Immigration has been a major subject of debate among politicians for decades. As a result, comprehensive immigration reform has been a pipe dream. As the election cycle plays out, Democrats and Republicans have become so polarized on this issue that it is nearly impossible to predict the likelihood of any reform.

According to a variety of polls, and the Iowa caucus results, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio are the current frontrunners for the presidential nomination. Each candidate believes the immigration system is broken, but they have drastically different ideas of reform policy.

Hillary Clinton believes that comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship should be enacted. Clinton would expand fee waivers to help more eligible people become naturalized, expand healthcare access regardless of immigration status, and close privately funded immigrant detention centers.

As the son of an immigrant, Bernie Sanders shares many of Clinton’s views, including an earned path to citizenship and dismantling privately funded detention centers. He believes in expanding humanitarian parole.  Sanders also has other ideas, such as issuing whistleblower visas to workers who report abuse and employer violations.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, has committed to making Mexico pay for a wall between Mexico and the United States by withholding preferential trade relations. Trump insists he will deport all undocumented (or “illegal”) foreign nationals to their country of origin, end birthright citizenship, and enhance penalties for overstaying a visa.

Like Trump, Ted Cruz believes the “serious immigration problem in America” will be solved by securing the border. Unlike Trump, Cruz does not plan to force Mexico to pay for a wall, but instead plans to use U.S. resources to complete 700 miles of priority fencing; replace all single-layer fencing with double-layer fencing; triple the number of Border Patrol agents; and increase aerial surveillance. He also plans to end immigrant sanctuary policies where local enforcement officers do not check immigration status if stopped by the police and its funding.

Marco Rubio, in some ways, is more extreme than Trump and Cruz. He would move away from a family-based immigration system to a merit-based, high-skilled immigration system requiring formal civil education requirements such as a test of American history and government to obtain a green card. He also wants to finish the wall, hire 20,000 new border patrol agents, and spend $4 billion on new cameras and sensors at the border.

Addressing the various misinterpretations of immigration law reflected in these policies must be for a different day. With such drastically different views, it is difficult if not impossible to predict what immigration policy will look like after the presidential election.  Improving our immigration system is no easy task, but what we need is comprehensive, balanced immigration reform that provides opportunities for immigrants and Americans alike without compromising our safety.

Posted by: Sarah Duckham