Parallel Definitions: How Democrats and Republicans Define ‘Immigration Reform’

While both Republicans and Democrats agree that immigration reform is necessary, their definitions of immigration reform however greatly differ.  



Much has been made over President Donald Trump’s dinner last night with Congressional Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. While it isn’t surprising to hear that many issues were talked about – including tax reform, border security, DACA, and trade – the Associated Press this morning reported that President Trump and top Democrats had come to a deal in regards to bringing the provisions of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program into law!


Even though there’s a lot of confusion over whether this deal actually happened and Congressional Republicans are reported to be blindsided over the deal, it once again highlights the fundamental problem when it comes to both Republicans and Democrats coming together in creating legislation on immigration reform; both parties have very different definitions in what that exactly means.


While both Democrats and Republicans are in agreement that immigration reform is necessary, fundamentally speaking, their approaches to the issue couldn’t be any more different.     



Democrats’ Views of Immigration Reform


  • Reinstate some sort of DACA provisions that would allow Dreamers (children of undocumented immigrants) to obtain work permits and protect them from deportation.

  • Prioritize immigration enforcement that prioritizes those with criminal records and not arbitrarily separating families of undocumented immigrants. This may even include a path to citizenship for law abiding undocumented immigrants.

  • Improve border security by training more individuals of the US Border Patrol (USBP) to recognizing undocumented immigrants that are crossing the border and making sure they don’t fall victim to human traffickers.

  • Increase more H1-B and Student Visas to foreigners, which would allow more highly skilled immigrants into the US, thus stimulating the US economy.

  • Allowing the entrance of refugees – no matter where they’re from – and permit them to seek asylum in the US.


Compared to the Republicans, Democrats would like to handle immigration reform with a much gentler touch. Much of this stems from the basic idea for many Democrats that immigration – of all forms – should be looked at as a net positive. So their immigration reform efforts try to focus more on inclusion rather than exclusion. That’s why most of their ideas are always trying to incorporate an increase of immigration into the US. That’s a fundamental difference when you compare it to Republicans’ idea of immigration reform.



Republicans’ Views of Immigration Reform


  • Increasing border security on the US/Mexico border is paramount. Implementation of this could range from increasing border agents to building a continuous 2,000-mile wall on the border.

  • Strict enforcement of current immigration laws. Which would mean a greater emphasis on deportation efforts of undocumented immigrants from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and deterring “sanctuary cities” from not reporting undocumented individuals in their local communities.

  • Even though high skilled workers are still encouraged to come to the US, generally speaking, the number of H1-B Visas and Green Cards handed out each year should be made more selective. In other words, limiting legal immigration.

  • The US’ refugee policy should be revisited and should try to curb the number of refugees coming from “terrorist prone countries” (ie President Trump’s Travel Ban).

  • in broad strokes, Republicans believe Dreamers should be allowed to stay in the US and not fall victim to deportation. However, there is a divide within conservatives on the specifics of how that should be implemented; specifically, in terms of work permits and immigration status.


Republican views on immigration is based on a more protectionist stance. It stems from the idea that if America is going to allow immigrants to enter the US, they should lean-towards highly skilled workers. One of the reasons this view of immigration has gained traction among conservatives over the last decade, revolves around the idea that illegal immigration has greatly hurt the US, specifically undocumented immigrants that are entering from the Mexico/US border. That’s why most of the GOP’s immigration policy revolves around border security. On a very basic level, if both Republicans and Democrats view “reform” of the US’ immigration policy to be completely different strategies, coming up with a compromise would have to shift their thinking entirely.



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