What's at Stake for Immigration in the 2020 Election

Right now, DREAMers still aren't safe.

immigration 2020
(Image credit: Hanna Varady/Getty)

The subject of immigration has long been meaningful to this country. And yet, for a place that purports that the "American Dream" for "everyone," we sure make it near-impossible to get, especially in the last few years. This country is great because of its diversity—but in the November 2020 election between President Donald Trump and Mike Pence and Vice President Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, that diversity is being threatened more than ever.

Lest we forget, President Trump practically built his 2016 presidential campaign on the promise of building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Said Trump in June during a visit to the wall: "My administration has done more than any administration in the history to secure our southern border. Our border has never been more secure."

But if Biden is elected, much could change when it comes to border security, the regulation of detention centers, and more. Here are a few of the most critical issues in regard to immigration, and where each presidential ticket stands on each.


A refresher: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) provides work permits, temporary legal status, and other protections to children brought to the U.S. by undocumented immigrants. The Obama-era program has over 700,000 recipients and counting.

Trump and Pence: In 2017, Trump called for the end of DACA and urged Congress to find a replacement, saying that if they didn't, he would "revisit this issue!" Fast forward to June 2020, when Supreme Court ruled that Trump couldn't immediately end DACA. "We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies," wrote Chief Justice John Roberts. "The wisdom of those decisions is none of our concern. Here we address only whether the administration complied with the procedural requirements in the law that insist on 'a reasoned explanation for its action.'"

It should be noted that the court ruled that the Trump administration's reasoning for ending DACA was illegal—but that doesn't mean Trump doesn't have the power to end it in the future if done legally.

Border Security and The Wall

Biden and Harris: Biden applauded the court's decision, saying in a statement: "The Supreme Court's ruling today is a victory made possible by the courage and resilience of hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients who bravely stood up and refused to be ignored." Biden has said he would fully reinstate DACA, in stark opposition to the Trump's administration feelings on the subject.

Trump and Pence: Trump repeatedly pushed for a border wall between the United States and Mexico, boasting that Mexico would pay for the wall via the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement. That didn't happen, and Congress never really approved the wall's funding. That changed in February 2019 when Trump shut down the government, declared a state of emergency, and moved billions of dollars from the Defense Department to pay for the wall.

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President Trump visiting the border wall in June.

(Image credit: SAUL LOEB)

Around 300 miles of that wall has been built so far, costing around $20 million a mile, but there are still about 270 miles left to build. In January this year, the Department of Homeland Security asked the Defense Department to find the money to fund the rest of the wall, saying it "is needed to block drug smuggling routes on federal land."

Biden and Harris: Biden isn't the biggest fan of the border wall and has said in his first 100 days in office that the building of the wall would cease. He proposed better technology be used at our entry points instead. According to The Wall Street Journal, the presidential candidate hasn't said whether or not he would take down Trump's wall.

Refugees and Asylum

Trump and Pence: The number of refugees accepted by the U.S. has declined each year Trump has been president. In September of 2019, Trump's administration announced that the refugee cap would be reduced from 30,000 to 18,000. As of August 2020, only 6,674 refugees have been admitted. During Obama's last year as president, around 85,000 refugees were admitted, to put that into perspective.

Biden and Harris: Biden has said he would commit to taking in 125,000 refugees a year, a number that could change over time. "If I'm elected president, we're going to immediately end Trump's assault on the dignity of immigrant communities. We're going to restore our moral standing in the world and our historic role as a safe haven for refugees and asylum-seekers," Biden said in his acceptance speech at the virtual Democratic National Convention.

On the subject of asylum seekers, Biden also has said he would change the U.S.'s asylum process if elected. Those proposed changes include: ending the "Remain in Mexico" policy that requires asylum-seekers to wait in northern Mexico until their case gets picked up; getting more immigration judges to deal with the more than 1 million backlog cases; and reversing the Trump administration that permitted domestic violence and gang persecution as valid reasons to seek asylum.

Immigrant Detention and Deportation

Trump and Pence: Last year, Trump administration moved $271 million from the Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Disaster Relief Fund (FEMA), and other organizations to ICE to fund the detention system for those awaiting asylum hearings. The U.S. currently has the largest immigration detention system in the world, and works with for-profit companies to hold a majority of immigrants. In 2018, ICE spent over $300 million on contracts with these companies.

During Trump's presidency, more than 749,000 deportations have taken place—but this isn't as much as when Barack Obama was in office. Midway into his Obama's presidency, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deported more than 400,000 immigrants in a single year—a new record.

Biden and Harris: Biden says he will continue to work with ICE, and if elected, Biden plans to freeze all deportations for 100 days. His senior adviser, Cristóbal Alex, told CBS once that period is up, he intends to direct ICE to focus on national security threats and deport those with serious felonies.

Biden's immigration plan states that he would end for-profit detention centers and expand on other programs to house immigrants. "No business should profit from the suffering of desperate people fleeing violence," Alex has said.


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Bianca Rodriguez

Bianca Rodriguez is the Fashion & Luxury Commerce Manager at Hearst Magazines, covering fashion, beauty, and more for Cosmopolitan, Elle, Esquire, Harper’s BAZAAR, and Town & Country. She likes lounging about with a good book and thinks a closet without platform sneakers is a travesty.