to hold detainees indefinitely, and they are crowded into for-profit detention centers.

On March 9, 2020, on the same day Trump tweeted “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!” his administration ordered immigration courts to remove all coronavirus posters, a move echoing the administration’s refusal to allow physicians to immunize detainees, even when physicians offered to do so at no cost. Though the administration’s previous attempt to hold detainees indefinitely was rejected by the courts, using COVID-19 as an excuse, it made a number of changes to the system, including postponing hearings, stopping all in-person services including naturalization ceremonies and suspending social visits. As some detainees protested the disease-spreading conditions in ICE detention centers, including lack of soap, the Trump Administration responded with reported uses of force, including pepper-spraying immigrants.

The Trump Administration expanded the public charge rule, which looks at an immigrant’s ability to support her- or himself. Upheld by the Supreme Court, it could extend to immigrants who utilize the premium credits under the ACA. With many facing a change in circumstances that would qualify them for coverage due to coronavirus, it seems a ready trap. (NOTE: Providing income information to obtain premium credits under the ACA is optional, and individuals can still get coverage without seeking them.)

In light of his actions on immigrants and immigration, Trump’s plan comes off as something intended for people who never read past the bold type, who will not notice the internal contradictions paragraphs apart, let alone the drastic contrast with what he has done. Any claim to a softer tone on immigration has not and does not mean action any less harsh.

Additional reading on Trump’s--and Republicans’--immigration stance.

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What is Joe Biden’s immigration plan?

Former Vice-President Joe Biden’s Plan for Securing Our Values as a Nation of Immigrants sets out its concrete goals for immigration. An analysis of Biden's plan by the issues is available here.

  • Take urgent action to undo Trump’s damage and reclaim America’s values
  • Modernize America’s immigration system
  • Welcome immigrants in our communities
  • Reassert America’s commitment to asylum-seekers and refugees
  • Tackle the root causes of irregular migration
  • Implement effective border screening

Take urgent action to undo Trump’s damage and reclaim America’s values

Biden will immediately end Trump’s zero tolerance family separation, and his plan for the first 100 days of his presidency include ending Trump’s misleadingly named “Migrant Protection Protocols” and restoring the asylum laws; ending asylum metering; and getting humanitarian relief to the border with public-private coalitions. Biden will stop indefinite detention and shift instead to case management which allows immigrants awaiting hearings to live within the community. Under Biden, Trump’s public charge rule goes, as does “emergency” wall -building.

Biden will restore DACA, rescind Trump’s Muslim Ban, and review the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) of vulnerable groups. He prioritizes enforcement to people who pose threats to the public or the nation, and will require training and transparency for ICE and Customs and Border Control (CBP). Naturalization will resume with an improved process, and immigrants who have served in the military will no longer be targeted for deportation.

Biden’s plan welcomes new immigrants with a revitalized Task Force on New Americans to aid in the issues faced when moving to a new country, and he will convene a multi-national meeting of leaders to discuss the issues behind migration.

Modernize America’s immigration system

Large-scale legislative immigration reform, with the help of Congress, would forge a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, reform the visa system for temporary workers for greater protection of the workers, increase diversity, and protect survivors of domestic violence, as well as undocumented immigrants reporting labor violations.

Welcome immigrants in our communities

The key piece of Biden’s plan to welcome immigrants is the Task Force for New Americans, a program established by The Obama-Biden Administration in 2014, which aims to integrate immigrants with local resources including Offices of Immigrant Affairs and neighborhood welcome centers. It would aid in relicensing for professionals and help permanent residents to naturalize, as well as encourage entrepreneurship.

Reassert America’s commitment to asylum-seekers and refugees

In addition to essentially reversing everything Trump has done regarding asylum-seekers and refugees, Biden will increase staff, including judges, to clear the backlog of cases. He will also increase asylum officers to evaluate cases, a move that will reduce duplication in determining whether people seeking asylum have a basis for the claim.

Tackle the root causes of irregular migration

As President, Biden seeks to work with the unstable regions in Central America driving people to migrate, utilizing aid and a humanitarian response to help to better conditions. He will also increase the ability of people needing asylum to seek it through refugee resettlement, reducing the number of people risking their lives to get to the US border.

Implement effective border screening

Utilizing technology and cross-agency collaboration, Biden plans to more effectively protect our borders while treating people humanely. He also plans a less adversarial relationship with Mexico and Canada, sharing information and capabilities.

COVID-19 Plan

Biden has a specific plan to address the novel coronavirus pandemic, which includes free and accessible care for immigrants, regardless of documentation, and emphasizes reversing Trump's public charge rule, as it lessens the likelihood immigrants will seek medical care.

What is Joe Biden’s record on immigration?

Joe Biden’s position on immigration evolved over his lengthy career. Though he, as a senator, along with most Democrats, voted for the Secure Fence Act in 2006, he now sees more value in technology rather than fencing. He also voted for the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007, which included a pathway to citizenship, but the legislation failed.

Much of that evolution happened during the Obama Administration, which was criticized for a high number of deportations in its first term. In response to the outcry, the Obama Administration changed its immigration policy, creating the “Blueprint for Building a 21st Century Immigration System,” intended to better allocate resources, to modernize, and to create a pathway to citizenship. The Administration created DAPA, (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans), which ended when House Republicans challenged President Obama’s authority to create the program, and DACA which Trump ended (a move now awaiting Supreme Court ruling).

Though initially reluctant to disavow the early Obama Administration deportations, Biden now says, “We took far too long to get it right,” and calls the mass deportations a “big mistake.”

On immigration, Biden says:

“The challenges we face will not be solved by a constitutionally dubious “national emergency” to build a wall, by separating families, or by denying asylum to people fleeing persecution and violence. Addressing the Trump-created humanitarian crisis at our border, bringing our nation together, reasserting our core values, and reforming our immigration system will require real leadership and real solutions. Biden is prepared on day one to deliver both.”

A side-by-side comparison of policies.

There is essentially no overlap in the immigration policies of Biden and Trump, and Biden seeks to overturn Trump’s actions on the issue. Here are some key points and how Biden and Trump differ.

Issue Biden Trump
DACA
  • Biden would restore DACA and seek permanent legislative solutions, including a pathway to citizenship.
  • Trump ended DACA. A case challenging that action is before the Supreme Court.
Legal Immigration
  • Encourages legal immigration, emphasizing diversity and suggests a Task Force for New Americans to help welcome and settle immigrants.
  • Trump instituted the Muslim Ban, reducing and/or prohibiting legal immigration from several countries;
  • Made a wealth test out of the public charge rule;
  • Seeks to eliminate or reduce the visa lottery system in favor of a “points system.”
  • Seeks to both increase and decrease family immigration.
Asylum
  • Restore fleeing domestic violence and being a member of the LGBTQ community as grounds for asylum, among other eliminated bases.
  • Increase asylum officers at the border to reduce duplication.
  • End indefinite detention
  • Move to community-based case management.
  • End for-profit detention.
  • Closed border crossing points so people legally applying for asylum crossed “illegally.”
  • Eliminated bases like domestic violence and LGBTQ persecution.
  • Enforces metering, limiting asylees.
  • Muslim Ban prevents refugees from certain countries.
  • Lowered refugee ceiling every year.
Family Separation
  • End zero tolerance, end family separation, and reunite separated families.
  • Created family separation; any change to policy is as a result of court orders.
Deportation
  • Would restore enforcement priorities of the Obama Administration, focusing on threats to public and national safety.
  • Would protect veterans from deportation.
  • Would prevent employers from abusing the threat of deportation.
  • End Trump’s immigration enforcement at schools, courthouses, hospitals and houses of worship.
ICE
  • Calls for professional standards, training and oversight for ICE and CBP.
  • ICE under Trump compared to Gestapo, performing mass roundups, targeting schools, hospitals, churches and courthouses, spiking the arrests of immigrants.
  • Trump broadened ICE’s scope to arrest, including immigrants with no criminal records.

The Rantt Rundown

The only thing Trump’s and Biden’s plans for immigration have in common is Biden’s pledge to undo essentially everything Trump has done on immigration, while working with Congress to create legislation that better protects immigrants. Trump presented a new “plan” for immigration with the purpose of softening his tone, but his actions, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, contradict any suggestion improving his treatment of immigrants. While advocates criticized the Obama Administration for its deportations, the Administration heard and responded to the criticism, and Biden’s plan seeks to cement and further the Administration’s goal of welcoming, supporting and aiding immigrants while using technology to secure the borders.

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Rantt 101 // Donald Trump / Immigration / Joe Biden