LOS ANGELES - The refugee crisis across Europe, the threat of terrorism, and the 11 million people now living in the United State illegally all are issues for U.S. presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
The Republican and Democratic rivals have dramatically different immigration policies that resonate with some voters and anger others. However, both say they are pursuing policies that will accept immigrants while protecting the nation’s security.
Trump told supporters in New Mexico last week that a Clinton presidency could let hundreds of millions of people cross the U.S. border, bringing crime in their wake. He offered no basis for the extraordinary number, which would virtually double the U.S. population of 319 million. Clinton, for her part, has said Trump’s immigration plan, which includes widespread deportations, would “rip the country apart” and separate families.
The immigration issue is central to Clinton’s outreach to Hispanic voters, among whom she has a 3-to-1 lead over Trump, according to a poll released last month by the Pew Research Center.
The United States is a nation of immigrants, Clinton told the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in September.
“You’re our neighbors, our colleagues, our friends, our families,” she said in an address to the Hispanic lawmakers and their supporters. It’s a message she is taking to Latino audiences in the final days of campaigning, including in Arizona Wednesday night.
Trump: Vet immigrants
Trump’s campaign says he will “prioritize the jobs, wages and security of the American people.”
For the Republican candidate, U.S. security will be enhanced by blocking immigration from nations with a history of terrorism until all potential immigrants can be thoroughly screened. He called earlier for a ban on all Muslim immigrants, but has since revised that proposal.
Trump’s 10-point immigrant plan has as its centerpiece a wall along the southern U.S. border with Mexico, to be paid for by the Mexican government. He would deport criminal immigrants, end the program called catch-and-release, expand the Border Patrol and improve the E-Verify system of workplace enforcement.
The first of a series of controversial comments about illegal immigrants came from Trump as he announced his presidential run last year.
“They’re bringing drugs [into the U.S.], they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists,” he said of undocumented migrants, most of whom enter the country through Mexico. “And some, I assume, are good people,” he added.
Polls show that Hispanics, like other Americans, are concerned with the economy, health care and terrorism, but immigration is a major theme in this election, says political scientist Raphael Sonenshein of the Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute for Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles.
“Requests for ballots are very high among Latino voters,” he said. “There’s a tremendous buzz in the Spanish-language media about Trump, and people feel very strongly that he’s a serious threat to their community.”
Clinton: ‘Keep families together’
Clinton is calling for comprehensive immigration reform that will deal with the millions of illegal immigrants.
“My proposal will keep families together,” she says, ruling out mass deportations, “and it will include a path to citizenship.”
She promises to implement her plan during her first 100 days in office. She would also fix the family visa backlog, protect the borders and national security, and “bring millions of hardworking people into the formal economy.”
Clinton promises to uphold programs enacted by President Barack Obama through executive orders called DACA and DAPA, which defer the deportation of those brought to the United States illegally as children, as well as undocumented parents of American citizens and some lawful immigrants who face expulsion.
Trump has promised to end both programs.
Clinton has a history of protecting immigrants and “supporting all communities, making sure that we are all welcome, that we are not scapegoated,” says California Democrat Fiona Ma, a former San Francisco supervisor and California assembly member.
Trump will keep the country safe, say his supporters.
A survey of Asian-American organizations reveals what they expect from the winning candidate, says Indian-American Reshma Shamasunder of Asian-Americans Advancing Justice, Los Angeles. She says Asian-Americans see “access to citizenship services, access to learning English [and] support such as health care” as programs that are critically important.
For candidates, the road to the White House requires them to appeal to voters on a range of separate issues. Immigration and security are certainly among this year’s key issues.