CREATING A 21ST CENTURY IMMIGRATION SYSTEM
Out of many, we are one. That bedrock American idea has animated our country from its earliest days, inspiring people from every corner of the earth to participate in our great democratic experiment. The Trump Administration has repudiated that idea and abandoned our values as a diverse, compassionate, and welcoming country. Instead of pursuing a sensible, humane, and responsible approach to immigration that strengthens the United States, the Trump Administration has been callous, cruel, and reckless in the extreme. President Trump’s immigration policies have made our communities less safe, undermined our economy, and tarnished our image around the world.
This Administration’s cruelty and dehumanization of immigrants stretches the imagination and shocks the conscience: forcibly separating families and putting children in cages; deporting veterans who have fought to defend our freedoms; conducting militarized raids on our workplaces; endangering lives by denying COVID-19 testing and treatment based on immigration status, including to essential workers at the forefront of the pandemic response; banning people from traveling to the United States based on their faith or their country of origin; and turning away refugees and asylum seekers fleeing violence and persecution. These actions should not happen in our country again.
Democrats believe America can do better. Indeed, we must.
The truth is that our immigration system was broken long before President Trump came into office, and his departure alone won’t fix it. Immigrants are essential to our society and our economy. Immigrants are part of our families. They enrich our culture. They grow our food, care for our loved ones, serve in our armed forces, and provide critical health care services. Immigrants make America stronger. Not only do immigrants support us—immigrants are us. Our families and our communities, our congregations and our schools, our businesses large and small have been built and sustained through the inclusion of immigrants. That’s why Democrats commit to building a 21st century immigration system that reflects our values, repairs past harms, heals our communities, rebuilds our economy, and renews our global leadership.
We will start by righting the wrongs of the Trump Administration.
Democrats will rescind President Trump’s fabricated “National Emergency,” which siphons funding away from our men and women in uniform to construct an unnecessary, wasteful, and ineffective wall on the southern border.
We will immediately terminate the Trump Administration’s discriminatory travel and immigration bans that disproportionately impact Muslim, Arab, and African people, and invite those whose visas have been denied under these xenophobic and un-American policies to re-apply to come to the United States. We will support legislation to ensure that no president can enact discriminatory bans ever again.
We will reinstate, expand, and streamline protections for Dreamers and the parents of American citizen children to keep families together in the communities they have long called home.
Democrats believe the United States should be a beacon of hope for those who are suffering violence and injustice, which is why we will protect and expand the existing asylum system and other humanitarian protections. We will reverse Trump Administration policies that prevent victims of gang and domestic violence, as well as LGBTQ+ people who are unsafe in their home countries, from being eligible to apply for asylum. Democrats will end Trump Administration policies that deny protected entry to asylum seekers, put them at great risk, and destabilize our neighbors and the broader region. And we will end prosecution of asylum seekers at the border and policies that force them to apply from “safe third countries,” which are far from safe.
Democrats believe that our fight to end systemic and structural racism in our country extends to our immigration system, including the policies at our borders and ports of entry, detention centers, and within immigration law enforcement agencies and their policies and operations. And Democrats will immediately halt enforcement of and rescind the Trump Administration’s un-American immigrant wealth test.
Even as we work to reverse the enormous damage caused by the Trump Administration, we are determined to build a 21st century immigration system that embodies our values, expands economic opportunity for all Americans, and enhances our global competitiveness.
Democrats believe it is long past time to provide a roadmap to citizenship for the millions of undocumented workers, caregivers, students, and children who are an essential part of our economy and of the fabric of our nation. We will fast-track this process for those workers who have been essential to the pandemic response and recovery efforts, including health care workers, farmworkers, and others. We will also eliminate unfair barriers to naturalization, reduce application backlogs, and make our immigration processes faster, more efficient, and less costly. These reforms will strengthen our communities, our families, our economy, and our country. Democrats oppose President Trump’s illegal, chaotic, and reckless changes to the legal immigration system, including decisions to slash family-based immigration as well as H-1B and other visa programs that can help our economy.
Democrats believe family unity should be a guiding principle for our immigration policy. We will prioritize family reunification for children still separated from their families, and we will restore family reunification programs ended by the Trump Administration. We support legislation to treat the spouses and children of green card holders as immediate relatives and end their unfair separation. We will eliminate family-based green card backlogs and reform the system to speed up family-based visas. And we will work with Congress to eliminate immigration barriers, such as the three- and 10-year bars, and remove the 10-year waiting period for waivers to the permanent bars that keep loved ones apart.
We believe we should expand, not reduce, the annual visa cap for victims of human trafficking, including victims of sex trafficking, violence against women and children, and other heinous crimes; ensure that same sex-couples and their children receive equal treatment in the immigration and naturalization systems; reaffirm America’s commitment to family-based immigration; and preserve the critical role of diversity preferences in our immigration system. Democrats will ensure that law-abiding individuals with Temporary Protected Status or Deferred Enforced Departure are not sent back to countries where they cannot live safely, and we will work to pave a path to citizenship for those who have been in the country for an extended period of time and built their lives in the United States.
Democrats know that when employers feel free to abuse and bully immigrant workers, all workers suffer. That’s why we will hold employers accountable, promote workers’ rights, and prioritize the enforcement of labor and employment laws across the economy, including discrimination and sexual harassment protections, wage and hour laws, and health and safety rules. We will prevent employers from taking advantage of immigrant workers by establishing an affirmative process to request deferred action for workers who report labor violations and by supporting the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights and the Protect Our Workers from Exploitation and Retaliation (POWER) Act.
We will ensure that enforcement mechanisms are humane and consistent with our values and international humanitarian obligations. That’s why we will end workplace and community raids. We will protect sensitive locations like our schools, houses of worship, health care facilities, benefits offices, and DMVs from immigration enforcement actions, and prohibit raids in which children and members of vulnerable populations are left behind without their caregivers. We will prohibit enforcement actions that deter access to justice at courthouses and repress freedom of speech and assembly, end programs that force state and local law enforcement to also be responsible for immigration enforcement, and stop targeting men and women who served in uniform and their families. We will reaffirm enforcement officials’ ability to engage in the pre-Trump practice of prosecutorial discretion for deserving cases, including when needed to address humanitarian issues or other injustices. We will also prevent enforcement officials from retaliating against individuals for their political speech or activity, or because of their efforts to advocate for individuals’ rights.
We believe detention should be a last resort, not the default. Democrats will prioritize investments in more effective and cost-efficient community-based alternatives to detention. We will end for-profit detention centers and ensure that any facility where migrants are being detained is held to the highest standards of care and guarantees their safety and dignity. We will ensure all detention centers provide access to competent interpreters who speak migrants’ native languages and dialects. Detention of children should be restricted to the shortest possible time, with their access to education and proper care ensured. We will prioritize alternatives to detention for individuals with special vulnerabilities—those who are known to be suffering from serious physical or mental illness, who have disabilities, who are elderly, pregnant, or nursing, who demonstrate that they are primary caretakers of children or an infirm person, identify as gay, lesbian, transgender, gender non-conforming, or intersex, or whose detention is otherwise not in the public interest.
Democrats will implement robust mechanisms for oversight, accountability, and transparency to ensure immigration agencies abide by our values, the U.S. Constitution, and international law. Democrats believe immigration judges should be able to operate free of inappropriate political influence, and will support steps to make immigration courts more independent. We will demand that leaders of our immigration agencies be Senate-confirmed professionals, and that Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection personnel abide by our values and professional, evidence-based standards and are held accountable for any inappropriate, unlawful, or inhumane treatment.
A 21st century immigration system that honors our values is an essential prerequisite not just to recovering from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, but to strengthening our democracy and guaranteeing America’s long-term economic competitiveness. That’s why Democrats believe in improving and increasing opportunities for legal, permanent immigration. Our family, humanitarian, and diversity pathways have contributed immeasurably to the vibrancy and productivity of American society and should continue to be the centerpiece of our immigration system. We also support awarding visas for permanent, employment-based immigration in a way that is responsive to labor market needs. We want to attract and keep talent in this country, which is why Democrats will end the Trump Administration’s freeze on green cards for new immigrants and instead pursue a meaningful reform agenda.
Democrats support policies and programs to make it easier for qualified immigrants and their families to become full and equal citizens, including increasing funding for culturally appropriate immigrant inclusion and citizenship services, legal support, English classes and bilingual education, workforce development, and adult education.
Finally, Democrats will address the root causes of migration—violence and insecurity, poverty, pervasive corruption, lack of educational and economic opportunity, and the impacts of climate change. Disciplined American leadership and well-designed assistance programs can help prevent and mitigate the effects of migration crises around the world, from Southeast Asia to Sub-Saharan Africa to Central America. We will support a comprehensive strategy to strengthen security and prosperity in partnership with the people of Central America and the Caribbean and with the support of the international community. And we will renew American diplomacy as our tool of first resort, rebuild our partnerships and alliances, and once again lead the global humanitarian response.