Immigration positions of Republican presidential hopefuls, with comments


It was not possible to do a complete summary of the views of the republican hopefuls in a short article. I have chosen a view representative comments for each that reflect his attitude towards immigration.


Real estate magnate, television personality, politician, and author. Chairman of the Trump Organization and founder of Trump Entertainment Resorts

Trump has made a series of inflammatory remarks, such as, "The Mexican Government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States. They are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc." When pressed during the debate to reveal his basis for this claim, he said that border patrolmen told him. He didn’t explain how border patrolmen would have such information about the Mexican government. I can’t tell whether he means what he is saying or is just saying outrageous things to generate publicity.

He also has proposed a plan for dealing with the 11 million undocumented immigrants already living in the United States. He would deport all undocumented immigrants and then allow the good ones to reenter the country through an expedited process to live in the U.S. legally, though not as citizens. I think this would have the advantage of making it possible to do more reliable background checks on legalization applicants. If nothing else, it would make it much easier to determine whether a person is who he says he is and whether he is from the country he says he is from. Nevertheless, it is not possible to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants. Every one of them would be entitled to a hearing before an immigration judge, and, as of April of this year, the backlog in the immigration court was 445,706 cases. If 11 million cases are added to that backlog, it would increase it to 11,445,706. The immigration courts completed 248,078 cases in FY2014. At that rate, it would take 46 years to move the current population of undocumented immigrants through removal proceedings, and this does not take into account the reality that more than 248,078 new undocumented immigrants enter the country every year, or that every alien in removal proceedings has a right to appeal an adverse decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals. The number of immigration judges and board members would have to be increased greatly to make his plan feasible, and I don’t think enough qualified lawyers are available to fill those jobs. Trump also would build a great wall on the southern border and have Mexico pay for it. I doubt that he has discussed this with the Mexican government.

To paraphrase a line from Macbeth, I think Trump is but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. I am referring to the way he is conducting his campaign, not to his intelligence. He is a very intelligent man who is having fun with his 15 minutes of fame in the political spotlight.


Former Governor of Florida

Bush views immigrants as an engine of economic vitality. According to Bush, over the last 20 years, immigrants have created far more businesses than native-born Americans. His plan for immigration reform includes an increase in border security and the interior enforcement of immigration laws. He believes that legalization is a nonstarter if our borders have not been secured against future illegal immigration. I agree with him on that point, but I would include interior enforcement also. The fact that undocumented immigrants are not likely to be caught or deported once they have reached the interior of the country encourages them to keep trying to cross the border. According to Bush, when these conditions have been met, he would put in place a rigorous path to lawful status that would require the undocumented aliens who are already in the United States to pass a thorough criminal background check, pay fines, pay taxes, learn English, obtain a provisional work permit and work, and not receive federal government assistance. If they satisfy these requirements, they could earn lawful status over an extended period of time. I think the background check requirement is a weak point in his plan. Unless an undocumented immigrant in the United States is known already to our criminal justice system, it is very difficult to establish who he really is or where he is from with any degree of certainty, and it is difficult to perform a meaningful background investigation without that information.

Bush has proposed the following six-point plan for Border Security and Interior Enforcement:

(1) Create a forward-leaning Border Patrol with the flexibility to deploy resources to meet threats;

(2) Use new technologies to achieve continuous surveillance along the border;

(3) Bolster border security infrastructure and improve access to federal lands;

(4) Require electronic verification of employment eligibility;

(5) Identify and send home nonimmigrant visitors who overstay their visas or otherwise violate the terms of their admission; and

(6) Crack down on sanctuary cities.

Bush says that this would realistically and honestly address the status of the 11 million people here illegally today and protect against future illegal immigration. I do not think he is offering a significantly different approach to immigration reform. The Republicans need a fresh, new approach that would offer truly comprehensive immigration reform and satisfy the political needs of both parties, not just a repackaging of old ideas.


Gov. Walker’s immigration reform plan is to secure the entire border first, and not just for immigration purposes. He says that we guard our ports of entry at land borders and our airports, but we are not guarding the rest of the border. Gov. Walker is right, but these are just talking points. We need to know how he would secure the entire border.

He also says that we have to enforce the law. He would do this with an E-Verify type system. That is a sound approach, but employer sanctions were established almost 29 years ago by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), and they still are not being enforced on a large-scale, nationwide basis. I do not think establishing an E-Verify system alone will be sufficient to do this. Among other things, ICE only has 7,300 officers for interior immigration enforcement, which includes much more than just enforcing employer sanctions. How many worksites can they be expected to check?

Although Gov. Walker is not for amnesty he does not favor mass deportation either. I doubt that either party has ever seriously considered mass deportation as an option. Certainly, no steps have been taken towards implementing such a program. Gov. Walker supports Arizona's immigration law and its policy of not giving benefits to undocumented aliens. As governor, he is willing to sign similar legislation to ensure that Wisconsin taxpayers do not have to pay for such things as state college tuition for people who are here illegally. On the other hand, Gov. Walker wants to make it easier to enter the country legally. I would like to hear more about how he would do this.


Former Governor of Arkansas

Huckabee says that America has an immigration crisis on its hands. He thinks it is time for the federal government to do its job. Without a secure border, nothing else matters. He could have said the same thing about interior enforcement; the two are interdependent. More effective, nationwide interior enforcement would discourage aliens from attempting an illegal entry. Huckabee states further that we have drug cartels moving freely across our southern border, and the Washington establishment wants to reward undocumented immigrants with amnesty and citizenship. If he is elected, he will undo President Obama's unconstitutional executive orders, which Huckabee could do very easily simply by issuing his own executive orders.

He opposes amnesty. He would send undocumented immigrants home and let them go back to the starting point on immigrating to the United States. If you reward people who play outside the rules and punish people who live within the rules, pretty soon no one is going to play by the rules. We are a nation of immigrants, but we are also a nation of laws. He would secure the border by building a border fence within 18 months of taking office. If we don’t have a secure fence and people can come in and out at will, we will never be able to deal with border security effectively. I was a Judiciary immigration counsel when the republicans passed their first fence-building bill. The republicans seem to think that they can solve immigration problems by passing a bill. That hasn’t worked with border fences. We do not have nearly as many miles of fences as the republicans have authorized with their legislation. Huckabee’s views are more liberal in other areas.

As Governor, he supported a bill to permit undocumented immigrant children to receive in-state tuition benefits. He does not believe in punishing a child for something the child’s parents did. He has said that if someone is looking for a president who is going to have a mean spirit toward other human beings, he is not their guy. He will secure the borders, but he won’t do it because he is angry with undocumented immigrants for wanting to come here.


American author, political pundit, and retired Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon.

Dr. Carson’s prescription for immigration reform calls for Congress to act in a bipartisan manner. Right now, the borders are porous and internal enforcement is unenthusiastic and inconsistent. Moreover, we have incentives for illegal immigration, easy enrollment in public schools, easy employment for those willing to take jobs Americans don’t want, easy access to health care, and easy acquisition of public support through welfare programs. Other than enrollment in public schools, I don’t think Dr. Carson’s facts about the ease of obtaining benefits are completely accurate. He emphasizes that immigration reform must include bipartisan solutions that deal with the undocumented population here today and will discourage illegal immigration in the future. I agree completely with him on this point.

Dr. Carson advocates a national guest-worker program, which he says seems to be working well in Canada. I wonder if he has heard about the disastrous Bracero guest worker program in the United States, which exploited the foreign workers terribly. The CBS documentary “Harvest of Shame,” which aired in November of 1960, convinced President John F. Kennedy that Braceros were adversely affecting the wages, working conditions, and employment opportunities of our own agricultural workers. I agree that we should have a new guest worker program, but it should be implemented in a way that would prevent a recurrence of the problems the Bracero program produced.

Dr. Carson would impose greater responsibility on employers for making sure that undocumented immigrants are not hired. Employers who hire undocumented immigrants should receive swift, severe, and consistent punishment that constitutes a real deterrent and not a mere inconvenience. But he says that all of this is irrelevant unless we have secure borders. To achieve this objective, he would draw on knowledge from security personnel in prisons and other secured facilities, and the smart technology that is available now. He does not want to continue to reward people who break our laws, but he views deportation as the moral low road. We need a continual flow of immigrants, but they should be chosen on the basis of our needs.


Sen. Cruz believes in legal immigration as the son of a Cuban immigrant, but he has championed measures to secure the border, reform the legal immigration system, and uphold the rule of law. He says that Americans, particularly in Texas, have experienced the harmful effects of an unsecured border. Sen. Cruz contends that President Obama’s policies have encouraged drug smugglers, child abusers, murderers, and human traffickers who bring young children into our country to sell them into slavery. The senator has participated in efforts to increase penalties for felons who enter the country illegally. He also has advocated tripling the size of the Border Patrol and building more walls along the border. I think it is unfair to say that President Obama has encouraged those criminals to come to the United States. I also have reservations about his proposal to triple the size of the Border Patrol and build more walls. He is just saying let’s do more of what we have been doing already.

Sen. Cruz observes that in the summer of 2013, we witnessed a humanitarian crisis at our Southern Border, propelled by promises of amnesty from the White House. He thinks that immigrants deserve a better system in which they will be welcomed to the United States safely and with dignity.

Sen. Cruz also has proposed legislation to prevent Obama from illegally expanding amnesty, and he wrote a letter dated July 13, 2015, which was cosigned by 10 other people, expressing concern and asking for information about the State Department’s role in the federal government’s handling of the Unaccompanied Alien Children. According to Sen. Cruz, the totality of the information he has makes it seem as if the Administration has been concealing its true understanding of the scope of the UAC problem from most of Congress, ignoring its own intelligence on the problem, and engaging in some creative accounting to avoid its enforcement duties.


Sen. Rubio was one of four republicans who participated in writing the bipartisan Gang of Eight immigration reform bill. But he has abandoned that approach to immigration reform in favor of what he describes as a more realistic approach. According to Sen. Rubio, the strongest argument against the Gang of Eight approach was the complaint that legal status would have been provided before the border was secured. This was proven to be true by President Obama's executive actions on immigration. His executive orders establish that he won't enforce the law. I agree that President Obama’s use of prosecutorial discretion has cast doubt on whether a democratic president will enforce the law against noncriminal undocumented immigrants who are just in the United States for a better life, and that concern is going to be an obstacle to achieving a bipartisan immigration reform agreement that depends in part on preventing a new group of undocumented aliens from replacing the ones being legalized.

Sen. Rubio’s new approach is to require border security and measures to stop illegal hiring before addressing the plight of the 11 million undocumented immigrants. I will just point out that this is not a new idea. It was the basis for the last legalization agreement 29 years ago in IRCA. As president, Sen. Rubio first would ask Congress to approve legislation requiring employers to use the E-Verify system to check the legal status of their employees, to implement a system that would keep track of when nonimmigrant visitors enter and leave the United States to prevent "overstays," and to improve border security. These proposals have little value in the absence of a plan for funding and implementing them. His second step would be to modernize our legal immigration system by making it less family-based and more merit-based. Then he would he support legislation to create a path to citizenship for undocumented who have been in the country more than a decade would have to pass a background check, learn English and pay both taxes and a fine in order to obtain a work permit. After a substantial period of time in that status, they could seek legal residency. Eventually, they could apply for citizenship. I doubt that the democrats will be receptive to the proposals in his second step, and although he ratchets up the standard qualifications for legalization to a higher level, he does not address the basic concerns the republicans have expressed about a legalization program, such as fraud, inability to perform meaningful background investigations, and the belief that the program is offering amnesty to people who are living here in violation of our laws.


Sen. Paul does not support amnesty. Nevertheless, he has acknowledged that the 11 million undocumented immigrants will never go home. He would incorporate them into American society by giving them work visas and making them taxpayers. He supports legal immigration, which he says has enriched our country by admitting immigrants who seek the American Dream and have a desire for a better life. I suspect that this is true with respect to most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants too. According to Sen. Paul, millions of undocumented immigrants are crossing our border without our knowledge, and this threatens our national security. As President, he would secure the border immediately. He has introduced legislation that would make immigration reform conditional on Congress voting that the border is secure, including the completion of a border fence. I have reservations about the desirability of making that determination a political decision by leaving it up to a congressional vote.

His "Trust but Verify" amendment would require Congress to write and enforce a border security blueprint rather than relying on bureaucracies, such as DHS, to come up with a plan. The amendment also would provide new national security safeguards to track the holders of student visas and those provided asylum and refugee status. We must know who is and is not entering our country by first securing our border. His “Trust but Verify” approach is not new, but then neither are his other proposals.

More importantly, I don’t think it is possible to track the nonimmigrant students and people who are here as asylees or entered as refugees. Who would track them, the 7,300 ICE officers responsible for the internal enforcement of our immigration laws throughout the entire country? To put this in perspective, New York City has 34,000 policemen, and that is for a single city in one state.


Gov. Christie does not endorse building a fence along the U.S. border with Mexico to keep out undocumented immigrants or rounding up and deporting those who are already here. Walls can be gotten over. He advocates doing something about the job magnet that draws immigrants to the country in the first place. As president, he would clamp down on employers who are hiring undocumented aliens with a fair system that everyone is signed on to. I think he lost whatever credibility he might otherwise have had when he added that the system for enforcing employer sanctions would have to be acceptable to all of the employers. That would work with employers who do not hire undocumented immigrants or hire them and give them the same wages and benefits that American workers receive, but it is naïve to think that employers who are exploiting undocumented workers with substandard wages, no benefits, and poor working conditions are going to sign on to a plan to prevent employment of undocumented workers. His plan for border security is not impressive either. He would do it with increased manpower, with some fences, and with some surveillance electronic equipment. I think this is what DHS is doing already.


Gov. Kasich has called for a path to legal status for the undocumented immigrants who are already in the United States and for a guest worker program to meet the needs of the labor market. According to Gov. Kasich, we need to find out who they are and let the ones who have been law-abiding stay here. This is a good starting point, but it will not be a clear indication of his position on legalization until he fills in the details. For instance, what does he mean by allowing law-abiding immigrants to stay here? Does this just refer to immigrants who do not have U.S. criminal records? They are easy to identify with fingerprint checks. It is much more difficult to do a meaningful background check on an uncooperative, undocumented immigrant who has not been arrested or convicted of a crime in the United States. How would Gov. Kasich deal with this problem? Gov. Kasich also has called for the completion of a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, and he once supported a bill that would have eliminated birthright citizenship for babies born to undocumented immigrant parents.

Reprinted with permission.

About The Author

Nolan Rappaport was an immigration counsel on the House Judiciary Committee. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals. He also has been a policy advisor for the DHS Office of Information Sharing and Collaboration under a contract with TKC Communications, and spent time in private practice as an immigration lawyer at Steptoe & Johnson. He is retired now, but he welcomes part time and temporary work.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.