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With eventual Republican nominee Donald Trump making it a key issue immediately after entering the primary election last year, immigration and border-security policies have been central to the 2016 presidential cycle.
As Trump earned the support of some on the right after calling for mass deportation and the construction of a massive border wall, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton moved her immigration policy to the left of even her own 2008 White House bid.
In the second of a series, Western Journalism has compiled issue-specific quotes from both major-party candidates on the multifaceted issue of immigration. (Part 1 looked at the issue of crime and punishment.)
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Amnesty, a vague term often used as a political football instead of a way to explain detailed policy positions, has nonetheless been a defining issue in the immigration debate throughout the 2016 election cycle.
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In reality, presidential candidates across the ideological spectrum offered varying degrees of support for legal exceptions offering a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
Clinton has a record of supporting such a policy, including a U.S. Senate record that included co-sponsorship of the DREAM Act and its effort to grant citizenship to certain immigrants brought into the U.S. illegally as children.
While the former senator has been criticized by many in her party’s leftmost wing for not going far enough to provide citizenship for millions of illegals, her positions share few commonalities with those of her rival.
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Trump has referred to a “deportation force” he would put into action as president with the directive to remove illegal immigrants, noting he would “work with” families to ensure they are not split up as they are sent away.
“We have to make a whole new set of standards,” he said in an interview during the primary election.
The brash billionaire kicked off his latest White House bid with a controversial speech in which he expressed a primary reason — crime — for his support of such an uncompromising stance.
“When Mexico sends its people,” he said, “they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing their problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
He has also touched on the economic ramifications of America’s current immigration system.
“It costs us $200 billion a year for illegal immigration right now,” he stated. “$200 billion a year. Maybe 250. Maybe 300. They don’t even know. We’re going to stop it.”
Clinton, on the other hand, has roundly rebuked Trump’s proposals and promised to prioritize immigration reform during her first 100 days in office.
As part of that plan, she has pledged to expand upon the executive orders of the Obama administration while pursuing “a path to full and equal citizenship” for illegals already in the U.S.
“If Congress won’t act,” she said, “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.”
“I will build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”
Since announcing his candidacy, Trump has repeatedly touted his bold plan to erect a massive wall between the U.S. and Mexico should he become president.
Though Mexican President Enrique Peña rebuked in no uncertain terms the assertion his nation would ultimately pay for America’s wall, Trump has laid out what he says is the plan to fulfill his promise.
He called building the wall “so easy” and “peanuts” in one interview, explaining a Trump administration would get the money for the construction from Mexico “whether it’s a tariff or whether they just give us the money.”
Trump has further advocated increased visa fees and the curtailment of remittance payments sent from the U.S. as other methods of obtaining the funding from Mexico.
Clinton, who has voted for immigration legislation that included a border fence, has stressed the importance of border security during the current election cycle.
“We do need to have secure borders,” she said in one interview, “and what that will take is a combination of technology and physical barriers.”
Defiantly referring to them with the controversial term “anchor babies,” Trump has made it clear he wants to address current policy providing citizenship to individuals born on U.S. soil.
Early in the primary process, Trump alluded to advice he said he received from attorneys who think the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not automatically provide birthright citizenship.
“I don’t think they have American citizenship,” he said. “And if you speak to some very, very good lawyers — and I know some will disagree — but many of them agree with me and you’re going to find they do not have American citizenship.”
Trump went on to complain about Mexican citizens who are “in Mexico, they’re going to have a baby, they move over here for a couple of days, they have the baby.”
The former reality television host was not alone among the crowded field of GOP presidential candidates in urging an end to birthright citizenship. Clinton called out several Republicans, including Trump, for using what she called “out-of-touch” and “over-the-top rhetoric” regarding the 14th Amendment’s provisions.
Muslim Immigrants and Refugees
The plight of Syrians trying to escape a brutal civil war juxtaposed with the potential security risks inherent in admitting a large number of refugees into the United States has been a key sticking point between the two candidates.
Trump has repeatedly expressed concern for the safety of Americans in making his case against admitting refugees from Syria and other nations into the United States. While he initially expressed some willingness to welcome a limited number of refugees, he said during the primary race that their apparent demographics caused him to reverse his position.
“I saw the migration, and the migration was strange to me because it seems like so many men,” he said. “There aren’t that many women or children. It looked like mostly men and they looked like strong men.”
Trump’s comments came shortly after Clinton expressed her plan to exponentially increase the number of Syrians coming into the country.
“We’re facing the worst refugee crisis since the end of World War II,” she said, “and I think the United States has to do more. I would like to see us move from what is a good start with 10,000 to 65,000 and begin immediately to put into place the mechanisms for vetting the people that we would take in.”
Not only did Trump make it clear he would not open America’s borders to Syrian refugees, he declared that as president he would send back those refugees who were admitted prior to his administration.
“So I said there’s no way they come in,” he said. “If they do come in, if I win for president, they’re going out.”
Beyond the refugee crisis, Trump has further endorsed a moratorium on immigration for all Muslims, a position he stood by during a primary debate in January.
“We have to find out what’s going on,” he said. “I said temporarily. I didn’t say permanently.”
While denying his underlying position has changed, Trump’s rhetoric on the issue has evolved as he subsequently began focusing on immigrants’ origins rather than their faith.
“I’m looking now at territories,” he said during a July interview. “People were so upset when I used the word Muslim. Oh, you can’t use the word Muslim. Remember this. And I’m OK with that, because I’m talking territory instead of Muslim.”
During the second presidential debate, Trump addressed his shifting view on the issue, confirming his “Muslim ban is something that in some form has morphed into a [sic] extreme vetting from certain areas of the world.”
Clinton has denounced Trump’s plan on multiple occasions as un-American.
“Under Donald Trump, America would distinguish itself as the only country in the world to impose a religious test at the border,” she said during one speech. “Now, come to think of it, there actually may be one other place that does that — the so-called Islamic State, the territory that ISIS controls. What a cruel irony that someone running for president would equate us with them.”