U.S. Immigration Debate Decision-Making Resources

The immigration debate in the United States is contentious. The current administration has implemented sweeping policy changes designed to limit and deter immigrants and refugees from entering the United States. A few examples include, Executive Order 13769 which opponents term a ‘Muslim ban’ which prevents immigrants and asylum seekers from Muslim majority countries from entering the US and Attorney General, Sessionsannouncement to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 260,000 Salvadorans, 60,000 Haitians, 5,000 Nicaraguans, and a few hundred Sudanese, all seeking refuge from violence and other disasters in the US. Other policy changes designed to deter and limit immigrants include changes to how US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCiS) prosecutes immigrants illegally in the country, separating children from parents at the border, and expanding the mandate for ICE – Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

The immigration system in the U.S. needs updated policies that will restructure a system that is not meeting the needs of American citizens, nor the people seeking to enter the US and eventually become citizens.

The following list of sources will help to inform voters ahead of the mid-term elections 6 NOVEMBER 2018. The first two sources are direct quotes from the Democratic Party and Republican Party Platforms. The summary below lifts direct phrases and sentences from the official statements from each political party. We approach this debate by beginning with the party stances because it is important to understand the way in which each party frames the issue of immigration and the language each uses to present their message.

Following the Party statements are several articles from established news media and think tanks, from both liberal and conservative standpoints. Use this document to inform yourself about the Immigration debate so that you may cast an informed vote on 6 November 2018.


Document Title: 2016 Democratic Party Platform: Fixing our Broken Immigration System

Website: https://www.democrats.org/party-platform#broken-immigration


The US was founded as, and continues to be, a county of immigrants …

The Party supports legal immigration, with reasonable limits …

People should come the US with visas and not through smugglers.

More than 11 million people are living in the shadows, without proper documentation.

The current quota system discriminates against certain immigrants, including immigrants of color …

Fix our broken immigration system … and create a path to citizenship for law-abiding families who are here … contributing to their communities and country.

Should repeal the 3-year, and 10-year and permanent bars, which often force persons in mixed status families into the heartbreaking dilemma of either pursuing a green card by leaving the country and their loved ones behind, or remaining in the shadows.

Fix family backlogs and defend against those who would exclude or eliminate legal immigration avenues …

Fight for comprehensive immigration reform …

Defend President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans – DREAMers.

Make DREAMers eligible for driver’s licenses and in-state college tuition.

Invest in culturally-appropriate immigrant integration services ….

We believe immigration enforcement must be humane and consistent with our values.

We should ensure due process for those fleeing violence in Central America and work with our regional partners to address the root causes of violence.

We must take care with children … we should guarantee government-funded counsel for unaccompanied children in immigration courts.

We will promote best practices among local law enforcement, in terms of how they collaborate with federal authorities, to ensure that they maintain and build trust between local law enforcement and the communities they serve.

We will oversee programs to make sure that there are no abuses and no arbitrary deportation programs.

Word for quality health care for all Americans – regardless of immigration status …

We will fight to end federal, state, and municipal contracts with for-profit private prisons and private detention centers.

We reject attempts to impose a religious test to bar immigrants or refugees …

Document Title: 2018 Republican Party Platform: Immigration and the Rule of Law

Website: https://www.gop.com/platform/reforming-government/

Our part is the natural home for those who come in search of freedom and justice.

The greatest asset of the American economy is the American worker. Our immigration system must protect American working families and their wages …

We are grateful to the thousands of new legal immigrants … who are serving in the Armed Forces and among first responders.  Their patriotism should encourage all to embrace the newcomers legally among us, assist their journey to full citizenship, and help their communities avoid isolation from the mainstream of society.

… we both encourage the preservation of heritage tongues and support English as the nation’s official language, a unifying force essential for the advancement of immigrant communities and our nation as a whole.

America’s immigration policy must serve the national interest of the US, and interests of American workers must be protected over the claims of foreign nationals seeking the same jobs.

Illegal immigration endangers everyone, exploits the taxpayers, and insults all who aspire to enter America legally.

We oppose any form of amnesty for those who, by breaking the law, have disadvantaged those who have obeyed it.

The executive amnesties of 2012 and 2014 (DREAMers Programs) … must be immediately rescinded by a Republican president.

In a time of terrorism, drug cartels, human trafficking, and criminal gangs, the presence of millions of unidentified individuals in this country poses grave risks to the safety and sovereignty of the US.

Our highest priority must be to secure our borders and all ports of entry and to enforce our immigration laws.

… we support building a wall along our southern border and protecting all ports of entry.

We insist upon workplace enforcement of verification systems so that more jobs can be available to all legal workers.

We reaffirm our endorsement of the SAVE program – Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements – to ensure that public funds are not given to persons not legally present in this country.

Gang membership must be a deportable offense …

Because ‘sanctuary cities” violate federal law and endanger their own citizens, they should not be eligible for federal funding.

… we urge the reform of our guest worker programs to eliminate fraud, improve efficiency and ensure they serve the national interest.

Asylum should be limited to cases of political, ethnic or religious persecution.

To ensure our national security, refugees who cannot be carefully vetted cannot be admitted to the country, especially those whose homelands have been the breeding grounds for terrorism.


Document Title: American Immigration Council – How the US Immigration System works

Website: https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/how-united-states-immigration-system-works


1.     Family-based Immigration

2.     Employment-Based Immigration

3.     Per-Country Ceilings

4.     Refugees and Asylees

5.     The Diversity Visa Program

6.     Other Forms of Humanitarian Relief

7.     US Citizenship

Document Title: Council on Foreign Relations (updated 7/2018)

Website: https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/us-immigration-debate-0


 1. Immigration population in the United States

2.     Americans’ feelings about immigration

3.     Legislation considered by Congress in recent years

4.     Actions taken by presidents in recent years

5.     States and local authorities actions
For more information on Immigration Policy 

Migration Policy Institute : https://www.migrationpolicy.org/about/mission 

Center for Immigration Studies: https://cis.org/ 

ProCon.org: https://immigration.procon.org/ 

The Atlantic, “How Immigration became so Controversial” (2/2018) :

Time, “Immigration Debates Have always been Tied to America’s Moments of Crisis” (1/2018):

Homeland Security: Immigration Data and Stats :

The Hill, “Five ways Trump is restricting immigration:

Author: Jason McSparren
Research Fellow at Refugees Welcome!
Center for Peace, Democracy, and Development
Doctoral Candidate in Global Governance and Human Security

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