"Resolved, That foreign immigration, which in the past has added so much to the wealth, development of resources and increase of power to the nation, the asylum of the oppressed of all nations, should be fostered and encouraged by a liberal and just policy."This is in rather stark contrast with modern rhetoric.
To see just what was, exactly, the evolution of the two party platforms on this issue, I decided to go through all of the Republican and Democratic party platforms for all of the election years from 1864 onward, isolating what they said about immigration in particular. Below I've copied sections for each year from this handy web site. We'll call that the raw data.
Here are some reflections. First, a general comment on party platforms: they've gotten longer. It seems we've experienced a great deal of language inflation, so that we use a lot more words without communicating more. Judge for yourself whether you think the prose hasn't gotten worse with time.
Now concerning the issue itself. The Democrats don't appear to have said anything in their platforms concerning immigration until 1876, in which they complain about Chinese immigration and blame the Republicans for not doing anything about it. That same year, the Republicans for the first time say something other than positive: "It is the immediate duty of congress fully to investigate the effects of the immigration and importation of Mongolians on the moral and material interests of the country."
From that time on, the anti-immigration rhetoric seems to snowball. For the next few decades, both parties are in substantial agreement: keep the Chinese out. The Republican justification for this is particularly interesting: Chinese labor is essentially slave labor, and just as we opposed slavery so we oppose unregulated immigration.
In 1892 the rhetoric becomes generalized. The Chinese are not the only problem--we also have paupers from Europe to deal with. The Republican platform from that year mentions no specific nationality at all.
It appears that 1896 is the first year in which the justification for immigration restrictions is explicitly pro-labor and anti-competition. This is especially true on the Republican side. Such rhetoric continues on through present day.
In 1920 the Republicans made immigration restrictions a core issue, with by far the strongest statement in history up to that year. While the Democrats merely endorsed the old anti-Asian immigration laws, the Republicans came up with a new, expansive platform, specifically in response to the aftermath of World War I. This pattern continues through 1932, when they declare, "The restriction of immigration is a Republican policy."
In 1952, the Democrats introduce for apparently the first time a progressive, inclusive stance on immigration, and introduce this bit of rhetoric: "We want no "second-class" citizens in free America." They will repeat this for several election cycles.
From the 1950s through the 1980s, a lot of the immigration rhetoric is focused on refugees. In the 1980s, we see the present day positions of the respective parties start to crystallize. The Democrats take a position of multiculturalism and non-discrimination, while the Republicans emphasize the strength of border enforcement.
It's important to realize, however, that even throughout all of this history, the basic objectives of both parties expressed by their platforms are not all that different. They take jabs at each other, but this is mostly to criticize enforcement, rather than real differences in policy. At times the rhetoric is more or less pro-immigration, but the overall trend has been increasingly in favor of restriction and enforcement.
This is not an analysis of history, but of platforms. The circumstances surrounding all of this rhetoric would shed light on the "why" behind it, but I think we learn something just from the words themselves.
Perhaps the most significant modern development in terms of immigration restriction is its attachment to the "rule of law." Both parties agree on this point from about the 1980s onward, though the Republicans are more emphatic. In the 2012 Republican platform, the heading on immigration reads, "The Rule of Law: Legal Immigration."
Another particularly Republican development in recent years is to link immigration with national security.
Now for a critical assessment. Throughout all of this history, there seems to be substantial agreement between both parties on the goals of immigration policy. Immigration restrictions were first justified by preventing servitude, then by protecting American workers from competition. To this we add today a whole host of other evils, such as dangers to national security, drugs, and drains on our welfare system. It seems we have a somewhat paradoxical situation in which the more prosperous and powerful we become, the more afraid we are of increasing numbers. This is not to deny that America adds over a million immigrants to its population each year. Yet the rhetoric gets stronger and stronger. Enforcement of restrictions is never good enough.
From my point of view, the only welcome development since the 1864 Republican platform has been from the Democrats, in insisting that immigration be non-discriminatory (a stance which the Republicans later officially adopted). Given that the first anti-immigration laws were explicitly racist (the "Chinese Exclusion Act" was supported by both parties from the 1880s all the way into the 1930s), one can't help but wonder if racism invariable plays a role in immigration politics.
But the fundamental economic argument for restrictions has not been touched since the early 1900s. A century of rhetoric has solidified the general belief that free immigration would make Americans poorer. Anyone concerned about the plight of men and women seeking a better life in the US cannot ignore the economic component. If economic assumptions on both the Left and the Right remain untouched, there will be no movement on this issue.
What is especially frightening is the great mass of proposed enforcement methods, from E-Verify to an enormous fence on the Mexican border. The cost and invasiveness of such policies is staggering.
In reading the most recent platforms, it would appear that the Democrats' support of "comprehensive reform" is a very recent historical rhetorical strategy. It is also vague. It does not appear that the two parties actually disagree on what immigration law should accomplish. If the Democrats wish to go easy on illegal immigrants, fine, but it seems that if they got their way, they would only be faced with the same problem a few years down the road.
It is worth reflecting on why the rhetoric only gets tougher. Why is enforcement never good enough? In light of recent events, we might wonder whether the desire of foreign people to find a better life is simply far too strong to contain with our laws. One of the most absurd ideas that both parties have long proposed is to work with other nations' governments to reduce the influx of immigration. If other nations had governments worth working with on this issue, I imagine their citizens would not be tempted to illegally immigrate. Even if these governments were not corrupt or inefficient, it seems impossible to prevent desperate people from fleeing a terrible situation in search of something better. Illegal immigration is both understandable and inevitable.
The most humane option, it seems to me, is open borders. Based on the political rhetoric, I say we are quite far from achieving anything like this.
R: "Resolved, That foreign immigration, which in the past has added so much to the wealth, development of resources and increase of power to the nation, the asylum of the oppressed of all nations, should be fostered and encouraged by a liberal and just policy."
R: "Eleventh—Foreign immigration, which in the past, has added so much to the wealth, development of resources, and increase of power to this nation—the asylum of the oppressed of all nations—should be fostered and encouraged by a liberal and just policy."
R: "...we urge continued careful encouragement and protection of voluntary immigration."
D: "Reform is necessary to correct the omissions of a Republican Congress and the errors of our treaties and our diplomacy, which has stripped our fellow-citizens of foreign birth and kindred race, re-erasing [re-crossing] the Atlantic from the shield of American citizenship, and has exposed our brethren of the Pacific coast to the incursions of a race not sprung from the same great parent stock, and in fact now by law denied citizenship through naturalization as being unaccustomed to the traditions of a progressive civilization, one exercised in liberty under equal laws; and we denounce the policy which thus discards the liberty-loving German and tolerates the revival of the coolie-trade in Mongolian women for immoral purposes, and Mongolian men held to perform servile labor contracts, and demand such modification of the treaty with the Chinese Empire, or such legislation within constitutional limitations, as shall prevent further importation or immigration of the Mongolian race."
R: "11. It is the immediate duty of congress fully to investigate the effects of the immigration and importation of Mongolians on the moral and material interests of the country."
D: "11. Amendment of the Burlingame Treaty. No more Chinese immigration, except for travel, education, and foreign commerce, and that even carefully guarded."
R: "6. Since the authority to regulate immigration and intercourse between the United States and foreign nations rests with the Congress of the United States and the treaty-making power, the Republican party, regarding the unrestricted immigration of the Chinese as a matter of grave concernment under the exercise of both these powers, would limit and restrict that immigration by the enactment of such just, humane and reasonable laws and treaties as will produce that result."
D: "In reaffirming the declaration of the Democratic platform of 1856, that, "the liberal principles embodied by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, and sanctioned in the Constitution, which make ours the land of liberty and the asylum of the oppressed of every Nation, have ever been cardinal principles in the Democratic faith," we nevertheless do not sanction the importation of foreign labor, or the admission of servile races, unfitted by habits, training, religion, or kindred, for absorption into the great body of our people, or for the citizenship which our laws confer. American civilization demands that against the immigration or importation of Mongolians to these shores our gates be closed."
R: "The Republican party, having its birth in a hatred of slave labor and a desire that all men may be truly free and equal, is unalterably opposed to placing our workingmen in competition with any form of servile labor, whether at home or abroad. In this spirit, we denounce the importation of contract labor, whether from Europe or Asia, as an offense against the spirit of American institutions; and we pledge ourselves to sustain the present law restricting Chinese immigration, and to provide such further legislation as is necessary to carry out its purposes."
D: "The exclusion from our shores of Chinese laborers has been effectually secured under the provisions of a treaty, the operation of which has been postponed by the action of a Republican majority in the Senate."
R: "We declare our hostility to the introduction into this country of foreign contract labor and of Chinese labor, alien to our civilization and constitution; and we demand the rigid enforcement of the existing laws against it, and favor such immediate legislation as will exclude such labor from our shores."
D: "We heartily approve all legitimate efforts to prevent the United States from being used as the dumping ground for the known criminals and professional paupers of Europe; and we demand the rigid enforcement of the laws against Chinese immigration and the importation of foreign workmen under contract, to degrade American labor and lessen its wages; but we condemn and denounce any and all attempts to restrict the immigration of the industrious and worthy of foreign lands."
R: "We favor the enactment of more stringent laws and regulations for the restriction of criminal, pauper and contract immigration."
D: "We hold that the most efficient way of protecting American labor is to prevent the importation of foreign pauper labor to compete with it in the home market, and that the value of the home market to our American farmers and artisans is greatly reduced by a vicious monetary system which depresses the prices of their products below the cost of production, and thus deprives them of the means of purchasing the products of our home manufactories; and as labor creates the wealth of the country, we demand the passage of such laws as may be necessary to protect it in all its rights."
R: "For the protection of the equality of our American citizenship and of the wages of our workingmen, against the fatal competition of low priced labor, we demand that the immigration laws be thoroughly enforced, and so extended as to exclude from entrance to the United States those who can neither read nor write."
D: "We favor the continuance and strict enforcement of the Chinese exclusion law, and its application to the same classes of all Asiatic races."
R: "In the further interest of American workmen we favor a more effective restriction of the immigration of cheap labor from foreign lands, the extension of opportunities of education for working children, the raising of the age limit for child labor, the protection of free labor as against contract convict labor, and an effective system of labor insurance."
R: "We cordially approve the attitude of President Roosevelt and Congress in regard to the exclusion of Chinese labor, and promise a continuance of the Republican policy in that direction."
D: "We favor full protection, by both National and State governments within their respective spheres, of all foreigners residing in the United States under treaty, but we are opposed to the admission of Asiatic immigrants who can not be amalgamated with our population, or whose presence among us would raise a race issue and involve us in diplomatic controversies with Oriental powers."
R: "We pledge the Republican party to the enactment of appropriate laws to give relief from the constantly growing evil of induced or undesirable immigration, which is inimical to the progress and welfare of the people of the United States."
D: "The policy of the United States with reference to the non-admission of Asiatic immigrants is a true expression of the judgment of our people, and to the several states, whose geographical situation or internal conditions make this policy, and the enforcement of the laws enacted pursuant thereto, of particular concern, we pledge our support."
R: "The standard of living and the standard of citizenship of a nation are its most precious possessions, and the preservation and the elevation of those standards is the first duty of our government. The immigration policy of the U. S. should be such as to insure that the number of foreigners in the country at any one time shall not exceed that which can be assimilated with reasonable rapidity, and to favor immigrants whose standards are similar to ours.
The selective tests that are at present applied should be improved by requiring a higher physical standard, a more complete exclusion of mental defectives and of criminals, and a more effective inspection applied as near the source of immigration as possible, as well as at the port of entry. Justice to the foreigner and to ourselves demands provision for the guidance, protection and better economic distribution of our alien population. To facilitate government supervision, all aliens should be required to register annually until they become naturalized.
The existing policy of the United States for the practical exclusion of Asiatic immigrants is sound, and should be maintained."
D: "We pledge ourselves to maintain our established position in favor of the exclusion of Asiatic immigration."
R: "The unprecedented living conditions in Europe following the world war created a condition by which we were threatened with mass immigration that would have seriously disturbed our economic life. The law recently enacted is designed to protect the inhabitants of our country, not only the American citizen, but also the alien already with us who is seeking to secure an economic foothold for himself and family from the competition that would come from unrestricted immigration. The administrative features of the law represent a great constructive advance, and eliminate the hardships suffered by immigrants under emergency statute.
We favor the adoption of methods which will exercise a helpful influence among the foreign born population and provide for the education of the alien in our language, customs, ideals and standards of life. We favor the improvement of naturalization laws."
D: "Laws which limit immigration must be preserved in full force and effect, but the provisions contained in these laws that separate husbands from wives and parents from infant children are inhuman and not essential to the purpose or the efficacy of such laws."
R: "The ability to pay such wages and maintain such a standard comes from the wisdom of the protective legislation which the Republican Party has placed upon the national statute books, the tariff which bars cheap foreign-made goods from the American market and provides continuity of employment for our workmen and fair profits for the manufacturers, the restriction of immigration which not only prevents the glutting of our labor market, but allows to our newer immigrants a greater opportunity to secure a footing in their upward struggle."
"The Republican Party believes that in the interest of both native and foreign-born wage-earners, it is necessary to restrict immigration. Unrestricted immigration would result in widespread unemployment and in the breakdown of the American standard of living. Where, however, the law works undue hardships by depriving the immigrant of the comfort and society of those bound by close family ties, such modification should be adopted as will afford relief.
We commend Congress for correcting defects for humanitarian reasons and for providing an effective system of examining prospective immigrants in their home countries."
R: "The restriction of immigration is a Republican policy. Our party formulated and enacted into law the quota system, which for the first time has made possible an adequate control of foreign immigration.
Rigid examination of applicants in foreign countries prevented the coming of criminals and other undesirable classes, while other provisions of the law have enabled the President to suspend immigration of foreign wage-earners who otherwise, directly or indirectly, would have increased unemployment among native-born and legally resident foreign-born wage-earners in this country. As a result, immigration is now less than at any time during the past one hundred years.
We favor the continuance and strict enforcement of our present laws upon this subject."
R: "We favor the strict enforcement of all laws controlling the entry of aliens. The activities of undesirable aliens should be investigated and those who seek to change by force and violence the American form of government should be deported."
R: "We will foster and cherish our historic policy of friendship with China and assert our deep interest in the maintenance of its integrity and freedom." (That made me laugh.)
D: "Solution of the problem of refugees from communism and overpopulation has become a permanent part of the foreign policy program of the Democratic Party. We pledge continued cooperation with other free nations to solve it.
We pledge continued aid to refugees from communism and the enactment of President Truman's proposals for legislation in this field. In this way we can give hope and courage to the victims of Soviet brutality and can carry on the humanitarian tradition of the Displaced Persons Act.
Subversive elements must be screened out and prevented from entering our land, but the gates must be left open for practical numbers of desirable persons from abroad whose immigration to this country provides an invigorating infusion into the stream of American life, as well as a significant contribution to the solution of the world refugee and overpopulation problems.
We pledge continuing revision of our immigration and naturalization laws to do away with any unjust and unfair practices against national groups which have contributed some of our best citizens. We will eliminate distinctions between native-born and naturalized citizens. We want no "second-class" citizens in free America."
D: "America's long tradition of hospitality and asylum for those seeking freedom, opportunity, and escape from oppression, has been besmirched by the delays, failures and broken promises of the Republican Administration. The Democratic Party favors prompt revision of the immigration and nationality laws to eliminate unfair provisions under which admissions to this country depend upon quotas based upon the accident of national origin. Proper safeguards against subversive elements should be provided. Our immigration procedures must reflect the principles of our Bill of Rights.
We favor eliminating the provisions of law which charge displaced persons admitted to our shores against quotas for future years. Through such "mortgages" of future quotas, thousands of qualified persons are being forced to wait long years before they can hope for admission.
We also favor more liberal admission of relatives to eliminate the unnecessary tragedies of broken families.
We favor elimination of unnecessary distinctions between native-born and naturalized citizens. There should be no "second class" citizenship in the United States.
The administration of the Refugee Relief Act of 1953 has been a disgrace to our country. Rescue has been denied to innocent, defenseless and suffering people, the victims of war and the aftermath of wars. The purpose of the Act has been defeated by Republican mismanagement."
R: "The Republican Party supports an immigration policy which is in keeping with the traditions of America in providing a haven for oppressed peoples, and which is based on equality of treatment, freedom from implications of discrimination between racial, nationality and religious groups, and flexible enough to conform to changing needs and conditions.
We believe that such a policy serves our self-interest, reflects our responsibility for world leadership and develops maximum cooperation with other nations in resolving problems in this area.
We support the President's program submitted to the 84th Congress to carry out needed modifications in existing law and to take such further steps as may be necessary to carry out our traditional policy.
In that concept, this Republican Administration sponsored the Refugee Relief Act to provide asylum for thousands of refugees, expellees and displaced persons, and undertook in the face of Democrat opposition to correct the inequities in existing law and to bring our immigration policies in line with the dynamic needs of the country and principles of equity and justice.
We believe also that the Congress should consider the extension of the Refugee Relief Act of 1953 in resolving this difficult refugee problem which resulted from world conflict. To all this we give our wholehearted support."
D: "We shall adjust our immigration, nationality and refugee policies to eliminate discrimination and to enable members of scattered families abroad to be united with relatives already in our midst.
The national-origins quota system of limiting immigration contradicts the rounding principles of this nation. It is inconsistent with our belief in the rights of man. This system was instituted after World War I as a policy of deliberate discrimination by a Republican Administration and Congress.
The revision of immigration and nationality laws we seek will implement our belief that enlightened immigration, naturalization and refugee policies and humane administration of them are important aspects of our foreign policy.
These laws will bring greater skills to our land, reunite families, permit the United States to meet its fair share of world programs of rescue and rehabilitation, and take advantage of immigration as an important factor in the growth of the American economy.
In this World Refugee Year it is our hope to achieve admission of our fair share of refugees. We will institute policies to alleviate suffering among the homeless wherever we are able to extend our aid.
We must remove the distinctions between native-born and naturalized citizens to assure full protection of our laws to all. There is no place in the United States for "second-class citizenship."
The protections provided by due process, right of appeal, and statutes of limitation, can be extended to non-citizens without hampering the security of our nation.
We commend the Democratic Congress for the initial steps that have recently been taken toward liberalizing changes in immigration law. However, this should not be a piecemeal project and we are confident that a Democratic President in cooperation with Democratic Congresses will again implant a humanitarian and liberal spirit in our nation's immigration and citizenship policies."
R: "Immigration has historically been a great factor in the growth of the United States, not only in numbers but in the enrichment of ideas that immigrants have brought with them. This Republican Administration has given refuge to over 32,000 victims of Communist tyranny from Hungary, ended needless delay in processing applications for naturalization, and has urged other enlightened legislation to liberalize existing restrictions.
Immigration has been reduced to the point where it does not provide the stimulus to growth that it should, nor are we fulfilling our obligation as a haven for the oppressed. Republican conscience and Republican policy require that:
The annual number of immigrants we accept be at least doubled.
Obsolete immigration laws be amended by abandoning the outdated 1920 census data as a base and substituting the 1960 census.
The guidelines of our immigration policy be based upon judgment of the individual merit of each applicant for admission and citizenship."
D: "The immigration laws must be revised to permit families to be reunited, to welcome the persecuted and oppressed, and to eliminate the discriminatory provisions which base admission upon national origins."
"The immigration law amendments proposed by the Administration, and now before Congress, by abolishing the national-origin quota system, will eliminate discrimination based upon race and place of birth and will facilitate the reunion of families.
The Cuban Refugee Program begun in 1961 has resettled over 81,000 refugees, who are now self-supporting members of 1,800 American communities. The Chinese Refugee Program, begun in 1962, provides for the admission to the United States of 12,000 Hong Kong refugees from Red China."
R: "We pledge...—immigration legislation seeking to re-unite families and continuation of the "Fair Share" Refugee Program;" [under "faith in the individual"]
D: "A new Immigration Act removed the harsh injustice of the national origins quota system and opened our shores without discrimination to those who can contribute to the growth and strength of America."
R: "The principles of the 1965 Immigration Act—non-discrimination against national origins, reunification of families, and selective support for the American labor market—have our unreserved backing, We will refine this new law to make our immigration policy still more equitable and non-discriminatory."
D: "Re-establish a U.S.-Mexico border commission, with Mexican-American representatives, to develop a comprehensive program to desalinate and eradicate pollution of the Colorado River and other waterways flowing into Mexico, and conduct substantial programs to raise the economic level on both sides of the border. This should remove the economic reasons which contribute to illegal immigration and discourage run-away industries, in addition, language requirements for citizenship should be removed."
R: "We stand for an equitable, non-discriminatory immigration policy, reaffirming our support of the principles of the 1965 Immigration Act—non-discrimination against national origins, reunification of families, and the selective admission of the specially talented. The immigration process must be just and orderly, and we will increase our efforts to halt the illegal entry of aliens into the United States."
D: "We support a provision in the immigration laws to facilitate acquisition of citizenship by Resident Aliens."
D: "The Democratic Party asserts that the Immigration and Naturalization Service, in enforcing the immigration laws, must recognize its obligation to respect fully the human and constitutional rights of all within our borders. Such respect must include an end to practices affecting Hispanic, Caribbean, and Asian/Pacific American communities such as "neighborhood sweeps" and stop and search procedures which are discriminatory or without probable cause."
"America is a pluralistic society. Each of us must learn to live, communicate, and cooperate with persons of other cultures. Our public policies and programs must reflect this pluralism. Immigrants from every nation and their descendants have made numerous contributions to this country, economically, politically and socially. They have traditionally been the backbone of the labor movement and an integral part of the Democratic Party."
"America's roots are found in the immigrants and refugees who have come to our shores to build new lives in a new world. The Democratic Party pledges to honor our historic commitment to this heritage."
"The new legislation and the coordinator's office will bring common sense and consolidation to our nation's previously fragmented, inconsistent, and, in many ways, outdated refugee and immigration policies.
A Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy is now at work to further reform the system. We pledge oar support to the goals and purposes of the Commission, and we urge the Administration to move aggressively in this area once the Commission submits its report.
Once that report has been completed, we must work to resolve the issue of undocumented residents in a fair and humane way. We will oppose any legislation designed to allow workers into the country to undercut U.S. wages and working conditions, and which would re-establish the bracero program of the past.
World population projections, as well as international economic indicators—especially in the Third World—forewarn us that migration pressures will mount rapidly in many areas of the world in the decade ahead. Our own situation of undocumented workers underscores how difficult it is to deal with economic and employment forces that are beyond any nation's immediate control. Most of Europe, and many parts of Latin America and Asia, face similar dilemmas. For example, Mexico faces the pressure of migration from Central America.
We will work with other nations to develop international policies to regularize population movement and to protect the human rights of migrants even as we protect the jobs of American workers and the economic interest of the United States. In this hemisphere, such a policy will require close cooperation with our neighbors, especially Mexico and Canada.
We must also work to resolve the difficult problems presented by the immigration from Haiti and from the more recent immigration from Cuba. In doing so, we must ensure that there is no discrimination in the treatment afforded to the Cubans or Haitians. We must also work to ensure that future Cuban immigration is handled in an orderly way, consistent with our laws. To ameliorate the impact on state and local communities and school districts of the influx of new immigrants from Cuba and Haiti, we must provide the affected areas with special fiscal assistance."
R: "Residence in the United States is one of the most precious and valued of conditions. The traditional hospitality of the American people has been severely tested by recent events, but it remains the strongest in the world. Republicans are proud that our people have opened their arms and hearts to strangers from abroad and we favor an immigration and refugee policy which is consistent with this tradition. We believe that to the fullest extent possible those immigrants should be admitted who will make a positive contribution to America and who are willing to accept the fundamental American values and way of life. At the same time, United States immigration and refugee policy must reflect the interests of our national security and economic well-being. Immigration into this country must not be determined solely by foreign governments or even by the millions of people around the world who wish to come to America. The federal government has a duty to adopt immigration laws and follow enforcement procedures which will fairly and effectively implement the immigration policy desired by the American people.
The immediate adoption of this policy is essential to an orderly approach to the great problem of oppressed people seeking entry, so that the deserving can be accepted in America without adding to their hardships.
The refugee problem is an international problem and every effort should be made to coordinate plans for absorbing refugee populations with regional bodies, such as the Organization of American States and the Association of South East Asian Nations, on a global basis."
D: "A Democratic President will ... seek, through both quiet diplomacy and public measures, the release of political prisoners and the free immigration of prosecuted individuals and peoples around the world."
R: "Our history is a story about immigrants. We are proud that America still symbolizes hope and promise to the world. We have shown unparalleled generosity to the persecuted and to those seeking a better life. In return, they have helped to make a great land greater still.
We affirm our country's absolute fight to control its borders. Those desiring to enter must comply with our immigration laws. Failure to do so not only is an offense to the American people but is fundamentally unjust to those in foreign lands patiently waiting for legal entry. We will preserve the principle of family reunification.
With the estimates of the number of illegal aliens in the United States ranging as high as 12 million and better than one million more entering each year, we believe it is critical that responsible reforms of our immigration laws be made to enable us to regain control of our borders.
The flight of oppressed people in search of freedom has created pressures beyond the capacity of any one nation. The refugee problem is global and requires the cooperation of all democratic nations. We commend the President for encouraging other countries to assume greater refugee responsibilities."
D: "We believe ... that our immigration policy should be reformed to promote fairness, non-discrimination and family reunification and to reflect our constitutional freedoms of speech, association and travel."
R: "We welcome those from other lands who bring to America their ideals and industry. At the same time, we insist upon our country's absolute right to control its borders. We call upon our allies to join us in the responsibility shared by all democratic nations for resettlement of refugees, especially those fleeing communism in Southeast Asia."
D: "Our nation of immigrants has been invigorated repeatedly as new people, ideas and ways of life have become part of the American tapestry. Democrats support immigration policies that promote fairness, non-discrimination and family reunification, and that reflect our constitutional freedoms of speech, association and travel."
R: "Our Nation of immigrants continues to welcome those seeking a better life. This reflects our past, when some newcomers fled intolerance; some sought prosperity; some came as slaves. All suffered and sacrificed but hoped their children would have a better life. All searched for a shared vision—and found one in America. Today we are stronger for our diversity.
Illegal entry into the United States, on the other hand, threatens the social compact on which immigration is based. That is, the Nation accepts immigrants and is enriched by their determination and values. Illegal immigration, on the other hand, undermines the integrity of border communities and already crowded urban neighborhoods. We will build on the already announced strengthening of the Border Patrol to better coordinate interdiction of illegal entrants through greater cross-border cooperation. Specifically, we will increase the size of the Border Patrol in order to meet the increasing need to stop illegal immigration and we will equip the Border Patrol with the tools, technologies, and structures necessary to secure the border.
We will seek stiff penalties for those who smuggle illegal aliens into the country, and for those who produce or sell fraudulent documents. We also will reduce incentives to enter the United States by promoting initiatives like the North American Free Trade Agreement. In creating new economic opportunity in Mexico, a NAFTA removes the incentive to cross the border illegally in search of work."
D: "Democrats remember that we are a nation of immigrants. We recognize the extraordinary contribution of immigrants to America throughout our history. We welcome legal immigrants to America. We support a legal immigration policy that is pro-family, pro-work, pro-responsibility, and pro-citizenship, and we deplore those who blame immigrants for economic and social problems.
We know that citizenship is the cornerstone of full participation in American life. We are proud that the President launched Citizenship USA to help eligible immigrants become United States citizens. The Immigration and Naturalization Service is streamlining procedures, cutting red tape, and using new technology to make it easier for legal immigrants to accept the responsibilities of citizenship and truly call America their home.
Today's Democratic Party also believes we must remain a nation of laws. We cannot tolerate illegal immigration and we must stop it. For years before Bill Clinton became President, Washington talked tough but failed to act. In 1992, our borders might as well not have existed. The border was under-patrolled, and what patrols there were, were under-equipped. Drugs flowed freely. Illegal immigration was rampant. Criminal immigrants, deported after committing crimes in America, returned the very next day to commit crimes again.
President Clinton is making our border a place where the law is respected and drugs and illegal immigrants are turned away. We have increased the Border Patrol by over 40 percent; in El Paso, our Border Patrol agents are so close together they can see each other. Last year alone, the Clinton Administration removed thousands of illegal workers from jobs across the country. Just since January of 1995, we have arrested more than 1,700 criminal aliens and prosecuted them on federal felony charges because they returned to America after having been deported.
However, as we work to stop illegal immigration, we call on all Americans to avoid the temptation to use this issue to divide people from each other. We deplore those who use the need to stop illegal immigration as a pretext for discrimination. And we applaud the wisdom of Republicans like Mayor Giuliani and Senator Domenici who oppose the mean-spirited and short-sighted effort of Republicans in Congress to bar the children of illegal immigrants from schools -- it is wrong, and forcing children onto the streets is an invitation for them to join gangs and turn to crime. Democrats want to protect American jobs by increasing criminal and civil sanctions against employers who hire illegal workers, but Republicans continue to favor inflammatory rhetoric over real action. We will continue to enforce labor standards to protect workers in vulnerable industries. We continue to firmly oppose welfare benefits for illegal immigrants. We believe family members who sponsor immigrants into this country should take financial responsibility for them, and be held legally responsible for supporting them."
R: "As a nation of immigrants, we welcome those who follow our laws and come to our land to seek a better life. New Americans strengthen our economy, enrich our culture, and defend the nation in war and in peace. At the same time, we are determined to reform the system by which we welcome them to the American family. We must set immigration at manageable levels, balance the competing goals of uniting families of our citizens and admitting specially talented persons, and end asylum abuses through expedited exclusion of false claimants.
Bill Clinton's immigration record does not match his rhetoric. While talking tough on illegal immigration, he has proposed a reduction in the number of border patrol agents authorized by the Republicans in Congress, has opposed the most successful border control program in decades (Operation Hold the Line in Texas), has opposed Proposition 187 in California which 60 percent of Californians supported, and has opposed Republican efforts to ensure that non-citizens do not take advantage of expensive welfare programs. Unlike Bill Clinton, we stand with the American people on immigration policy and will continue to reform and enforce our immigration laws to ensure that they reflect America's national interest.
We also support efforts to secure our borders from the threat of illegal immigration. Illegal immigration has reached crisis proportions, with more than four million illegal aliens now present in the United States. That number, growing by 300,000 each year, burdens taxpayers, strains public services, takes jobs, and increases crime. Republicans in both the House and Senate have passed bills that tighten border enforcement, speed up deportation of criminal aliens, toughen penalties for overstaying visas, and streamline the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Illegal aliens should not receive public benefits other than emergency aid, and those who become parents while illegally in the United States should not be qualified to claim benefits for their offspring. Legal immigrants should depend for assistance on their sponsors, who are legally responsible for their financial well-being, not the American taxpayers. Just as we require "deadbeat dads" to provide for the children they bring into the world, we should require "deadbeat sponsors" to provide for the immigrants they bring into the country. We support a constitutional amendment or constitutionally-valid legislation declaring that children born in the United States of parents who are not legally present in the United States or who are not long-term residents are not automatically citizens.
We endorse the Dole/Coverdell proposal to make crimes of domestic violence, stalking, child abuse, child neglect and child abandonment committed by aliens residing in this country deportable offenses under our immigration laws.
We call for harsh penalties against exploiters who smuggle illegal aliens and for those who profit from the production of false documents. Republicans believe that by eliminating the magnet for illegal immigration, increasing border security, enforcing our immigration laws, and producing counterfeit-proof documents, we will finally put an end to the illegal immigration crisis. We oppose the creation of any national ID card."
D: "Immigrants enrich the tapestry of American life, making our economy more vibrant, our workplaces more productive, and our nation stronger. We believe that all levels of government, in partnership with the private and voluntary sectors, must devise and pursue a comprehensive immigrant integration agenda that will make the newest Americans full participants in the nation's mainstream. That's why Democrats support reforming the INS to provide better services, and investing the resources needed to reduce the backlog of citizenship applications from nearly two years to three months. Democrats also support increased resources for English language courses, which not only help newcomers learn our common language but also help us promote our common values. And, we believe that family reunification should continue to be the cornerstone of our legal immigration system.
Democrats believe in an effective immigration system that balances a strong enforcement of our laws with fair and evenhanded treatment of immigrants and their families. The Clinton-Gore administration provided long overdue leadership in dramatically improving border management and law enforcement, including a major expansion of the Border Patrol and curbs on abuses of the asylum process. We also recognize that the current system fails to effectively control illegal immigration, has serious adverse impacts on state and local services, and on many communities and workers, and has led to an alarming number of deaths of migrants on the border. Democrats are committed to reexamining and fixing these failed policies.
We must punish employers who engage in a pattern and practice of recruiting undocumented workers in order to intimidate and exploit them, and provide strengthened protections for immigrant workers, including whistleblower protections. Doing so enhances conditions for everyone in the workplace. We believe that any increases in H1-B visas must be temporary, must address only genuine shortages of highly skilled workers, and mist include worker protections. They must also be accompanied by other immigration fairness measures and by increased fees to train American workers for high skill jobs. The Democratic Party is committed to assuring an adequate, predictable supply of agricultural labor while protecting American farm workers who are among the poorest and more vulnerable in our society. We reject calls for guest worker programs that lead to exploitation, and instead call for adjusting the status of immigrants with deep roots in the country. We should have equitable asylum policies that treat people the same whether they have fled violence from the Right and Left. And we support restoration of basic due process protections and essential benefits for legal immigrants, so that immigrants are no longer subject to deportation for minor offenses, often committed decades ago without opportunity for any judicial review, and are eligible to receive safety net services supported by their tax dollars."
R: "We have reaped enormous human capital in the genius and talent and industry of those who have escaped nations captive to totalitarianism. Our country still attracts the best and brightest to invent here, create wealth here, improve the quality of life here. As a nation of immigrants, we welcome all new Americans who have entered lawfully and are prepared to follow our laws and provide for themselves and their families. In their search for a better life, they strengthen our economy, enrich our culture, and defend the nation in war and in peace. To ensure fairness for those wishing to reside in this country, and to meet the manpower needs of our expanding economy, a total overhaul of the immigration system is sorely needed.
The administration's lax enforcement of our borders has led to tragic exploitation of smuggled immigrants, and untold suffering, at the hands of law-breakers. We call for harsh penalties against smugglers and those who provide fake documents. We oppose the creation of any national ID card.
Because free trade is the most powerful force for the kind of development that creates a middle class and offers opportunity at home, the long-term solution for illegal immigration is economic growth in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. In the short run, however, decisive action is needed. We therefore endorse the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform:
- Restore credibility to enforcement by devoting more resources both to border control and to internal operations.
- Reorganize family unification preferences to give priority to spouses and children, rather than extended family members.
- Emphasize needed skills in determining eligibility for admission.
- Overhaul the failed Labor Certification Program to end the huge delays in matching qualified workers with urgent work.
- Reform the Immigration and Naturalization Service by splitting its functions into two agencies, one focusing on enforcement and one exclusively devoted to service."
D: "We will extend the promise of citizenship to those still struggling for freedom. Today's immigration laws do not reflect our values or serve our security, and we will work for real reform. The solution is not to establish a massive new status of second-class workers; that betrays our values and hurts all working people. Undocumented immigrants within our borders who clear a background check, work hard and pay taxes should have a path to earn full participation in America. We will hasten family reunification for parents and children, husbands and wives, and offer more English-language and civic education classes so immigrants can assume all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. As we undertake these steps, we will work with our neighbors to strengthen our security so we are safer from those who would come here to harm us. We are a nation of immigrants, and from Arab-Americans in California to Latinos in Florida, we share the dream of a better life in the country we love."
R: "Our nation has been enriched by immigrants seeking a better life. In many cases, immigrants of the past fled violence and oppression searching for peace and freedom. All suffered and sacrificed but hoped for a better future for their children in America. Our nation has been enriched by their determination, energy, and diversity.
Ensuring the integrity of our borders is vital to ensuring the safety of our citizens. We must know the identity of all visitors who enter the United States, and we must know when they leave. The US-VISIT system, which uses biometric data to better track the entry and exit of foreign travelers, has been implemented at more than 115 airports and is presently being implemented at land border crossings. Reconnaissance cameras, border patrol agents, and unmanned aerial flights have all been increased at our borders.
We must strengthen our Border Patrol to stop illegal crossings, and we will equip the Border Patrol with the tools, technologies, structures, and sufficient force necessary to secure the border. We will seek stiff penalties for those who smuggle illegal aliens into the country and for those who sell fraudulent documents. We urge continued support for state, local, and federal law enforcement to work in a cohesive manner in securing our borders to prevent illegal entry."
D: "America has always been a nation of immigrants. Over the years, millions of people have come here in the hope that in America, you can make it if you try. Each successive wave of immigrants has contributed to our country's rich culture, economy and spirit. Like the immigrants that came before them, today's immigrants will shape their own destinies and enrich our country.
Nonetheless, our current immigration system has been broken for far too long. We need comprehensive immigration reform, not just piecemeal efforts. We must work together to pass immigration reform in a way that unites this country, not in a way that divides us by playing on our worst instincts and fears. We are committed to pursuing tough, practical, and humane immigration reform in the first year of the next administration.
We cannot continue to allow people to enter the United States undetected, undocumented, and unchecked. The American people are a welcoming and generous people, but those who enter our country's borders illegally, and those who employ them, disrespect the rule of the law. We need to secure our borders, and support additional personnel, infrastructure, and technology on the border and at our ports of entry. We need additional Customs and Border Protection agents equipped with better technology and real-time intelligence. We need to dismantle human smuggling organizations, combating the crime associated with this trade. We also need to do more to promote economic development in migrant-sending nations, to reduce incentives to come to the United States illegally. And we need to crack down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants. It's a problem when we only enforce our laws against the immigrants themselves, with raids that are ineffective, tear apart families, and leave people detained without adequate access to counsel. We realize that employers need a method to verify whether their employees are legally eligible to work in the United States, and we will ensure that our system is accurate, fair to legal workers, safeguards people's privacy, and cannot be used to discriminate against workers.
We must also improve the legal immigration system, and make our nation's naturalization process fair and accessible to the thousands of legal permanent residents who are eager to become full Americans. We should fix the dysfunctional immigration bureaucracy that hampers family reunification, the cornerstone of our immigration policy for years. Given the importance of both keeping families together and supporting American businesses, we will increase the number of immigration visas for family members of people living here and for immigrants who meet the demand for jobs that employers cannot fill, as long as appropriate labor market protections and standards are in place. We will fight discrimination against Americans who have always played by our immigration rules but are sometimes treated as if they had not.
For the millions living here illegally but otherwise playing by the rules, we must require them to come out of the shadows and get right with the law. We support a system that requires undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, pay taxes, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens. They are our neighbors, and we can help them become full tax-paying, law-abiding, productive members of society."
R: "Immigration policy is a national security issue, for which we have one test: Does it serve the national interest? By that standard, Republicans know America can have a strong immigration system without sacrificing the rule of law.
Enforcing the Rule of Law at the Border and Throughout the Nation
Border security is essential to national security. In an age of terrorism, drug cartels, and criminal gangs, allowing millions of unidentified persons to enter and remain in this country poses grave risks to the sovereignty of the United States and the security of its people. We simply must be able to track who is entering and leaving our country.
Our determination to uphold the rule of law begins with more effective enforcement, giving our agents the tools and resources they need to protect our sovereignty, completing the border fence quickly and securing the borders, and employing complementary strategies to secure our ports of entry. Experience shows that enforcement of existing laws is effective in reducing and reversing illegal immigration.
Our commitment to the rule of law means smarter enforcement at the workplace, against illegal workers and lawbreaking employers alike, along with those who practice identity theft and traffic in fraudulent documents. As long as jobs are available in the United States, economic incentives to enter illegally will persist. But we must empower employers so they can know with confidence that those they hire are permitted to work. That means that the EVerify system—which is an internet-based system that verifies the employment authorization and identity of employees—must be reauthorized. A phased in requirement that employers use the E-Verify system must be enacted.
The rule of law means guaranteeing to law enforcement the tools and coordination to deport criminal aliens without delay — and correcting court decisions that have made deportation so difficult. It means enforcing the law against those who overstay their visas, rather than letting millions flout the generosity that gave them temporary entry. It means imposing maximum penalties on those who smuggle illegal aliens into the U.S., both for their lawbreaking and for their cruel exploitation. It means requiring cooperation among federal, state and local law enforcement and real consequences, including the denial of federal funds, for self-described sanctuary cities, which stand in open defiance of the federal and state statutes that expressly prohibit such sanctuary policies, and which endanger the lives of U.S. citizens. It does not mean driver's licenses for illegal aliens, nor does it mean that states should be allowed to flout the federal law barring them from giving in-state tuition rates to illegal aliens, nor does it mean that illegal aliens should receive social security benefits, or other public benefits, except as provided by federal law.
We oppose amnesty. The rule of law suffers if government policies encourage or reward illegal activity. The American people's rejection of en masse legalizations is especially appropriate given the federal government's past failures to enforce the law.
Embracing Immigrant Communities
Today's immigrants are walking in the steps of most other Americans' ancestors, seeking the American dream and contributing culturally and economically to our nation. We celebrate the industry and love of liberty of these fellow Americans.
Both government and the private sector must do more to foster legally present immigrants' integration into American life to advance respect for the rule of law and a common American identity. It is a national disgrace that the first experience most new Americans have is with a dysfunctional immigration bureaucracy defined by delay and confusion; we will no longer tolerate those failures.
In our multi-ethnic nation, everyone — immigrants and native-born alike — must embrace our core values of liberty, equality, meritocracy, and respect for human dignity and the rights of women.
One sign of our unity is our English language. For newcomers, it has always been the fastest route to prosperity in America. English empowers. We support English as the official language in our nation, while welcoming the ethnic diversity in the United States and the territories, including language. Immigrants should be encouraged to learn English. English is the accepted language of business, commerce, and legal proceedings, and it is essential as a unifying cultural force. It is also important, as part of cultural integration, that our schools provide better education in U.S. history and civics for all children, thereby fostering a commitment to our national motto, E Pluribus Unum.
We are grateful to the thousands of new immigrants, many of them not yet citizens, who are serving in the Armed Forces. Their patriotism is inspiring; it should remind the institutions of civil society of the need to embrace newcomers, assist their journey to full citizenship, and help their communities avoid patterns of isolation.
Our country continues to accept refugees from troubled lands all over the world. In some cases, these are people who stood with America in dangerous times, and they have first call on our hospitality. We oppose, however, the granting of refugee status on the basis of lifestyle or other non-political factors"
D: "Immigration. Democrats are strongly committed to enacting comprehensive immigration reform that supports our economic goals and reflects our values as both a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. The story of the United States would not be possible without the generations of immigrants who have strengthened our country and contributed to our economy. Our prosperity depends on an immigration system that reflects our values and meets America's needs. But Americans know that today, our immigration system is badly broken - separating families, undermining honest employers and workers, burdening law enforcement, and leaving millions of people working and living in the shadows.
Democrats know there is broad consensus to repair that system and strengthen our economy, and that the country urgently needs comprehensive immigration reform that brings undocumented immigrants out of the shadows and requires them to get right with the law, learn English, and pay taxes in order to get on a path to earn citizenship. We need an immigration reform that creates a system for allocating visas that meets our economic needs, keeps families together, and enforces the law. But instead of promoting the national interest, Republicans have blocked immigration reform in Congress and used the issue as a political wedge.
Despite the obstacles, President Obama has made important progress in implementing immigration policies that reward hard work and demand personal responsibility. Today, the Southwest border is more secure than at any time in the past 20 years. Unlawful crossings are at a 40-year low, and the Border Patrol is better staffed than at any time in its history. We are continuing to work to hold employers accountable for whom they hire. The Department of Homeland Security is prioritizing the deportation of criminals who endanger our communities over the deportation of immigrants who do not pose a threat, such as children who came here through no fault of their own and are pursuing an education. President Obama's administration has streamlined the process of legal immigration for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, supporting family reunification as a priority, and has enhanced opportunities for English-language learning and immigrant integration. When states sought to interfere with federal immigration law by passing local measures targeting immigrants, this administration challenged them in court.
President Obama and the Democrats fought for the DREAM Act, legislation ensuring that young people who want to contribute fully to our society and serve our country are able to become legal residents and ultimately citizens. Although this bill has a long history of bipartisan support, Republicans decided to play politics with it rather than do the right thing. So the Obama administration provided temporary relief for youth who came to the United States as children, through no fault of their own, grew up as Americans and are poised to make a real contribution to our country.
These are not permanent fixes. Only Congress can provide a permanent, comprehensive solution. But these are steps in the right direction. President Obama and the Democratic Party stand for comprehensive immigration reform that intelligently prioritizes our country's security and economic needs, while Mitt Romney and the Republicans have opposed commonsense reforms and pandered to the far right.
“We congratulate President Barack Obama for giving hope to millions of aspiring citizens when he announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Immigrant youth - who grow up attending our schools, churches, and places of recreation - come to this nation with the same desires and ideals the forefathers had; liberty, justice, and the pursuit of happiness. In order to create immigration policies that reflect our nation's values, lawmakers must work together to protect the rights of all and create a road map that allows immigrants to become full-fledged citizens. With our dreams, work, and talent we can help make America a more just and prosperous country.” - Gaby Pacheco, Listening to America hearing participant"
R: "The Rule of Law: Legal Immigration
The greatest asset of the American economy is the American worker. Just as immigrant labor helped build our country in the past, today's legal immigrants are making vital contributions in every aspect of our national life. Their industry and commitment to American values strengthens our economy, enriches our culture, and enables us to better understand and more effectively compete with the rest of the world. Illegal immigration undermines those benefits and affects U.S. workers. In an age of terrorism, drug cartels, human trafficking, and criminal gangs, the presence of millions of unidentified persons in this country poses grave risks to the safety and the sovereignty of the United States. Our highest priority, therefore, is to secure the rule of law both at our borders and at ports of entry.
We recognize that for most of those seeking entry into this country, the lack of respect for the rule of law in their homelands has meant economic exploitation and political oppression by corrupt elites. In this country, the rule of law guarantees equal treatment to every individual, including more than one million immigrants to whom we grant permanent residence every year. That is why we oppose any form of amnesty for those who, by intentionally violating the law, disadvantage those who have obeyed it. Granting amnesty only rewards and encourages more law breaking. We support the mandatory use of the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (S.A.V.E.) program—an internet-based system that verifies the lawful presence of applicants—prior to the granting of any State or federal government entitlements or IRS refunds. We insist upon enforcement at the workplace through verification systems so that jobs can be available to all legal workers. Use of the E-verify program—an internet-based system that verifies the employment authorization and identity of employees—must be made mandatory nationwide. State enforcement efforts in the workplace must be welcomed, not attacked. When Americans need jobs, it is absolutely essential that we protect them from illegal labor in the workplace. In addition, it is why we demand tough penalties for those who practice identity theft, deal in fraudulent documents, and traffic in human beings. It is why we support Republican legislation to give the Department of Homeland Security long-term detention authority to keep dangerous but undeportable aliens off our streets, expedite expulsion of criminal aliens, and make gang membership a deportable offense.
The current Administration's approach to immigration has undermined the rule of law at every turn. It has lessened work-site enforcement—and even allows the illegal aliens it does uncover to walk down the street to the next employer—and challenged legitimate State efforts to keep communities safe, suing them for trying to enforce the law when the federal government refuses to do so. It has created a backdoor amnesty program unrecognized in law, granting worker authorization to illegal aliens, and shown little regard for the life-and-death situations facing the men and women of the border patrol.
Perhaps worst of all, the current Administration has failed to enforce the legal means for workers or employers who want to operate within the law.
In contrast, a Republican Administration and Congress will partner with local governments through cooperative enforcement agreements in Section 287g of the Immigration and Nationality Act to make communities safer for all and will consider, in light of both current needs and historic practice, the utility of a legal and reliable source of foreign labor where needed through a new guest worker program. We will create humane procedures to encourage illegal aliens to return home voluntarily, while enforcing the law against those who overstay their visas.
State efforts to reduce illegal immigration must be encouraged, not attacked. The pending Department of Justice lawsuits against Arizona, Alabama, South Carolina, and Utah must be dismissed immediately. The double-layered fencing on the border that was enacted by Congress in 2006, but never completed, must finally be built. In order to restore the rule of law, federal funding should be denied to sanctuary cities that violate federal law and endanger their own citizens, and federal funding should be denied to universities that provide instate tuition rates to illegal aliens, in open defiance of federal law.
We are grateful to the thousands of new immigrants, many of them not yet citizens, who are serving in the Armed Forces. Their patriotism should encourage us 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. To that end, while we encourage the retention and transmission of heritage tongues, we support English as the nation's official language, a unifying force essential for the educational and economic advancement of—not only immigrant communities—but also our nation as a whole."