Beto O'Rourke proposes a 'sweeping rewrite' of US immigration policy, including a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants

Stephen Lam/Getty ImagesBeto O’Rourke.
  • Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke unveiled a new immigration policy proposal on Wednesday.
  • The plan would roll back much of the Trump administration’s policies regarding illegal immigrants and asylum seekers.
  • O’Rourke’s proposal would also halt construction of the border wall and refocus personnel for other security purposes at ports of entry.
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Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke released a detailed immigration proposal on Wednesday, largely aimed at rolling back policies ushered in by President Donald Trump‘s administration.

O’Rourke’s campaign touted the plan as “the most sweeping rewrite of US immigration law in a generation” that if implemented, would streamline and better secure ports of entry, allow pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and immediately halt construction of physical barriers along the US-Mexico border.

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“This innovative plan overcomes a generation of inaction to finally rewrite our immigration laws in our own image – reflecting our values, the reality of the border, the best interests of our communities, and the longstanding traditions of a country comprised of families from the world over,” O’Rourke said in a statement. “Coming from a city of immigrants, I’ve seen the incredible contributions of immigrants to our communities and local economies, and have been able to experience what happens when we allow everyone to contribute to their full potential.”

“Under our administration, we will ensure that we advance a new vision of immigration that fully reflects our country’s values and empowers every individual to contribute to the shared greatness of our country,” he added.

The plan would focus on what a fact sheet from the campaign described as three pillars:

  • “On day one of his presidency, Beto will use executive authority to stop the inhumane treatment of children, reunite families that have been separated, reform our asylum system, rescind the travel bans, and remove the fear of deportation for Dreamers and beneficiaries of programs like TPS [temporary protected status].”
  • “Beto will also immediately engage with Congress to enact legislation – focused on the key role families and communities play – that will allow America to fully harness the power of economic growth and opportunity that both immigration and naturalization will bring to our country’s future.”
  • “Finally, Beto’s plan would strengthen our partnership with our neighbours in the Western Hemisphere. We need to refocus on supporting democracy and human rights and invest in reducing violence because the only path to regional security runs through a more democratic and prosperous Latin America.”

The plan would allow an “earned” pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States. For nine million immigrants already eligible for naturalization, the administration would accelerate the process.

For visa sponsorships, O’Rourke wants to create a “community-based” category, which would allow “communities and congregations can welcome refugees through community sponsorship of visas.” Visa caps would also be increased, according to the plan.

The proposal would dramatically change how the US approaches border security

O’Rourke has already said he would tear down existing portions of physical barriers along the southern border and the plan released Wednesday called for immediately halting any further construction of walls. According to O’Rourke’s plan, every presidential budget proposal of his administration would include zero dollars for wall construction. It is not clear whether or not that would include necessary repairs for existing sections of the border wall.

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The plan calls for increasing US Customs & Border Protection personnel on the border as a means of boosting security.

O’Rourke’s plan would also invest in rebuilding and modernising US ports of entry, a primary pathway for human traffickers and drug smugglers.

In terms of oversight of border security personnel, O’Rourke proposes the creation of a “Border Oversight Commission, an Ombudsman, and Border Community Liaison office.” This would also include creating a new process for tracking and reducing migrants deaths along the border.

The immigration proposal is one of O’Rourke’s most detailed of his campaign, adding his to the list of other candidates, including fellow Texan Juli├ín Castro.

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