WASHINGTON — Immigration has been a hot topic of discussion among all presidential candidates in the election race this year.
Republican candidates are using immigration reform as a tactic to drive fearful voters to the polls; meanwhile, Democratic candidates are using it to highlight immigration as one of the country’s main foundations.
The rhetoric at the opposite ends of the spectrum depicts a divided American population.
On one end, a population denounces the idea of this country being dominated by minority groups, while at the other end there is a population that welcomes diversity and the economic benefits it could bring.
For minority groups, particularly the Arab American and Latino American communities, a positive immigration platform is crucial in selecting the correct presidential candidate. That is why, for the most part, Republican candidates will not find a strong backing from these minority groups. Party frontrunners, who aim to tackle immigration reform in an aggressive and unsettling manner, have depicted these groups in negative terms.
Donald Trump first came under fire by accusing illegal Latino immigrants of bringing in crime and drugs through the border. He further ignited a firestorm when he blatantly stated that he would have all 11 million undocumented immigrants deported, suggesting that some may be able to return.
“We have at least 11 million people in this country that came in illegally,” Trump said. “They will go out, they will come back, some will come back, the best, through a process … it may not be a very quick process, but I think that’s very fair and very fine.”
Those with anti-immigrant sentiments are mostly turning to Trump for his promise to build a wall at the Mexican border in order to halt immigrants from crossing over. Despite pundits believing such an idea won’t become reality, Trump said not only will it happen, but he will force Mexico to pay for it.
One of Trump’s Republican opponents, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, criticized the Trump Wall, pointing out that the reality TV star’s plan isn’t a reality. Rubio, born to Cuban immigrants, might have the most neutral approach on immigration of all the Republican candidates.
Rubio has said numerous times that he would tackle immigration reform one step at a time. The first priority would be to strengthen the borders in order to stop illegal immigrants from coming in.
“I am the son and the grandson of immigrants and I know that securing our borders is not anti-immigrant; and we will do it,” Rubio said.
At a recent rally this week, he stressed securing the borders by hiring an additional 20,000 border patrol agents.
Following that step, he would leave it in the public’s hands to decide how to deal with the undocumented immigrants who have already been living here. At last week’s Republican Debate, Rubio said that he wouldn’t propose a plan to deport all illegal immigrants, but that he would implement a “fair” system that would be an opportunity for many families to stay.
“We are not going to round up and deport 12 million people, but we’re not going to hand out citizenship cards, either,” Rubio said.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz backs the idea of building a wall to secure the border.
“As president, I will stop illegal immigration, build a wall that works, triple border security and put in place the surveillance and biometric tracking to secure the border,” Cruz said. “Border security is national security. We need to stop Obama’s amnesty and enforce the rule of law. And we need to reform legal immigration to protect American workers.”
Cruz opposes the idea of allowing illegal aliens to become permanent residents, stating that he is not supportive of people who have broken the law.
“I think it is a mistake to forgive those who break law, to allow them to become U.S. citizens, and that’s why I’ve led the fight against granting citizenship to those here illegally.”
On the campaign trail, Cruz also constantly highlights that favoring illegal immigrants is a disservice to unemployed Americans who are struggling to find work.
While the subject of immigration is often led with hostility on the Republican front, Democratic candidates approach the subject with sensitivity.
On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been accused of contradicting herself on the subject of immigration.
In 2006, she voted in favor of the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which began construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. While the wall was never completed, she said she would be in favor of strengthening the border with a similar initiative as early as last November.
“I voted numerous times when I was a senator to spend money to build a barrier to try to prevent illegal immigrants from coming in,” Clinton said. “And I do think that you have to control your borders.”
But more recently, the Democratic front-runner’s stance has shifted to a pro-immigration platform. When asked about the Trump Wall, Clinton condemned it.
“He always combines building a wall and deporting 11 or 12 million people so that they’re on the other side of the wall. That to me is not only foolish, it’s offensive,” Clinton said.
Clinton now paints illegal immigrants and potential immigrants as a bright component of the country’s past and future. She noted that she would back Obama’s executive action to carve a path for illegal immigrants to citizenship.
“We need comprehensive immigration reform with a path to full and equal citizenship,” Clinton said. “If Congress won’t act, I’ll defend President Obama’s executive actions—and I’ll go even further to keep families together. I’ll end family detention, close private immigrant detention centers, and help more eligible people become naturalized.”
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the other Democratic nominee, addresses the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. with utmost sincerity, claiming that as president he would take immediate action to set up a plan that would bring them out of the shadows.
Sanders emphasized building upon President Obama’s controversial Immigration Executive Order of 2014.
“As president, I will fight for comprehensive immigration reform that provides a roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million aspiring Americans living in this country,” Sanders said. “But I will not wait for Congress to act. I will take executive action to accomplish what Congress has failed to do and build upon President Obama’s executive orders to unite families.”
On the campaign trail, Sanders continues to emphasize immigrants being at the forefront of the country’s narrative, highlighting his family’s own story and assuring security for millions of potential Americans.
“I am the son of an immigrant myself,” Sanders says on his website. “Their story, my story, our story, is a story of America: Hard working families coming to the United States to create a brighter future for their children. The story of immigration is a story of America. A story rooted in family and fueled by hope.”