2016 Presidential Election: Immigration Policy and Reform

This summer, candidates from both sides of the political spectrum, vying for their party’s support for the 2016 Presidential Election, have been vocal with their proposed policies on immigration. While the issue remains a hotly contested topic of conversation in the United States, for voters, the differing views of each candidate can make them difficult to decipher. With that in mind, here are the top Republican and Democratic candidates’ stances on immigration reform:


Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Clinton has remained largely liberal on immigration issues, and called for a “path to full and equal citizenship” during a Nevada rally. She also campaigned for the parents of undocumented immigrants that entered the U.S. as children to be legally allowed to remain in the country.

US Senator for Vermont Bernie Sanders

Sanders believes America is a “nation of immigrants,” and stands against the removal of undocumented people based on the traditional concept of the American Dream, supports allowing individuals to come to the States and seek better lives, and opposes the building of a border fence between the U.S. and Mexico.

Former Governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley

Candidate O’Malley prioritized shifting undocumented immigrants from the dark and into mainstream society, and signed an act into law that granted in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants in Maryland during his time as Governor.

Former US Virginia Senator Jim Webb

Webb believes in securing the border first, and supports a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the country later. He voted in favor of the DREAM Act in 2010, which aimed to provide legal residency to undocumented individuals brought into the country as children.


Businessman Donald Trump

Trump is campaigning for the building of a border fence between Mexico and the U.S., and his policy outlines that it should be paid for by the southern side. He proposes an immigration plan that supports employment, security and wages for American citizens, and wants to triple the number of Immigration and Customs Officers. Needless to say, his views on immigration policy have been the most controversial throughout the past months.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush

Bush has sympathized with those who have entered the U.S. illegally in search of a better life, and believes in securing the border and providing a path for citizenship that is controlled, where undocumented immigrants work for their status, and are liable for fines for breaking the law.

US Senator Ted Cruz

Cruz also wants to enhance border security, while also opening up opportunities for skilled workers to come to the U.S., green card chances and preventing those with undocumented status from obtaining welfare support.

Businesswoman Carly Fiorina

Fiorina believes in awarding citizenship to immigrants that have “earned” it through legal entry and abiding by American laws, and wants to secure the border in order to begin mending current immigration problems in the U.S.

Tracking the Economic Benefits of Immigration Reform

Back in May, Francisco Lopez-Flores, a UCLA alumni, pitched the project “DACAMENT ME” to potential investors. The goal of DACAMENT ME is to track the economic benefits of immigration reform following 2012’s Executive Order by President Obama to implement DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). While DACAMENT ME has been gaining attention from beneficiaries of DACA as well as investors, one potential investor chalked Lopez-Flores’ project to a mere hobby telling him and his team to not waste their time with it.

However, for many students and young adults like Francisco, DACAMENT ME is far from a mere hobby. It is very personal. The executive order allows those individuals to acquire important documentation to obtain jobs, bank accounts and licenses in certain states. Needless to say, it was and still is met with heavy opposition and that is where DACAMENT ME hopes to help. A new member of the DACAMENT ME team, Kayleen Ports, explained the goal and use case of the project very well when she said that while activists have already attempted to make the emotional argument for immigration reform, a data driven argument is also needed.

The idea for DACAMENT ME came to Lopez-Flores when he noticed that after the implementation of DACA, his own wages increased since he no longer had to be paid under the table and was able to apply for steadier, higher paying jobs. After surveying over 200 students who benefited from DACA, Lopez-Flores and fellow UCLA students Stephanie Ramirez and Rudy Morales traveled to the White House where they presented their findings and analysis of DACA’s economic impact to key policymakers. By expanding their initial project for their Chicana/o studies class, Lopez-Flores and his team are hoping to use DACAMENT ME as a way to survey and track DACA recipients over a long period of time to show the positive effects that the policy has on the U.S. economy. Part of their findings demonstrated how recipients of DACA saw an average wage increase of nearly 100%. The research also showed that if the trend continues, it would add nearly $1.7 trillion to the U.S. economy.

Currently, DACAMENT ME is growing their team and working on a platform to turn DACAMENT ME into an official program at UCLA so that future students can continue participating. In May, apart from presenting the project to potential investors, the team won first place at the Latin@ Coder Summit hosted by Stanford University. The $1,000 price is being used to acquire the tools necessary to build the DACAMENT ME computer platform over the summer.

How Canada’s Immigration Policy Differs From the United States’

Abogado Aly Canada's Immigration PolicyThe new immigration policy of the 1920s, the Great Depression, and World War II caused there to be a dramatic decrease in immigration to Canada and the United States. After World War II, legislation allowed refugees and displaced persons from the war to immigrate to the United States and Canada. Both countries’ ideologies began to shift more towards egalitarian ideas such as welfare state and multiculturalism which implemented more tolerance towards people of different races and lead the charge against racial discrimination.[1] During the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement lead to an increasing interest group for racial acceptance which fostered the new immigration policies implemented by the United States and Canada. (Talk about Great Society coalition of Jews, Catholics and Liberals as described in Mills) It was with these policies in which Canada decided to take a different route than that of the United States’.

Whereas Canada’s immigration policy of today is geared towards a completely economical public policy stand point, the United States’ policy makers adhered to a more humanitarian approach. According to Borjas with regards to Canada, “According to Borjas, “the point system attempts to match immigrant skills with labor market needs and reduces the fiscal burden that immigration would place on Canada’s generous system of public assistance”[1]. This is then a clear cut way that Canada is trying to economically find a solution to the immigration debate. According to Borjas with regards to the United States, “At some point in the debate over any social policy, the facts have to be let out of their moral vacuum. And the facts have to be interpreted in the context of a set of beliefs, values, and a vision of what the United States is about”[2]. When talking about the immigration policy in the United States, Borjas describes the U.S. immigration policy as not just done for the quantitative, numeric, economic gains and losses, but there is also a moral context in which the policy adheres to. The United States is known as the land of opportunity and a country of immigrants. The United States is one of the most wealthy countries in our nation, so helping people who are less fortunate than them has become part of the moral fabric in the United States’ immigration debate. According to an article in the Economist, “in the United States, you rarely hear somebody advocate for immigration on the grounds that it adds to the social fabric of the country. When the normative argument arises here, it has a humanitarian dimension. I would posit that in the United States, identity is a right, not a value”[3]. This is the clear distinction between the way in which policy makers in the United States look at immigration and how policy makers in Canada look at immigration. The United States sees immigration to their country as a right to the immigrant whereas Canada looks at immigration as a value to their own country. According to Borjas the United States’ main immigration objective is to maximize the economic well-being of the native-born population[4].  If the United States really wanted to increase the economic efficiency of their immigration policy, wouldn’t they just follow Canada’s point system?  Borjas mentioned in an earlier talk about the immigration of “high-skilled” labor from Russian mathematicians in 1992 that lead to basically a replacement of high skilled US mathematicians for only about 400 Russian mathematicians that ended up comprising of about 10% of the mathematics papers written in the United States at this time. However, Borjas’ conclusion, using a future regression model, was that if the Russians had not come at all, we would have had about the same amount of mathematics papers as we do today. So with the influx of low skilled labor and high skilled labor, these immigrations really have not done much for the economy at this point.


Immigration Policy in the 1920s

Abogado Aly Immigration 1920Immigration policy rose in national importance in the 1920s for a couple of reasons. “Economic concerns, nationalism brought about by World War I, and a tilt toward a smaller percentage of new immigrants with English as their native language contributed to moving public sentiment towards restricting immigration”. The emergence of “Eugenics” as a public policy tool in policy circles and Western philosophy also played a role. “Eugenics is the belief in improving the qualities of the human race by preventing the reproduction of people deemed to have genetic defects or undesirable characteristics and/or encouraging increased reproduction by those with supposed desirable inheritable characteristics.” According to Anderson, this widespread belief in eugenics was a decisive factor in creating the restrictive immigration laws in the 1920s. Natives in Canada and the United States were in favor of the status quo of their countries, so they did not want a large amount of immigrants they deemed as “undesirable” tainting their countries national structure.

This word “undesirables” is funny in this context because the factors in which made a person undesirable were two different types of people: criminals and people of different races. Racism, therefore, was a major aspect in creating the immigration policy of the 1920s. The Ku Klux Klan started in 1915 to “control minority groups which it identified with moral and political nonconformity”. There was strong support for anti-Jewish sentiments. A quote from U.S. consuls abroad said that “by barring legislative action the United States would face an onslaught of Jews who were “abnormally twisted,” “inassimilable,” “Filthy, un-American, and often dangerous in their habits”.  These were times of tense national identity, or, as we like to call it in the progressive era, racism, so of course the immigration policies of the 1920s for both Canada and the United States were to keep their national identity and therefore their morals, values, traditions, and most importantly there so called “intellectual level”.

US Immigration Law in Politics

Abogado Aly Immigration law in politicsStuart Anderson said, “The surest way to change the law in America is not by lobbying Congress but by convincing enough of the public the laws must be changed.”  When talking about the immigration debate in politics, there seems to be many political pressures felt by  policy makers to make the immigration policies we see today. Political pressures that cause policy, however, are different for every country because of geographical location, wealth, and beliefs and values. For example, in 1924, the United States Congress was forced to establish the U.S. Border Patrol to catch illegal Hispanic immigrants who were trying to run across the border to the United States. This is an example of the United States’ geographic location causing policy change. Canada does not have an illegal immigration problem because it only boarders the United States, so they do not need to put a lot of political resources in containing illegal immigration.

Throughout the history of Immigration Policy in both the United States and Canada, we can see different political pressures that affected both immigration policy. The opposition towards immigration to Canada and the U.S. was borne mostly by the Chinese during the mid to late 19th century. Not only was immigration rising during the mid to late 19th century, but diversity in the immigration groups was also on the increase. There were still English, Irish, and Germans coming into the United States and Canada; however, new ethnic groups, like Hispanics and Asians, were taking advantage of the great opportunities that these countries offered. This brought about a sense of national identity to the already settled natives, and their distrust and dislike for different ethnic groups were becoming greater and greater as the threat of an ethnic takeover was a possibility. What the natives felt threatened by was the different traditions, values, and loyalties that the diverse immigrant population would bring to what the natives  thought was an already great nation. There was even Protestant opposition towards the Catholics; however, there were already too many Catholics groups settled and not a big enough ratio of opposition towards them for legislation to be passed restricting Catholics. The Chinese came to the United States because of the gold rush and they were willing to work for lower wages than the natives. The natives did not feel like this was fair, so with extreme pressure from the West Coast and the Democratic party, the Republican Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.



Canadian Immigration Policy vs. US Immigration Policy

Abogado Aly US immigration policy vs. CanadaAfter the Second World War, Canadian immigration policy became a little less race oriented and geared more toward economic profitability. Finally in 1962, Ellen Fairclough, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration basically eliminated racial discrimination by implementing a new Canadian immigration policy. This new immigration policy stated that if an immigrant wanted to come to Canada and was not sponsored, as long as that immigrant proved his educational skill or quality that seemed desirable for Canada, he or she was allowed to immigrate without racial bias. Whereas the United States took a more humanitarian approach to immigration policy reform in the 1960s, Canada’s immigration reform was geared more towards the economic needs of Canada, as evidenced by its point based system.

This point system was implemented in 1967 where there was no quota for the amount of people who could come into Canada. Instead, anyone who wanted to come into Canada had to take a test which tested immigrants on specific qualities that the Canadian government was looking for. These qualities included language proficiency in English and French (which are Canada’s main languages), whether or not they had a job set up in Canada, whether or not they had family members in Canada, their level of education, and the area of Canada to which they wanted to immigrate too. Just like in the United States, this caused there to be a shift in the type of people who immigrated to Canada from Europeans to Asians.

Finally in 1976, a new Canadian Immigration Act, that Canada still uses today, was implemented. This act separated Canadian immigrants into four separate categories, or as they call them, classes:  a humanitarian class (which included refugees, persecuted or displaced persons), an independent class, a family class, and an assisted relative class. Just like in the United States, Canada implemented a very strong family immigration policy, but what makes Canadian immigration policy different from American immigration policy is the strong emphasis on the independent class which is run by the point system. Canada’s immigration policy therefore is using immigration more for economic profitability purposes, whereas the United States’ seems geared more to a humanitarian or familiar goals. This fundamental difference in immigration policy between the two countries illustrate strong political differences between the two countries which result in differing economic impacts of immigration.




Immigration Law Post World War II

Abogado Aly immigration law reform

Abogado Aly Immigration Law

The passage of the Walter-McCarran Act in 1952 was the next major piece of immigration legislation. This act implemented a quota not on the origins of the U.S. population, but extended the quota to people with high skilled labor that the United States felt like they needed in their labor force. It also set up preferences towards relatives of U.S. residents. This was a fundamental change, implemented by the Truman administration, in immigration policy from national origins to family unification and labor needs. Finally, in 1965, President Kennedy amended the 1952 act as part of the civil rights legislation to completely eliminate the inherent racism in the old immigration policy. This new policy completely eliminated the national origins quota and granted  complete priority to family members of American citizens and other immigrants that had complete U.S. residence. This immigration policy was on a first come first serve basis, and annually allowed no more than 20,000 immigrants per country with a global limit of 290,000 immigrants. Eighty percent of the 290,000 limit were saved for close relatives of American citizens or residents, so it is obvious that family unification was the driving force for the 1965 immigration policy. This preference in family unification caused a decrease in the number of European immigrants and an increase in the number of Asian and Hispanic immigrants. This immigration policy is the policy that the United States has today, and this immigration policy is unique compared to other countries such as Canada, England and Japan.

In Canada, the early history of immigration policy is similar to that of the United States. In the mid to late 19th century, immigration policy in Canada was fairly open only restricting criminals and other extreme undesirables. There were not many immigrants coming to Canada before 1896, so Canada was actively seeking immigrants to tend to their large amounts of land. The Dominion Land Act was then established in 1872 which gave land in northwestern regions of Canada to any male over the age of 18 who in return had to promise to cultivate and take care of that land. At the turn of the century, Canada was trying to obtain low skilled labor to enter their vast agricultural sector in the Northwest region. Frank Oliver, a Canadian politician who represented a vast majority of the Northwest region, implemented the Canadian Immigration Act of 1910 that gave more power to the federal government and prohibited the entry “of immigrants belonging to any race deemed unsuited to the climate or requirements of Canada.” This new immigration policy became even more strict during and after the First World War.  Just like the United States, Canada’s immigration policy at the beginning of the 1920s became increasingly race oriented because of the rising world tensions. Canada’s immigration policy was split up into two groups: the preferred and the non-preferred. Since not many immigrants found incentives to immigrate to Canada, Canada implemented policies to incentivize immigration from England, America, and Western Europe. On the other hand, Canada also implemented numerous policies to keep the so-called “undesirable races,” in the eyes of the Canadians, out of their country.


Immigration Law Reform into the 20th Century

Abogado Aly History of Immigration ReformOpposition towards immigration began in the late 19th century as the immigrants coming into the United States (Irish Catholics, Germans, Chinese, Spanish) were ethnically different than the immigrants who had already established themselves (English Protestants). Eventually the opposition became strong enough to create   political pressures that called for immigration restrictions during the early 20th century.

Before 1875 immigration policy was never really discussed by the federal government  because there was nothing about immigration in the constitution. It was in 1875 when the US supreme court ruled that the federal government had complete control over immigration because it was the federal government’s  constitutional duty  to regulate international commerce.[1]  In 1882, the United States implemented its first two laws  to restrict immigration, The Chinese Exclusion Act, which suspended Chinese laborers from immigrating to the United States, and forced Chinese non-laborers to obtain authorization from their government. Second, Congress enacted and the President signed the Immigration Act which banned “convicts, prostitutes, lunatics, idiots, and those likely to become a public charge”[2] from entering the United States.  Up until the 1920s, a few more immigration laws were passed restricting the number of Japanese, Chinese, and women; even a Bureau of Immigration was established in 1891. The third wave of immigration was a period of the heaviest immigration to the United States, so the political pressures were mounting for a change in policy.

In the 1920s the Quota Law of 1921 and the Immigration Act of 1924 were implemented. These laws were significant in reducing the overall amount of immigration and skewed immigration towards the already settled immigrants of Britain, Ireland and other parts of northwestern Europe.[3] The Quota Law of 1921 legislated a maximum number of immigrants allowed per year. This maximum was limited at “three percent of the number of foreign-born persons of that nationality who lived in the United States in 1910”[4]. For example, if there were 100,000 immigrants from Ireland already in the United States, then only 3000 Irish people were allowed to immigrate to the United States that year. The Immigration Act of 1924 went a step further and reduced the number of foreign born to two percent for a three-year period while reducing its base year from 1910 to 1890.[5] This reduced the previous quota by half, and skewed the number of immigrants towards Irish, English, and German immigrants basically eliminating immigration from southern and eastern Europe. In 1929, immigration laws tightened again, reducing the quota even further and used the entire American population as its basis for ethnic origins causing there to be smaller percentages of immigrants from specific countries who were allowed into the United States.  By the end of the 1920s, immigration flow fell drastically from about 1 million per year to between 200,000 to 300,000 per year.[6] These quotas were implemented for the Eastern Hemisphere, whereas there was no real need for a quota on the Western Hemisphere because there was such a small amount of immigration from the West at this time.

Bureaucracy Laws Impede Immigration and Silicon Vally Growth

Abogado Aly Immigration LawImmigrating to the United States of America is not made easy by all of the laws an bureaucracies put in place. Many people in the United States are against amnesty and other forms of citizenship that allow illegal immigrants to stay in the United States. Their rational being that if the illegal immigrants want to stay in the United States, they should apply for a visa and wait until they are legally approved. This makes sense at first glance, but within the constructs of the law is an extremely untimely bureaucratic process that gives immigrants little hope of living legally in the United States anytime soon.

A recent study done by Forbes suggests that a computer programer from India has to wait 35 years, on average, if they want to live “legally” in the United States. Someone from Mexico with a high school diploma has to wait an average of 130 years! Complex rules and regulations are creating a difficult situation for both immigrants and the United States.

Studies show that immigrants make up most of the founders in Silicon Valley as they invent things twice as fast as native-born Americans. A lot of Sillicon Vally tech startups are feeling handcuffed by the US immigration policy as it becomes increasingly difficult to hire highly skilled immigrants. The tech startup industry is all about speed and efficiency. The US immigration process is too slow for the hiring processes of these growing startups, which limits their hiring abilities and thus limits competition.

Low skill and high skill is not a factor in the start-up rat race. Labor is a spectrum where all levels of labor are needed to keep up in the industry. These startup companies are hoping that the immigration laws become more relaxed so that they can hire who they need to hire.



A History of the United States Immigration Policy

Abogado Aly Immigration History“What do the American people want immigration to do for the United States”[1]? According to George Borjas, one of the leading labor economists who specialize in immigration issues, this should be the fundamental question in the modern immigration debate. Technically, everyone who now lives in the United States has some ancestor that immigrated to the United States from abroad and there was a point in time where there was no immigration policy. As the United States became wealthier and wealthier, an immigration policy became necessary to keep overpopulation and major wealth divisions from happening. Typically, when policy makers of the world focus on the immigration debate, they seem to use economics as their main basis for policy change. This is how immigration policy is implemented in most countries. If immigration were to make the native people economically worse off, why wouldn’t a country impose a strict immigration policy? On the other hand, if immigration were to make the native population economically better off, why wouldn’t a country impose a more lose immigration policy? This paper will describe the political forces in Canada and the United States that led to their different historic approaches to immigration, and then analyze their respective current policies in both political and economic terms.

The United States is a nation of immigrants. During the colonial era, from 1607 to 1820, a little less than one million people arrived and settled in the United States which comprised of about 600,000 Europeans, about 300,000 African slaves, and a small mix of Scots, Irish, Dutch, Germans, Swedes, and French.[2] This was considered the first wave of immigration to the United States. The second wave occurred from the years between 1840 and 1870 where about 15 million immigrants entered the country. Most of the immigrants came from Ireland (because of the Irish Potato Famine) and Germany while some Spanish speakers were coming through the southwest region and Chinese laborers were coming to California (because of the California gold rush).[3] The third wave of immigration, during the years between 1880 and 1920, was really when immigration opposition began and the need for an immigration policy became apparent. During the third wave, there were about 25 million immigrants. Most came in from England, Ireland, and Germany; but this time around, there was an abundance of immigrants coming in from southern and eastern Europe: Italy, Poland, Greece, Russia, Hungry, and other smaller nations.[4] Immigration public policy was marginally discussed by the mid-19th century. There were minimal attempts to keep criminals and other extreme undesirables out, but other than that, immigration did not affect people’s lives enough for there to be public discussion about it.


[1]George J Borjas, Heaven’s Door: Immigration Policy and the American Economy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1999) xvi.

[2] John Isbister, The Immigration Debate: Remaking America (West Hartford, CT: Kumarian, 1996)32.

[3] Isbister 32.

[4] Isbister 32.