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Where the 2016 Presidential Candidates Stand on Immigration Reform

There are an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently residing in the United States. This is one of the most controversial issues on the Presidential campaign trail. Very few candidates seem to agree on an immigration plan, and some are sharply divided, even within their own parties.

Immigration Reform

The issue of immigration centers on concerns for handling and reforming border security, visas, family considerations, and what to do for undocumented people already in the country. Should we create a “pathway to citizenship” for those 11 million people, many of whom have been living and working in this country for years? Or should we enforce deportation for anyone who came here illegally or has overstayed their visa? Here is how some of the front-running Republican and Democratic candidates stand on this polarizing topic:

Hillary Clinton:
Former First Lady and former New York Senator Hillary Clinton, the current Democratic frontrunner for President, supports immigration reform and would like to see immigrants have a path to citizenship which means some undocumented immigrants currently living illegally in the US would be allowed to become citizens if they met certain requirements over time.

Bernie Sanders:
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, also running for the Democratic nomination, favors a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. He even stated earlier this month that he supported some undocumented immigrants having access to healthcare under Obamacare.

Donald Trump:
Real estate magnate Donald Trump has been a forerunner for the Republican nomination since this summer. He has never held public office so he doesn’t have a record of voting on immigration but he has used the issue of undocumented immigrants to energize his campaign. He has talked about his plan to build a secure wall along the US-Mexico border and points to his real estate development background as the experience he needs to get this done. He has also talked about deporting the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently estimated to be living in the U.S. He has been criticized by some for his use of the term “anchor baby” and for statements like the following: “A woman gets pregnant. She’s nine months, she walks across the border, she has the baby in the United States, and we take care of the baby for 85 years. I don’t think so. We’re the only ones dumb enough, stupid enough to have it.”

Ben Carson:
Dr. Ben Carson, like Donald Trump, is another political outsider currently polling strongly among Republicans. Carson made his career as a pedantic neurosurgeon. Like many Republicans, he is in favor of securing the border with more enforcement. He sees the need for guest workers for jobs in fields like agriculture but he doesn’t want to give these laborers any rights or privileges in this country.

Jeb Bush
The former Florida governor (and son and brother to two previous U.S. Presidents) is married to a Mexican-American. He positions himself as tough on enforcement and border control but distances himself from the Donald Trump approach to deporting all undocumented citizens which he says “would cost hundreds of billions of dollars, would destroy community life, and would tear families apart.”

Marco Rubio
Florida Senator Rubio is the son of two Cuban immigrants who came to the United States in the 1950s. Like other Republicans, he wants to build a better wall along the U.S. – Mexico border and he also wants to create “an entry-exit tracking system” because he claims, “forty percent of the people who come here illegally come legally, and then they overstay their visa. . .[we need] to modernize our legal immigration system so you come to America on the basis of what you can contribute economically, not whether or not simply you have a relative living here.

Ted Cruz
Ted Cruz is the first Hispanic American to serve as a senator from Texas. He claims he is the only candidate on the Republican side “who has never supported amnesty and, in fact, who helped lead the fight to stop a massive amnesty plan.” He’s also concerned that the U.S. -Mexico border is not secure enough and claims, “I’ve been leading the fight in the Senate to triple the Border Patrol, to put in place fencings and walls, to put in place a strong biometric exit/entry system.”

The issue of immigration seems to be a lightning rod on the campaign trail and we are sure to hear a lot more from the candidates on this issue in the next year leading up to the Presidential election. Hopefully these debates can open the pathway to the comprehensive immigration reform we need.