2020·3 min read

2020 Election: Immigration

2020 Election: Immigration
Mosa Tanksley
May 26, 2020

The Story

Immigration: a contentious and fraught issue since Day 1.

The Background

President Trump has made curbing illegal immigration a top priority. And 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.

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.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 has continued to highlight the complexities of immigration policy, from concern about detention centers becoming hot spots for the virus, to anxiety over potential job competition amid skyrocketing unemployment, to considering the role of immigrant workers in the US food supply chain. Trump has temporarily suspended approval of green card applications to ensure unemployed Americans will be "first in line" for jobs as states reopen. And closed the US-Mexico border to all but essential services amid the pandemic. Former VP Joe Biden, on the other hand, wants COVID-19 testing widely available and free for those who need it, regardless of their immigration status.


Candidates agree that the US’s immigration laws need some updates, but have very different ideas on what immigration should look like. Here’s where they stand:

Donald Trump Republican

President Donald Trump

  • Pledged to extend the US-Mexico border wall

  • Suspended immigration from multiple 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)

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