2020 Issue Focus: Immigration

Who We Listen to on Immigration

When we want to know if we’re getting it right on immigration, we look to organizations like United We Dream, National Immigration Law Center, National immigrant Justice Center, UndocuBlack Network, and Mijente for their leadership. Each of these organizations has a deep well of expertise on immigration, and their voices should be central in any debate on the issue.

Why Immigration Matters for 2020

President Trump and the Republican party have made immigration a cornerstone of their campaigns: in 2016, in 2018, and will again in 2020. They believe that demonizing immigrants, and particularly immigrants of color, will divide working Americans from one another and get them re-elected. At the same time, Democrats have a historically weak record on immigration, and have too often been scared to take bold policy stances in favor of protecting immigrants – ignoring the voices of immigrant rights activists who have been in this fight for years. Democrats running for president in 2020 shouldn’t let Donald Trump’s fear mongering define the terms of the debate. We need candidates who are grounded in Americans’ support for immigrants, willing to center the voices of impacted communities, and who won’t let this president scapegoat recent immigrants to win votes.

What Candidates Should be Talking About on Immigration

  • We need 2020 candidates to Defund Hate: Anyone running for President on the Democratic side in 2020 needs to be committed to cutting funding for the rogue enforcement agencies that are caging and tearing families apart, and follow the lead of organizations working to defund hate. 

  • We need an alternative vision for immigration reform. We are in desperate need of an alternative immigration plan that is not traditional “comprehensive immigration reform” — one that focuses on family unity instead of an enforcement-first approach. We need a progressive vision that rivals the Green New Deal and Medicare For All in vision and scope. We need to define what a “just immigration system” looks like. 

  • Engaging on non-immigration policies. Progressives should be inclusive of immigrants in all of our policies – not just those most obviously about immigration. For example:

    • M4A provides access to undocumented, which represents dramatic progress from the 2016 democratic platform, and from the ACA. 

    • Democracy reforms should include rights for all, including immigrants.

    • The  Green New Deal should account for immigrant labor and climate refugees 

    • College For All should benefit all of our young, not just citizens.

Who’s Getting it Right on Immigration

Julián Castro has put out the most detailed immigration plan that has a bold vision for this country’s future and doesn’t fall into the typical traps that often trip up Democrats on this issue. Secretary Castro and Senator Elizabeth Warren each have introduced bold immigration plans, and we need other 2020ers to join them on the right side of history.

 

Why we don’t want to hear “Comprehensive Immigration Reform”

The idea of “Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” or CIR, is a general policy concept that has been the focus of specific legislative debates for forty years. When politicians talk about CIR, they typically mean a plan that would couple a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country with increased militarization at the border and funding for agencies like ICE and CBP. Politicians, including President Obama, promised  to work across the aisle to pass CIR, only to see their efforts repeatedly fail. In the meantime, we’ve not provide any major legislative relief for undocumented immigrants in 30 years, but have dramatically expanded money for enforcement multiple times over.

Today, CIR represents a failure of imagination on immigration. Democrats who are still relying on “CIR” as their immigration plan are telling us they accept the underlying premise that relief for immigrant families must be paid for through expanded immigration enforcement and restrictions to family unity. They are telling us that progress on immigration must require support from Republicans, something they don’t require for their plans for health care or criminal justice reform or gun safety. We reject both of these premises. Learn more about why CIR is an outdated frame in this op-ed, co-authored by Indivisible and the National Immigraiton Law Center.