Immigration has become a key political issue in the current campaign.
Brian Goldsmith, political consultant for Yahoo News, explained why it matters and the differences between the leading candidates’ campaigns.
Why immigration issues matter more than ever before
The electorate has become two full points less white in every presidential election, according to Goldsmith. The voters were 74% white in 2008, 72% in 2012 and are on track to be just 70% white in 2016.
“It’s more important than ever for presidential candidates to appeal to voters who are closer to the immigrant experience and for whom this is a threshold issue-- that is Latino voters and Asian Americans.”
Additionally, Goldsmith emphasized that we’re a nation of immigrants. One recent study showed that over half the startups worth more than $1 billion--including Uber, Palantir, and SpaceX--were founded by immigrants. Meanwhile, there there are 11 million illegal or undocumented immigrants in the US, which makes up about 5% of the labor force. “This affects every corner of the economy and our culture,” Goldsmith said.
Trump describes his position on immigration as “hardline.” And indeed it is the most restrictive position of any major presidential candidate in recent history, according to Goldsmith.
First, there’s Trump’s proposal for the 35-40 foot high wall that would cover 1,000 of the 2,000-mile southern border. (The US has already fenced about one-third of the border.) Trump says it would cost $8 billion; others have estimated that it could cost three times that much.
Second, he says he would round up and deport the approximately 11 million illegal immigrants in the US. “The good ones" will be brought back after they are deported, he has said. Trump has added that he’s going to keep families together, but Goldsmith notes that there are approximately 5 million U.S. citizen children with at least one undocumented parent.
Third, Trump has taken a variety of positions on guest workers and highly skilled immigrants. He has criticized the H1B program for costing Americans jobs but he’s also embraced it as a way of keeping brain power in this country. He’s criticized guest workers but also uses them in his club, Mar a Lago, in Florida.
“There’s a Rio Grande sized gap between Clinton and Trump on immigration issues,” Goldsmith said. “In the first 100 days of Trump’s administration, he says he’s going to have the wall designed. In the first 100 days of Hillary Clinton’s administration, she says she is going to submit a plan to Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.”
Comprehensive reform essentially means that undocumented workers have a path to citizenship so long as they pay back taxes, pay a fine, pass a background check, and get to the back of the line behind those who have done the process legally, according to Goldsmith. It would also expand the number of foreign students, educated in the US, who are allowed to stay.
Both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama failed to get comprehensive immigration reform through in 2007 and 2013, respectively. “Both failed at the hands of anti-trade Republicans and pro-labor Democrats,” Goldsmith said.
But Clinton plans for forge forward. And if the plan fails, Clinton plans to take executive action to protect illegal immigrants.
When Obama failed to get comprehensive reform through Congress, he implemented executive action to shield 5 million undocumented immigrants from the threat of deportation--these are the so called “dreamers” that were brought here when they were very little and also parents of US citizens. Clinton has said if Congress doesn’t act on comprehensive reform, she would look at shielding the parents of the dreamers as well.