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What the 2020 Candidates Are Saying on Immigration


In every election he’s been a part of, from 2016 to 2018 and special elections in between, Donald Trump has been a deeply polarizing figure, running divisive and anti-immigrant campaigns in attempts to turn out his base. These campaigns have demonized immigrants, sought to divide Americans, and usually backfired.

In 2020, there will be a slate of Democratic candidates vying to go up against Trump, and they have drawn a stark contrast to Trump in their rhetoric on immigrants. Here is some of what they have said; check back as we update this list.

Need for immigration reform

  • “An immigration system that is administered so that it is not able to tell the difference between a criminal, a terrorist, and a 12-year-old little girl is an immigration system that not only is not keeping us safer, it does not reflect our values,’” said Elizabeth Warren
  • “I believe that immigrants don’t diminish America, that they are America. That means to me that we need to have comprehensive immigration reform,” said Amy Klobuchar.
  • “Immigration laws that benefit our country is not a new idea. We are who we are as a nation because of immigration. This is our moral values. It is our economic well-being, and it’s what makes us distinctive on the planet Earth,” said Cory Booker.
  • “Part of the problem, the failure of the system right now, there is no path for people to have legal status, we have to have comprehensive immigration reform,” said Kamala Harris.  

Pathway to citizenship

  • “I believe we should create a path to citizenship and take off the burden of worrying about … deportation,” said Julián Castro
  • Amy Klobuchar, said we need to bring back the idea of comprehensive immigration reform that was “a mix of things, security money but it was also about a pathway to citizenship,” because she said, “all we hear right now is hateful rhetoric.”  
  • “As the son of immigrants, I believe that immigrants make the US more dynamic and innovative. We should strengthen and enforce our borders, and provide a long-term path to citizenship for those who are here to make a better life for their families,” said Andrew Yang.

Dream Act

  • “Let’s legalize and free the DREAMers from any fear of deportation by making them U.S. citizens in this country, and let’s go forward living our values in everything that we do, including, especially in, immigration,” said Beto O’Rourke.
  • Julián Castro said he would prioritize immigration reform including, “codifying DACA into law.”


  • “I disagree with any policy that would turn America’s back on people who are fleeing harm. I frankly believe that it is contrary to everything that we have symbolically and actually said we stand for. And so I would not enforce a law that would reject people and turn them away without giving them a fair and due process to determine if we should give them asylum and refuge,” said Kamala Harris.
  • Julián Castro said we need to reform our immigration system but said the Trump Administration “ought to follow international law and our practice, which is to allow them to seek asylum when they present themselves.”

Trump’s border wall and family separation policy

  • “The President’s deeply immoral actions have made it obvious — we need to rebuild our immigration system from top to bottom, starting by replacing ICE with something that reflects our morality and that works,” Elizabeth Warren said. “President Trump seems to think the only way to have immigration rules is to rip parents from their families, is to treat rape victims and refugees like terrorists and to put children in cages. This is ugly, this is wrong, and this is not the way to run our country.”
  • Julián Castro said we should extend “a hand of friendship, of opportunity to countries in our hemisphere – this approach is much more in keeping with our values. This is a mutually beneficial way to engage Central Americans, not a slap in the face like the wall.” Castro continued by calling Trump a failure on immigration and said: “he told us that if we would just be cruel enough to separate little children from their parents that would deter additional families from coming to our country – he couldn’t have been more wrong.”
  • Camila, was “sent to her death,” said Pete Buttigieg, of the transgender Salvadoran woman who sought asylum in the U.S. and was murdered after being deported.
  • “We are not safe because of walls but in spite of walls,” said Beto O’Rourke. He said that Trump’s wall would “ensure death.” O’Rourke said that more investment on border security would take it further “past the point of diminishing returns.”  
  • Bernie Sanders called for a “humane border policy” and “no more snatching babies from the arms of their mothers.”
  • “At our best moments, we have not been afraid of immigrants,” Kirsten Gillibrand said. “That is not what we have seen from this President, what he has done, is inhuman and intolerable. He is separating children from families, mothers from babies and locking up people in for-profit prison companies.”
  • “Trump’s practice of arresting unaccompanied minors on their 18th birthday and placing them in adult detention centers isn’t just cruel, it violates Congressional intent. Congress has been clear on this issue: ICE is expected to place unaccompanied immigrant children ‘in the least restrictive setting available.’ That includes immigrants who turn 18 in U.S. custody,” said John Delaney
  • “Let’s keep speaking out until every single infant is out of detention in Texas and elsewhere. This cannot be who we are as a country” said Kamala Harris. “That’s not just immoral, it’s dangerous.”
  • “I will not support the building of a wall that does not make us safer,” said Elizebeth Warren. “The kind that is proposed now is a monument to hate and division. We are a better country than that,”
  • Julián Castro said Trump has given the country a “false choice…we’re always going to need a secure border and we can make investments to ensure that our border is always secure. But we can also be humane and not take children away from their mothers or their fathers.”

Social Security

“First, we need comprehensive immigration reform. If you are in this country now you must have the right to pay into Social Security, to pay your taxes, to pay into the local school system and to have a pathway to citizenship. That must happen,” said Kirsten Gillibrand.


  • “And when American families are barely living paycheck to paycheck, what is this administration’s response?. . . Their response is to blame immigrants as the source of all our problems. And guys lets understand what is happening here: people in power are trying to convince us that the villain in our American story is each other,” said Kamala Harris.