In contrast to the traditional notion that immigrants should be required to learn the dominant language of a nation, the 2016 draft of the Democratic Party platform no longer recommends undocumented immigrants learn English as a condition of amnesty in the U.S.
In contrast, the 2012 version of the document included the need for comprehensive immigration reform, but specified undocumented immigrants should “get right with the law, learn English, and pay taxes in order to get on a path to earn citizenship.”
The 2008 Democratic Party platform was even more firm on requirements for citizenships, stating: “We support a system that requires undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, pay taxes, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens.”
These recommendations are unpopular with Hispanics and immigrant-rights groups at a time when the Democratic Party needs the Hispanic vote, widely perceived as crucial for key swing states such as Colorado, Nevada and Florida.
The Hill notes, “The turn to the left signals a Democratic need to energize the Latino electorate, after failed promises of comprehensive immigration reform and perceived heavy-handed enforcement policies drove a wedge between the Hispanic community and the Obama administration.”
The modified 2016 draft platform states, “We will invest in immigrant integration services, expand access to English language education, and promote naturalization to help the millions of people who are eligible for citizenship take that last step.” The platform goes on to say it will expand immigration for refugees through more additional granting of humanitarian parole and Temporary Protected Status.
The party is counting on a huge Hispanic turnout in the November elections, and calls immigration “a defining aspect of the American character and history.”
Democrats also took the opportunity to poke at presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump regarding his proposals to deport undocumented immigrants, construct a wall on the southern border and place a moratorium on Muslim immigration.
“Democrats know that America’s greatest strength is its people, and that immigrants have greatly contributed to our nation’s culture and our economy,” states the website Democrats.com. “Republican plans for mass deportations would not only tear families apart, but waste billions of dollars.”
The website further estimates fixing the broken immigration system would boost “economic output by 3.3 percent in the first decade, and 5.4 percent in the next. The Congressional Budget Office found that employment, investment, and productivity would increase, and that Social Security would be strengthened. … That’s the kind of common-sense reform the American people expect from their leaders in Washington, and it’s what Democrats will continue to work for.”
The 2016 draft platform calls for a path to citizenship “for law-abiding families who are here,” the defense of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, the end of immigration raids against children and families, due process for “those fleeing violence in Central America,” and to rescind statutory bans on immigrants who modify their status in the country. It calls religious tests for entry un-American, and explicitly mentions Trump and his rhetoric.
“Finally, Democrats will not stand for the divisive and derogatory language of Donald Trump. His offensive comments about immigrants and other communities have no place in our society. This kind of rhetoric must be rejected,” the platform reads.
The modified language is considered a victory for immigration activists. Maureen Meyer, director of the Washington Office on Latin America’s Mexico Program, praised the platform, stating: “The platform recognizes the pressing need address the status of the more than 11 million undocumented migrants living and raising their families in the Unites States. It provides assurances that the raids that have been threatening recently arrived Central American families and which have caused fear in the immigrant community will be stopped.”
She added, “the platform rightfully denounces statements that seeks [sic] to criminalize migrants and minority populations.”
The 2016 draft platform is considered a response to the surge of undocumented immigration from Central America that caught officials off-guard in 2014. The Hill notes this allowed Republicans “to score political points arguing weak border security while at the same time angering Hispanics for perceived mistreatment of migrants, particularly unaccompanied minors.”
Meyer stated the 2016 draft platform “recognizes that it isn’t enough to just address the undocumented population currently in the U.S. but also the need to support efforts to address the root causes of violence that is a driving factor in Central American migration to the country.”
The draft makes no mention of border security, but instead states, “Immigration is not a problem to be solved.” The platform proposes eliminating the three-year, ten-year, and permanent immigration bars that were signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
“We will work with Congress to end the lengthy, forced, and prolonged expulsion from the country that many immigrants endure when trying to adjust their status by rescinding the three- year, ten-year and permanent bars,” the platform states.
The three-year bar is applicable for re-entry of immigrants who have more than six months of illegal presence. The ten-year bar stops re-entry for aliens who have more than one year of illegal presence.