Buttigieg Unveils Immigration Agenda, Calls For Ending Some Of Trump’s Most Notable Border Policies

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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  • 2020 Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg unveiled his immigration agenda Sunday, calling for an end to several Trump-era programs that officials say have been effective in controlling the border crisis.
  • Buttigieg pledged to end Remain in Mexico, metering, third country transit bans, as well as other enforcement programs that predate the Trump administration. 
  • Buttigieg also called for prioritizing deportations of those who pose a threat to the U.S. and those who recently entered the country illegally, among many other things. 

Democratic presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg unveiled a comprehensive immigration agenda, pledging to eliminate a number of Trump administration policies that officials say have immensely helped control the border crisis.

Buttigieg on Sunday published his immigration platform, calling for the elimination of the Remain in Mexico program, metering, third country transit bans, and the travel ban levied on numerous countries — all policies implemented under the Trump administration. The proposals, if implemented, would mark a sharp left turn from the actions taken under the current White House to control the immigration crisis.

“Current border policies have neither improved Americans’ security or economic well-being, nor fulfilled our country’s legal obligations to asylum seekers,” the campaign website read. “Pete’s plan for the border ensures that we protect asylum seekers’ rights from the moment they reach our borders.”

First implemented in December 2018, Remain in Mexico requires asylum seekers who reach the U.S. southern border to wait in Mexico for the entire duration of their immigration court proceedings. There are nearly 50,000 individuals currently under the Remain in Mexico program. Buttigieg did not clarify where all these asylum seekers would be placed if the program was immediately shuttered.

WATERLOO, IOWA - DECEMBER 06: Democratic presidential candidate South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg answers questions at the U.S. Conference of Mayors Iowa Starting Line forum December 6, 2019 in Waterloo, Iowa. Buttigieg is currently under pressure to release details of his work for the consulting firm McKinsey & Company. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Democratic presidential candidate South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Metering places a cap on the number of immigrants who can cross the U.S.-Mexico border and lodge an asylum claim, providing relief to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials overwhelmed by the huge wave of illegal aliens appearing at the border on a daily basis. Third country transit, also launched under the Trump administration, requires many illegal aliens to seek asylum in a country they cross before reaching the U.S. Guatemala, for example, has begun accepting Central American asylum seekers who passed through its country before being removed from the U.S.

Buttigieg also called for the abolishment of initiatives that predate the Trump administration. The mayor of South Bend, Indiana pledged to end the 287(g) program, which helps streamline cooperation between federal immigration authorities and local law enforcement.

The Democratic candidate — who noted that his father emigrated from Malta — called for a complete re-prioritization of immigration enforcement, pledging to focus on removing illegal aliens who pose a “genuine public safety threat.” He would also prioritize deportations of those who recently entered the U.S. illegally, and re-open deportation cases for those who haven’t yet been removed.

Other notable pledges: End ICE enforcement at “sensitive locations” around the country; abolish caps on the U visa program, despite U visas attracting rampant fraud; increase the cap on refugees; reform the employment-based visa system; and make the immigration court system independent of the Attorney General.

“Whatever drives people to move across borders — opportunity, conflict, climate change, economic insecurity—we must welcome the stranger and respect the dignity of every person,” read an excerpt of the plan.

While the proposals would mark a dramatic leftward shift from the current administration, Buttigieg’s immigration platform remains moderate in comparison to the more progressive candidates vying for the Democratic nomination. Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, for example, have both called for the decriminalization of illegal immigration and a moratorium on all deportations. Sanders’ plan even calls for the reorganization of the Department of Homeland Security. (RELATED: Joe Biden Unveils Immigration Platform, Acknowledges ‘Pain’ Of Deportations During Obama Era)

Like virtually every Democratic presidential candidate, Buttigieg vowed to push legislation that would create a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal aliens currently living in the U.S.

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