Although immigration has been a central component of both American history and culture, it’s been a contentious issue throughout much of our history. Some Americans contend that immigrants have made enormous contributions to our country. On the other hand, others argue that—while this may be true, we need to rethink our immigration policy in light of the War on Terrorism. How did immigration start in the United States, how has it progressed, and where is it now?

Immigration to the American colonies began predominantly with Protestant English settlers coming to the New World. Once the United States was established, the immigration of other nationalities quickly increased: Eastern European immigration increased dramatically, and both Japanese and Chinese settlers began traveling across the Pacific to reach the West Coast. Jewish immigrants seeking safety from persecution began making the journey, and other nationalities followed in suit. Although very few spoke English when they arrived, America quickly became a melting pot of different nationalities—although, this was also fought with resistance. Different pieces of legislation were passed by Congress either limiting, restricting or changing how certain people were able to come into the country. Sometimes, these policies came to affect current US citizens; despite fears being overblown, President Roosevelt enacted Executive Order 9066 during World War II which authorized the relocation of Japanese citizens over concerns of national security.

In terms of the presidential election, Americans have been primarily concerned with terrorism as they consider immigration policy. Although public officials claim that since 9/11 immigrants are one of the most vetted and safest groups, public opinion still ranges from extending citizenship to all immigrants to placing restrictions on immigration from country’s known to harbor terrorists. The spread of ISIS across Syria has many Americans concerned with whether or not to allow Syrian refugees into the country, as well.

Immigration policy in this election is also concerned with the southern border of the United States. Candidates from both major parties have expressed a number of viewpoints ranging from building a wall, mass deportations of illegal immigrants, creating a path to citizenship, and ending birthright citizenship. How is terrorism shaping the debate on immigration policy? How should our immigration laws be changed?

Immigration Stances


To safeguard the country against terrorism, the United States should not accept any refugees from Syria into the country. We should also deport illegal immigrants to their home countries. Birthright citizenship should also end—just because someone was born here doesn’t mean they should automatically be granted citizenship.


As a nation of immigrants, the United States should welcome those seeking a better life. Our government is capable of vetting immigrants and excluding the ones who could pose a national security risk. While we may need to tweak our immigration system, we should embrace American values and continue to extend citizenship to those seeking safety, including Syrian refugees. By banning refugees, we play into the hands of ISIS who would rather see us divided than united.

Red Card Solution


The Red Card Solution is a simple way for immigrants and their families to legally come to the U.S. for specific jobs and for a specific period of time. It would require them to go through a background check and to return home at the end of their employment. It would give them no special place in the citizenship line.


While we may need to tweak our immigration system, we should embrace American values and continue to extend citizenship to those seeking the American dream.

What Students Think

Immigration is an issue that directly impacts many students today. The demographics are quickly changing generation to generation. The Census Bureau estimates that by 2050, the current minority populations in the country will be a majority. do today's students think? Where do they stand?

Should the federal government loosen restrictions on immigration?





Candidate Positions

Donald Trump

Republican Candidate for President

When politicians talk about “immigration reform” they mean: amnesty, cheap labor and open borders. The Schumer-Rubio immigration bill was nothing more than a giveaway to the corporate patrons who run both parties.

Real immigration reform puts the needs of working people first – not wealthy globetrotting donors. We are the only country in the world whose immigration system puts the needs of other nations ahead of our own. That must change. Here are the three core principles of real immigration reform:

1. A nation without borders is not a nation. There must be a wall across the southern border.

2. A nation without laws is not a nation. Laws passed in accordance with our Constitutional system of government must be enforced.

3. A nation that does not serve its own citizens is not a nation. Any immigration plan must improve jobs, wages and security for all Americans.

Gary Johnson

Libertarian Candidate for President

Having served as Governor of a border state, Gary Johnson understands immigration. He understands that a robust flow of labor, regulated not by politics, but by the marketplace, is essential. He understands that a bigger fence will only produce taller ladders and deeper tunnels, and that the flow of illegal immigrants across the border is not a consequence of too little security, but rather a legal immigration system that simply doesn’t work. Militarizing the border, bigger fences, and other punitive measures espoused by too many politicians are all simplistic “solutions” to a problem caused by artificial quotas, bureaucratic incompetence and the shameful failure of Congress to actually put in place an immigration system that matches reality.

Governor Johnson has long advocated a simplified and secure system of work visas by which willing workers and willing employers can meet in a robust labor marketplace efficiently and economically. Aspiring immigrants would undergo a background check, pay taxes and provide proof of employment.

Making it simpler and efficient to enter the U.S. legally will provide the greatest security possible, allowing law enforcement to focus its time and resources on the criminals and bad actors who are, in reality, a relatively small portion of those who are today entering the country illegally.

Hillary Clinton

Democratic Candidate for President

Hillary has shown longstanding, steadfast commitment to America’s immigrants throughout her career. As president, she will work to ensure a fair and just immigration system.
Since the founding of this nation, generations of immigrants have contributed to the strength of America. Immigrants have spurred economic growth, fueled innovation, defended us abroad and added to the unique character of our nation. Despite the steady growth of America’s immigrant population, immigrants continue to earn less, lag on educational attainment rates, and face discrimination. And, while millions of undocumented immigrants have become an integral part of America’s social fabric, many live in fear that deportation will tear their families apart.
Hillary is fighting for an America where every family feels like they belong here. Instead of breaking up hardworking, law-abiding immigrant families who have enriched America for years, she will work to keep families together and ensure a more humane immigration enforcement system.

As president, Hillary will:
-Fight for comprehensive immigration reform legislation with a path to full and equal citizenship. As senator, Hillary was a strong supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, cosponsoring Senator Ted Kennedy’s 2004 bill and supporting the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act in 2006 and 2007. She cosponsored the DREAM Act in the Senate in 2003, 2005, and 2007 to give undocumented students who grew up in the U.S. a chance to contribute to our nation’s growth. As president, Hillary will fight for comprehensive immigration reform that provides a full and equal path to citizenship, treats every person with dignity, upholds the rule of law, protects our borders and national security, and brings millions of hardworking people into the formal economy.
-Defend President Obama’s DACA and DAPA executive actions. President Obama’s executive actions that provide relief from deportation for DREAMers and parents of Americans and lawful residents would protect an estimated 5 million people. Hillary will defend DACA and DAPA against partisan attacks and politically motivated lawsuits that would put DREAMers and others at risk of deportation.
-Do everything possible under the law to go further to protect families. If Congress continues its refusal to act on comprehensive immigration reform, Hillary will put in place a simple, straightforward, accessible system for parents of DREAMers and others with a history of service and contribution to their communities to be able to make their case and be eligible for deferred action as well.
-End the 3- and 10-year bars. Current immigration law forces families—especially those whose members have different citizenship or immigration statuses—into a heartbreaking dilemma: pursue a green card by leaving the country and your loved ones behind, or remain in the shadows. Hillary will call on Congress to repeal the 3- and 10-year bars to keep families together.
Conduct humane, targeted immigration enforcement. Hillary believes immigration enforcement must be humane, targeted, and effective. She will focus enforcement resources on detaining and deporting those individuals who pose a violent threat to public safety, and work to ensure refugees who seek asylum in the U.S. have a fair chance to tell their stories.
End family detention. Hillary believes we should end family detention for parents and children who arrive at our border in desperate situations. We have alternatives to detention for those who pose no flight or public safety risk, such as supervised release, that have proved effective and cost a fraction of what it takes to keep families in detention.
Close private immigrant detention centers. Hillary will end private immigrant detention centers. She believes we should move away from contracting out this critical government function to private corporations and private industry incentives that may contribute—or have the appearance of contributing—to over-incarceration.
-Expand access to affordable health care to all families. Hillary has been fighting her entire life to ensure that families have access to affordable health care. She sponsored the Immigrant Children’s Health Improvement Act in the Senate, which later became law and allows immigrant children and pregnant women to obtain Medicaid and SCHIP. She believes we should let families—regardless of immigration status—buy into the Affordable Care Act exchanges. Families who want to purchase health insurance should be able to do so.
-Promote naturalization. Hillary believes we need to do more to help the millions of people who are eligible for citizenship to take that last step. She will work to expand fee waivers so more people can get a break on costs; increase access to robust language programs to help people boost their English proficiency; and enhance outreach and education so more people are informed about their options and engaged in the process.

Jill Stein

Green Party Candidate for President

[C]reate a welcoming path to citizenship for immigrants.

Text pulled from On The Issues