Election 2020

Where Presidential, Senate and Congressional Candidates Stand On Immigration Issues Affecting Houston

Immigration continues to be a controversial topic ahead of the 2020 election. In a metro area home to 1.6 million immigrants, here’s what local and national candidates have to say.

A portion of a Washington state mail-in ballot is shown with choices that include Donald Trump and Joe Biden for president, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020, in Olympia, Wash.

Before COVID-19 dominated the national conversation during the spring of 2020, immigration issues had been at the center of most of the Trump presidency.

The Trump administration has implemented hardline immigration policies that have provoked both criticism and praise.

Here’s what some of the 2020 candidates for president and U.S. Congress have to say about this highly divisive issue, including candidates for the two most competitive House races in the Houston area.

The U.S. Presidential Race

President Donald Trump delivers remarks about American energy production during a visit to the Double Eagle Energy Oil Rig, Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in Midland, Texas.

Republican Donald Trump

President Trump’s administration has tried to end the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — or DACA — which protects from deportation at least 100,000 Texans who were brought to the U.S. as children.

The Trump administration has also changed immigration law enforcement priorities, saying that all undocumented immigrants are equally as important to deport — not only those with criminal records. And a Trump administration policy often referred to as “public charge” has made it more difficult for low-income immigrants to get a green card or visa.

The Trump administration has also cut refugee admissions to historic lows and ended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) protections for some countries. And several administration orders, policies and practices have effectively shut down access to asylum for most people. The arduous asylum legal process is intended to protect families fleeing persecution.

Under Trump, who campaigned hard on “building the wall” in 2016, more than 100 additional miles of border wall had been built as of early 2020, according to the Washington Post. It has been entirely funded by the U.S. government.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden joined by his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks at the Hotel DuPont in Wilmington, Del., Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020.

Democrat Joe Biden

Former Vice President Joe Biden said he will reinstate the DACA program and work to make sure DREAMers have access to federal student loans and grants, according to his campaign website.

Law enforcement against undocumented immigrants will be focused on people with serious criminal records, and he said he will end workplace raids.

Biden said in his first 100 days in office he will end Trump’s asylum policies, including the policy that mandates asylum seekers — often from Central America — wait in Mexico for their asylum hearing.

When it comes to family-based migration, Biden said he plans to reverse Trump’s public charge rule, so the visa process remains open to immigrants regardless of their income or education.

The former vice president has commited to increasing the number of refugees that can come to the U.S. each year, saying he would set the annual refugee cap to 125,000 — 110,000 more than Trump’s current cap for 2021.

And Biden said he will protect TPS holders from being deported and will support the legislature in creating a path to citizenship for these immigrants.

Biden also supports improving technology for cargo screenings and said instead of building more border wall, he would invest that money in other enforcement tools at ports of entry.

The Texas U.S. Senate Race

U.S. Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas.

Republican John Cornyn

Cornyn, chairman of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Border Security and Immigration, frequently speaks out against illegal immigration.

He has a mixed record on supporting DREAMers. He’s voted multiple times against versions of the DREAM Act, but has also voted in support of border wall funding that included protection for DREAMers.

As reported by the Dallas Morning News, Cornyn previously supported Trump’s use of Pentagon funding to build sections of the border wall, but has since reversed his stance.

When Gov. Abbott tried to limit refugee resettlement in Texas, under a Trump administration policy Cornyn challenged the governor, saying there’s a distinction between asylum seekers and refugees.


In this Oct. 9, 2020, file photo MJ Hegar, of Round Rock, right, speaks during a debate with Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, of Texas in Austin, Texas. Hegar reported raising over $13 million for the quarter that ended in September. (Bob Daemmrich/Nexstar/KXAN via AP, Pool. File)

Democrat MJ Hegar

Hegar supports a path to citizenship for DREAMers and comprehensive immigration reform that makes it easier to apply for and receive citizenship, according to her website.

Hegar said she believes asylum seekers should have their claims properly processed at the border.

She also supports securing the border using technology and other procedures.

The Texas 22nd Congressional District Race

Sri Preston Kulkarni is running as a Democrat to represent the Texas 22nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni

On his website, Kulkarni said he supports DACA and a DREAM Act that would protect from deportation people who were brought to the U.S. as children.

He said he’s a proponent of comprehensive immigration reform, and has commited to protecting H-1B visas that give highly skilled workers the opportunity to legally work in the United States.

Kulkarni said he opposes family separation at the border, and that people should be treated with “respect and decency” by immigration officials.

In an interview with the Katy Times, Kulkarni said he’s worked with the U.S. State Department and with the U.S. Senate to counter human trafficking. He also supports interagency cooperation on this issue.

Kulkarni supports spending on surveillance and monitoring at the border wall and in securing ports of entry.

Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls is running as the Republican candidate for Texas’ 22nd Congressional District.

Republican Troy Nehls

Nehls has committed to helping President Trump secure the border and build the wall. Nehls opposes sanctuary cities and boasts on his campaign website that as Fort Bend County Sheriff he’s been “locking up over 2,500 criminal aliens and working with ICE to process them for deportation.”

Nehls told the Katy Times he’s taken multiple steps to prevent human trafficking as Fort Bend County Sheriff, like “establishing a local hotline for reports, hiring detectives dedicated to human trafficking cases, and shutting down numerous illicit massage parlors.”

The Texas 7th Congressional District Race

Wesley Hunt, left, won the GOP primary on Super Tuesday, and will now take on Democratic member of Congress Lizzie Fletcher in the general election.

Democrat Lizzie Pannill Fletcher

Fletcher said she supports comprehensive immigration reform that improves border security and supports immigration enforcement. However, she opposes building a wall on the US-Mexico border.

She’s co-sponsored unsuccessful legislation to protect DACA and TPS recipients from deportation and has worked to streamline the employment-based visa system.

Republican Wesley Hunt

On his website, Wesley Hunt said illegal immigration is a threat to national security. He has commited to increasing border security funding and supports the enforcement of immigration laws.

Hunt opposes any sort of amnesty for any undocumented immigrants, saying it sends the wrong message to immigrants who are waiting their turn.

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Elizabeth Trovall

Elizabeth Trovall

Immigration Reporter

Elizabeth Trovall is an immigration reporter for Houston Public Media. She joined the News 88.7 team after several years abroad in Santiago, Chile, where she reported on business, energy, politics and culture. Trovall's work has been featured on NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered, Marketplace, Here and Now, Latino...

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