Skimm2020PUBLISHED JAN 27, 2020

2020 Election: Immigration


This article was updated on Feb. 10, 2020 to include information about the Trump admin's expanded travel ban.

The Story

Immigration has been a defining issue of President Trump’s first term. That’s forced 2020 candidates to spell out where they stand.

The Background

Trump has made curbing illegal immigration a top priority. See: demands to extend the US-Mexico border wall, attempts to end DACA (the Obama-era program that protects immigrants, known as Dreamers, brought here illegally as kids from deportation), and the “zero tolerance” policy that led to thousands of families being separated at the border. Those who support the admin’s moves say the US needs to keep the country safe. Critics argue that it’s the US’s moral responsibility to accept immigrants and refugees who come here for a better life, and that immigrants help boost the economy. Some Democratic candidates have called for reforming Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – the agency that oversees deportations – because they believe it has too much power. Their solutions range from reducing its responsibilities to completely getting rid of it. 

The Trump admin has also tried to overhaul legal immigration. It’s announced policies that favor merit-based immigration (think: giving priority to highly skilled immigrants or those who speak English) over family-based immigration. The admin claims this would ensure immigrants don’t take jobs and money from America’s working class. And this year, Trump added more countries to his controversial travel ban over national security concerns. The initial ban blocked people traveling from some Muslim-majority countries.


All of the candidates agree that the US’s immigration laws need some updates, but there are a lot of opinions on what exactly should change. Some want to tighten the reins by increasing funding for border security or making that new border wall a reality. Others want to prop open the US’s doors, and increase the cap of refugees allowed in each year. Here’s where the candidates stand:

Editor's note: This page will be updated as the candidate field narrows

Donald Trump Republican
President Donald Trump
  • Pledged to extend the US-Mexico border wall

  • Suspended immigration from seven countries, including six majority-Muslim countries

  • Started and ended "zero tolerance policy" (separating children from parents at the border to prosecute adults)

  • Has asylum seekers wait in Mexico while claims are processed

  • Wants to end DACA, saying it's up to Congress not the Obama admin, which implemented that executive order, to decide immigration policy

  • Supports a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers (undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children)

  • Proposed ending birthright citizenship, focus on merit-based immigration

  • Working to end temporary protected status for immigrants in the US from Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Nepal, and Sudan by 2021

  • Capped number of refugees admitted to the US per year

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Joe Biden Democrat
Former VP Joe Biden
  • Acknowledges "pain" caused by 3 million deportations while VP

  • Against decriminalizing illegal border crossings

  • Supports DACA and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants

  • Restructure Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

Read more

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