Just like the presidential matchup, the vice presidential debate between Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) and Virginia Senator Tim Kaine (D) presents a sharp contrast on immigration – each candidate embodies and embraces their respective parties’ wildly distinct visions about immigrants and immigration reform.
Below, we offer key immigration questions for each ticket; provide a backgrounder on Gov. Pence and Sen. Kaine and their records on key immigration-related topics; and provide additional backgrounders and resources for reading up on the most timely immigration-related topics.
Key Questions for the GOP Ticket on Immigration:
1) You have said you will immediately end President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, including the DACA program that currently protects 750,000 young people commonly referred to as DREAMers from deportation. Would you subject them to deportation?
2) Polls consistently show that by a 3-1 margin Americans believe undocumented immigrants should be able to gain legal status by meeting certain criteria, rather than be deported. Why do you support the deportation of most of these people, especially given the multiple reports that doing so would cause significant damage to the economy and impose significant costs on the federal government?
Key Questions for the Democratic Ticket on Immigration:
1) President Obama promised early action on immigration reform during his first year in office and again after his re-election. You have done the same. He didn’t get legislation passed, how will your administration be different?
2) What will be your policy toward Central Americans fleeing widespread violence in the northern triangle countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala?
Backgrounder: Mike Pence and Immigration:
As Indiana’s Governor, Pence has fear-mongered over Syrian refugees being resettled in his state (yesterday, a federal appeals court ruled against Gov. Pence and his attempt to ban Syrians’ resettlement, noting that the Governor has no authority to withhold funding from refugee resettlement organizations based on fear and “nightmare speculation.”)
Pence also supported Indiana joining onto the partisan lawsuit challenging the DAPA/DACA+ immigration executive actions, leading to a stalemate for millions of families deserving of relief; and stated in regards to a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers, ‘we should not reward people with citizenship whose first act in this country was a violation of the law.’
In the House of Representatives, then-Rep. Pence’s most notable fingerprints on immigration were his 2006 complicated and unworkable proposal centered on the ‘report to deport’ concept for the undocumented population in America. After first demanding border security upgrades, Pence’s plan would have required undocumented immigrants to return to their home countries, where some could then become guest workers in America. After 17 years, some of these guest workers would be allowed to apply for citizenship.
Backgrounder: Tim Kaine and Immigration:
As Virginia’s Governor and now Senator, Kaine has a stellar record on immigration matters. But, as we noted at the time of his announcement as the Democratic VP nominee, “his commitment to immigrant communities goes much deeper” than just his voting record. For example, in April, Kaine was one of the first Senators to sit down with undocumented families eligible for executive action to learn firsthand about the issues at a “DAPA Dinner.” We commend Hillary Clinton for choosing a running mate who is a true champion for immigrants and an inclusive vision for America at a time when both are under threat.
During his 2012 Senatorial campaign, Kaine released a Spanish language ad that, in excellent Spanish, touted his time spent as a Catholic missionary in Honduras and his gubernatorial work with the Hispanic community to expand preschool education programs. In 2012, Kaine won 70% of the Latino vote and he was the first Senator to deliver a speech on the Senate floor entirely in Spanish (in support of S.744 immigration reform legislation).
New studies: immigrants and immigration benefit America: A massive new immigration study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine finds that immigration creates strong economic growth for the nation as a whole. As the chair of the NAS Panel, Dr. Francine D. Blau noted, “The panel’s comprehensive examination revealed many important benefits of immigration — including on economic growth, innovation, and entrepreneurship — with little to no negative effects on the overall wages or employment of native-born workers in the long term.” Additionally, new immigration studies from the Center for American Progress and Pew Research both demonstrate the incredible costs that America would incur by following Trump’s mass deportation vision.
Immigration polling: The American people are overwhelmingly – and increasingly – in favor of citizenship for undocumented immigrants – see this polling overview. Immigration may be a point of contention between Trump and Clinton, but Americans have already decided – overwhelming support for legalization and a path to citizenship. More than 72% of Americans back either citizenship or legalization for undocumented immigrants instead of deportation in recent polls from In New York Times/CBS, Quinnipiac,Washington Post/ABC News, CNN, and Gallup. In fact, as the Washington Post highlighted, Donald Trump’s overt nativism actually is “increasing sympathy for immigrants and depressing support for his harsh enforcement techniques.”
Immigrants and crime: Trump engages in blatant falsehoods regarding immigrants and criminality – see this American Immigration Council overview on how and why immigration is associated with less crime and safer communities
Key Reminders and Takeaways:
Donald Trump has pledged to immediately end President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for DREAMers – a real threat to a real program that is a real benefit for approximately 750,000 DACA recipients (read the new Medium post from DACA recipient and America’s Voice staffer Juan Escalante, who writes that, “My ability to remain in the United States hinges on the 2016 general election”). Recently, Donald Trump, Jr. said that his father likely would seek to deport prominent DREAMer Astrid Silva (who herself penned a recent op-ed making the case for why DACA should matter to 2016 voters and affect races up and down the ballot).
Stop the charade: Trump hasn’t “softened” on immigration: While the Trump campaign’s recent and continued word blizzard around immigration is designed to sow confusion and misinformation, the policy thrust remains consistent and disturbing – Trump certainly has not “softened” on immigration. America’s Voice Executive Director Frank Sharry called Trump’s approach “the most radical immigration policy of any nominee in modern American politics. The intended outcome of Trump’s policy is to drive all but a handful of undocumented immigrants out of the country. That’s 11 million people who live and work and are settled throughout America. If implemented, it would be one of the most shameful chapters in American history.”
The two parties have never had a sharper contrast on immigration: As the Trump-led nativist backlash on the right pulls the Republican Party in the wrong direction on immigration, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party are leaning into pro-immigrant policies like never before: pledging to make reform with a path to citizenship a top legislative priority; maintaining the DACA program for DREAMers; and promising to “end family detention, close private detention facilities, and stop the raids and round ups,” as Clinton stated at the recent CHCI gala.