Trump immigration policies set the tone for most of the GOP presidential field

Donald TrumpPresident Donald Trump poses for his official portrait at The White House, in Washington, D.C., on Friday, October 6, 2017. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

by Ariana Figueroa, Georgia Recorder [This article first appeared in the Georgia Recorder, republished with permission]


November 21, 2023

This is one of an occasional series comparing the Republican presidential candidates’ positions on issues.

WASHINGTON — Most of the candidates in this year’s 2024 Republican race for the presidential nomination mirror hard-line immigration policies set by the front-runner, former President Donald Trump.

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What were once considered far-right policies are now common talking points among the GOP candidates. That includes support for building a wall along the Southern U.S.-Mexico border and ending birthright citizenship for American-born children of undocumented immigrants — a protection that is enshrined in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Candidates also have argued for the reinstatement of Title 42, a pandemic-era immigration policy that immediately expelled migrants and barred them from claiming asylum. The policy was ended by the Biden administration earlier this year, but GOP candidates have argued that it should be revived because of the high number of migrants claiming asylum.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has seen an increase in encounters with migrants at the U.S. Southern border, according to its data. In fiscal year 2022, there were nearly 2.4 million encounters with migrants, and in fiscal year 2023, which ended on Oct. 1, there were nearly 2.5 million encounters with migrants at the Southern border.

GOP candidates calling for increased border security have also pointed to the opioid crisis and illicit fentanyl that is smuggled into the U.S. More than  150 people die each day from overdoses related to fentanyl, a topic in the most recent GOP presidential debate.

Most fentanyl — about 90% — is seized by border officials at ports of entry, and more than 70% of people smuggling those drugs are U.S. citizens, according to James Mandryck, a CBP official.

Here’s where the Republican presidential candidates stand on U.S. immigration policy:

Former President Donald J. Trump

Trump’s current policies build from his first term, such as expanding the “Muslim travel ban,” which was an executive order he signed in 2017 that banned travel to seven predominantly Muslim countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Courts granted immigration attorneys who sued a nationwide temporary injunction on the ban, but in 2018 the Supreme Court upheld the third version of the executive order, which included barring travelers from Venezuela and North Korea. President Joe Biden rescinded the travel ban.

At an October campaign rally in Iowa, Trump said he would expand that Muslim ban to also include an “ideological screening” of immigrants coming into the U.S. and will ban anyone who is a “communist, Marxist or fascist” who is sympathetic to “radical Islamic terrorists” and people who do not “like our religion.”

The U.S. does not have a state religion and was founded on the principles of religious freedom.

At a late November campaign rally in Fort Dodge, Iowa, Trump stated he would undertake mass deportations of undocumented immigrants. There are roughly 11 million undocumented people in the U.S. Trump has also said he wants to place those immigrants in camps as they await deportation.

Trump has pledged to reinstate the “remain in Mexico” policy from his administration and send U.S. military to the Southern border.

The “remain in Mexico” policy forced asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while their applications were being processed, which many immigration advocates criticized because it put those asylum seekers in harm. The Biden administration tried to get rid of the policy, but federal courts kept it in place until the Supreme Court ruled that the White House had the authority to end it.

Trump would also end a policy used by U.S. enforcement agencies that allows migrants awaiting their asylum hearings in court to live in the U.S., rather than be held at a detention facility.

Trump in addition has said during the campaign that he would end birthright citizenship through an executive order. Trump made the same promise while he was in office, but never acted on it.

Trump’s immigration policies during his first term were met with outcry from Democrats and advocates. They also opposed his attempts to end an Obama administration program that protects undocumented children brought into the country, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. Federal courts halted the ending of DACA.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis

DeSantis has said he supports policies similar to Trump’s, such as wanting to end birthright citizenship, reestablish the remain in Mexico policy and send U.S. military to the border.

During a trip to the border in the summer, DeSantis also backed mass deportations, allowing for the use of deadly force against suspected drug traffickers at the border and the indefinite detention of migrant youth — a violation of the Flores agreement that says undocumented youth cannot be detained for more than 20 days.

In that speech in Eagle Pass, Texas, DeSantis compared the border to a home invasion.

“If someone was breaking into your house, you would repel them with the use of force, right?” he said. “But yet if they have drugs, these backpacks, and they’re going in, and they’re cutting through an enforced structure, we’re just supposed to let ’em in? You know, I say use force to repel them. If you do that one time, they will never do that again.”

DeSantis also wants to continue building the border wall and use funds to do so by taxing money that migrants send home to Mexico.

In the third GOP presidential debate, DeSantis reiterated he would handle the U.S. – Mexico border by sending the military there and would authorize the use of deadly force for anyone crossing the border without authorization.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley

Haley said she would handle the border by ending trade relations with China, because the chemicals used to make fentanyl are shipped from China and made in Mexico by cartels. She would add 20,000 more border patrol and ICE agents and pull federal funding from so-called sanctuary cities, which limit cooperation with the federal government over immigration enforcement.

States that have sanctuary cities and counties include Georgia. Georgia law prohibits cities and counties from adopting a “sanctuary policy.” But some jurisdictions limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities in defiance.

Also like Trump, Haley said she would end a U.S. policy that allows migrants awaiting their asylum hearings in court to live in the U.S. rather than be held at a detention facility. Immigration courts currently have a more than 2-million-case backlog. 

During the third GOP presidential debate, Haley took a swipe at the Biden administration’s move to reinstate Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for nearly 500,000 Venezuelans, allowing them to live and work in the United States.

“It’s just going to have more of them come,” she said of Venezuelans, and instead advocated for placing sanctions on Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro.

Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy

Ramaswamy, who is one of the few candidates with no government experience, does not have an immigration platform on his campaign site, but has called for sending the U.S. military to the border.

On various interviews with Fox News, he’s alluded to sending U.S. troops into Mexico if the country does not get drug cartels under control. “We will come in and get the job done ourselves,” he said in a Fox News interview in September.

He has also called for the ending of birthright citizenship, even though he was born in Ohio to parents who were both noncitizens. His mother later became a citizen, but his father is not. He has also called for the mass deportation of U.S. citizens who were born from undocumented parents.

Ramaswamy has called for gutting H-1B visa programs for temporary workers, even though, he, a former pharmaceutical executive, and his own company have used them, as reported by Politico. H-1B visas allow U.S. companies to employ foreign workers in tech and other specialized jobs.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

Christie does not have any information on his immigration stance on his official website, but in debates and interviews he has stressed the way to handle the fentanyl crisis is to secure the Southern border and to treat addiction as a disease, such as the need for treatment centers.

In the most recent GOP presidential debate, he said he wants to increase technology at ports of entry and increase the number of border officials. Christie said if he is elected president, he would sign an executive order to send National Guard members to ports of entry.

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson

While the former governor did not qualify for the most recent GOP presidential debate, he has one mention on his campaign’s website of immigration. He says he backs state-based visas.

“A one-size-fits-all approach does not adequately serve America’s varied industries and regional economies,” according to his campaign website.

The policy would allow states to design their own non-immigrant visa criteria, such as fees, employment requirements and renewal processes for visas.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum

During an interview with Forbes, Burgum said he supports sending the National Guard to the U.S. Southern border, which is something he’s done as governor. During his time in office, he also signed into law the Office of Legal Immigration to address workforce challenges in North Dakota.

Burgum has also acknowledged challenges to seasonal agriculture workers and tech employees and the “red tape” in U.S. immigration law.

Pastor and entrepreneur ​​Ryan Binkley

Binkley is the CEO of a merger and acquisitions advisory firm and a senior pastor at the Create Church based in Dallas, Texas.

On his campaign website, Binkley stated he would reorganize the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to prioritize border security. He supports physical barriers along the Southern border and also wants to end sanctuary cities as well as the current program that allows asylum seekers to remain in the U.S. while they await their immigration hearings.

Binkley outlined his plan for border security that — if approved by Congress — would authorize $10 billion until fiscal year 2028 for technology at ports of entry and provide $25 billion in barriers and technology until fiscal year 2031.

Binkley would also allow DACA recipients to be eligible for a conditional permanent residence status for up to 10 years. Under his plan, those DACA recipients could become lawful permanent residents if they obtain a college or graduate degree, serve in the U.S. military for three years or are employed and working for four years. He would also extend in-state tuition for DACA recipients.

Binkley would also extend a legal pathway to citizenship for some TPS holders who have been continually present in the U.S. for three years as of March 2021. It would extend to TPS holders from  El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, but the cutoff date would not include those from Venezuela, Afghanistan, Haiti and Ukraine.

He has also called for a “Dignity Plan,” for undocumented immigrants, who would be required to pass a background check, pay any taxes owed, pay fines that total to $5,000 over seven years, and remain in good standing.

Those who complete the program would have two pathways to remain legally in the U.S. The first path allows those who complete the “Dignity Plan” to apply every five years for a lawful status and the second path allows for a lawful permanent resident status to those who learn English, pass a civics test and participate in volunteer work.

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: info@georgiarecorder.com. Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.

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