It seems that for the last couple of months, the media has been enamored of talking about the Republican candidates for President. Only within the last few weeks has more attention been drawn to the Democrats and what they stand for. It is probably oversimplifying things to reinforce the polarities between both parties, but generally speaking, it is probably true that a Democratic president is more likely to foster a friendlier climate for immigration reform than a Republican. But what exactly are the Democratic contenders’ positions about immigration? Here’s a few generalizations that seem to stick out about the two front runners Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton.
Bernie Sanders is a self-proclaimed “strong supporter of immigration reform.” In the past, he has voted against some reform efforts that weren’t to his liking. However, he is generally for creating a pathway to citizenship, sanctuary cities, and programs such as the DREAM Act. Sanders is also a vocal opponent of most hard-line anti-immigration tactics, such as building a fence along the U.S. border with Mexico, and making English the U.S. government’s official language.
Hilary Clinton has also expressed a pro-immigration stance. Clinton’s platform combines increased rights for immigrants, such as giving drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants, with increased law enforcement measures, such as enhancing security along the Mexican and Canadian borders. Although Clinton supports a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, her plan requires a more complicated, time-intensive, and costly process than Sanders’. However, Clinton has arguably done a fair share of flip-flopping. While in the Senate, she voted in favor of building a fence along the Mexican border, but changed her position in a debate with Barack Obama in 2008. Clinton also spoke favorably about allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers licenses, changed her stance shortly thereafter, and now fully supports the idea again.
Aside from their individual differences, there are a few positive things that characterize both candidates:
- Both candidates support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
- Both candidates sponsored bills that fund social services for non-U.S. citizens, including education and healthcare
- Both candidates supported President Obama’s Executive Action
- Both candidates support sanctuary cities
- Both candidates are opposed to guest-worker programs
The future of immigration reform after the elections
This is perhaps one of the most frequently asked questions that I am fielding these days from understandably concerned clients. While it is important to remain optimistic, it is equally prudent to be realistic. It is hard to predict what will happen a few years from now. Certainly, a Republican President will likely spell the doom of any hope of President’s Obama’s DAPA/Expanded DACA or even original DACA surviving. On the other hand, this does not mean that no promising changes are on the horizon. There are still plans to clarify the extreme hardship standard as well as expand the class of people who can benefit from the Provisional Waiver program, and from all indications, there does not appear to be any talk about reversing that. Furthermore, notwithstanding the recent fiasco about the new visa bulletins from the Department of State, the new Dates for Filing Visa Applications is another beneficial change for thousands of prospective immigrants, allowing them to file their adjustment of status applications much earlier than would normally be the case. There is also a new push for citizenship and impetus to make the naturalization process more accessible to more people. These initiatives are certainly not the same thing as providing legal protection to undocumented aliens, but they are nevertheless a step in the right direction, which the next President can use as a foothold to improve the immigration system.