WASHINGTON, May 11 (UPI) — In the landscape of issues being debated in this year’s presidential campaign, it is difficult to find one where Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and the presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump differ more starkly than immigration.
Trump has made railing against the nation’s estimated 10.8 million undocumented immigrants a centerpiece of his campaign. He advocates the immediate deportation of all of them and has proposed a massive wall along the Mexican border, which he has promised the Mexican government will pay to construct.
Clinton and Sanders largely agree on the broad strokes of comprehensive immigration reform. Both have said they will continue President Barack Obama’s executive actions, currently being challenged in the courts, to halt mass deportations. Both have pledged to enact legislation that would provide a pathway to citizenship for the vast majority of those living in the country illegally.
Here is an in-depth look at where the remaining presidential candidates stand on the issue of illegal immigration.
For Trump, it’s all about the wall
There may well be no single policy proposal that has garnered more attention and evoked more passion than Trump’s promise to build a wall separating the United States and Mexico.
He mentions the wall at every campaign stop, generating huge cheers from supporters and angry protests from liberals. In the issues portion of his campaign website, “Pay For The Wall” has its own section — the first one on the list.
So how, exactly, does he propose to pay for it?
Trump has mentioned the nation’s trade imbalance with Mexico as a source of leverage for the United States government. Trump points out the fact Mexico relies on American consumers to buy their products as a huge portion of their nation’s economy.
“It’s an easy decision for Mexico: make a one-time payment of $5-10 billion to ensure that $24 billion continues to flow into their country year after year,” his website states.
If they refuse to comply, Trump has promised to implement tariffs on Mexican goods, essentially a tax on imports he says would easily cover the cost of building the wall.
He also has proposed changing executive orders to prohibit those living in America illegally from wiring money to Mexico.
Federal law allows the executive branch to define what financial institutions are subject to regulation. He proposes including wire transfer companies like Western Union, and requiring all people seeking to wire money out of the country to first prove their lawful citizenship.
The practical effect would be denying Mexican citizens the ability to receive cash payments from relatives living and working in the United States illegally.
“They receive approximately $24 billion a year in remittances from Mexican nationals working in the United States,” Trump’s website states. “The majority of that amount comes from illegal aliens. It serves as de facto welfare for poor families in Mexico.”
As for the remainder of Trump’s immigration proposals, he has called for:
— Tripling the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.
— The implementation of a national e-verify employment system to prevent businesses from hiring undocumented immigrants.
— Cutting off federal funds to so-called “sanctuary cities,” or municipalities that refuse to report undocumented immigrants to the federal government.
— Cracking down on individuals who overstay their visas.
— The end to birthright citizenship.
While the issue was brought up in the context of combatting terrorism, not illegal immigration, Trump has also called for temporarily banning all Muslims from entering the country.
Voting records differ in Senate for Clinton, Sanders
Clinton and Sanders have at times found themselves in vigorous agreement over the issue of immigration. The Democrats agree on the broad strokes of a comprehensive immigration reform package.
Both want to provide a path to legal status for those in the country illegally. Both want to provide some measure of comfort to those here illegally by easing restrictions on employment and greater support for them through federal social programs.
Both have said they would stop deporting undocumented immigrants who do not have a criminal record.
The most significant difference between the two on the issue came well before anyone could have envisioned them squaring off in a prolonged presidential primary. In 2004, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy was in intense negotiations with the George W. Bush administration over the issue of illegal immigration.
Both sides had hashed out a compromise bill that would have addressed many of the issues surrounding the problem of illegal immigration. Ultimately, the legislation failed to pass Congress.
Clinton voted for the legislation. Sanders voted no.
During the Democrats’ debate in Florida in March, Clinton hammered Sanders for that no vote, saying he opposed legislation that would have improved the lives of millions of undocumented immigrants.
Sanders said he voted against the 2004 legislation because it did not provide adequate protection for migrant farm workers, who he championed with legislation cracking down on farm owners who employ migrants at low wages. He likened the system to legalized “slavery.”
History aside, the differences between the candidates in 2016 come down more to style than policy.
Clinton has emphasized her belief immigration policies should be sensitive to families, with a nod toward keeping families intact, and ending the practice of deporting parents of children with legal U.S. citizenship.
“We have to finally and once and for all fix our immigration system — this is a family issue. It’s an economic issue too, but it is at heart a family issue,” she said during a rally in early May. “If we claim we are for family, then we have to pull together and resolve the outstanding issues around our broken immigration system.”
Her position paper on immigration seeks to “put in place a simple, straightforward, accessible system for parents of DREAMers and others with a history of service and contribution to their communities to be able to make their case and be eligible for deferred action as well.”
She has also pledged to create a federal department dealing specifically with immigration issues, a sort of one-stop department where individuals, states and local governments could go to get information and resources to help navigate the various issues pertaining to immigration.
For Sanders, he links the issue of free trade, which he opposes, to the problems surrounding illegal immigration. His opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Bill Clinton signed as president, factors into his immigration policy.
“Supporters of [NAFTA] claimed that unfettered free trade would increase the standard of living in Mexico and significantly reduce the flow of undocumented immigrants into this country. As history has demonstrated, the opposite is true. … Not surprisingly we saw 185 percent increase in the number of undocumented immigrants from Mexico between 1992 and 2011.”
Sanders has also continued his calls for more humane treatment of migrant workers, pledging to create a “whistleblower visa” for migrant workers who report abuses by U.S. employers.