Where do Democratic presidential candidates stand on immigration policy?

U.S. Border Patrol agents take into custody a father and son from Honduras near the U.S.-Mexico border near Mission, Texas, in June 2018.
(Getty Images)

Immigration has been a hallmark issue for President Trump since the day he announced his bid for office in 2015, and it continues to animate his base of supporters. It has also been a primary source of his conflict with Democrats, with issues such as his travel ban, the fate of “Dreamers” and family separation at the border leading to pitched legal battles.

The 2020 Democratic candidates have been vocally united in opposition to the president’s immigration rhetoric and have pledged to overturn his administration’s policies, with Congress or through executive order. They agree on the broad strokes of immigration reform, such as creating a path to citizenship for people in the country illegally, ending family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border and increasing foreign aid to Central America to reduce the root causes of the flow of asylum seekers.

But there are some policy differences, including whether unauthorized border crossings should be decriminalized and what compromises candidates would be willing to make to expedite a path to citizenship for Dreamers, young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.


Here is where the candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination stand on immigration issues:



Joe Biden

Former Vice President Joe Biden has said the nation’s immigration system is broken but can be fixed without sacrificing America’s values.

He supports providing healthcare and creating a pathway to citizenship for all who are in the country illegally and increasing the annual cap on refugees allowed into the United States to 125,000. He proposes allowing local governments to petition for new immigration visas to support economic growth if there are not enough local workers to fill jobs.

Biden is a vocal critic of Trump’s call to add to the border wall, but as a senator representing Delaware he voted to fund wall construction, and last year, he said he would support some new funding as part of a deal to provide citizenship to Dreamers.

Biden would not decriminalize unauthorized border crossings or restructure or abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. He has faced pointed criticism from immigrant rights activists over the record level of deportations under President Obama.

His campaign has said he “understands the pain felt by every family across the U.S. that has had a loved one removed from the country, including under the Obama-Biden administration.”


Bernie Sanders

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign includes three Dreamers who helped shape his immigration policy.

If elected, Sanders would institute an immediate moratorium on deportations and would seek to provide legal status and a pathway to citizenship for people in the country illegally in the first 100 days of his administration.

Sanders has said he does not believe the United States needs a border wall, though he did vote for some funding as part of a bill to avoid a government shutdown. He proposes restructuring the Department of Homeland Security, including breaking up ICE and Customs and Border Patrol and redistributing their authority to other departments.

Along with providing a pathway to citizenship for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, Sanders would aim to expand the program that protects their parents. His “Medicare for all” plan would cover residents in the country illegally.