Here's where the 2024 presidential candidates stand on immigration

Republicans warn of "crisis" as Democrats say they want to curb harsh policies.

October 4, 2023, 1:37 PM

Immigration is once again emerging as a major issue ahead of the 2024 presidential election next fall.

Republicans are seeking to paint Democrats as inept at the border, blaming liberal policies for sparking a "crisis" that could overwhelm border communities and breaking new ground on how they'd fix it -- at the same time that Democrats argue conservatives would enforce overly harsh punishments that don't address the root causes of the issue and go against American values.

Among GOP presidential candidates' proposals are trying to send the military into Mexico and using drone strikes on cartels, while President Joe Biden, seeking reelection, has sought to curb asylum and border crossings, drawing progressives' ire, without embracing the tactics of Republican predecessor and rival Donald Trump.

Here’s a brief look at where the major candidates stand on the issue.

Joe Biden

Biden, the clear front-runner for the Democratic nomination in next year's race, has moved to increase refugee admissions and supports a pathway to citizenship for farm workers without authorization to be in the country, those on Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients and their parents.

Yet while he has also undone some Trump-era policies, including migrant expulsion authority amid the COVID-19 pandemic under Title 42, the White House has implemented new measures to turn away migrants who did not seek asylum in a country they traveled through en route to the United States.

The administration has also been focused on tackling the root causes of the migration surge, providing humanitarian assistance to Mexico and Central American countries.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has run as an enigma for many Democrats, and his stance on immigration is no different.

On X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, Kennedy has billed himself as both in favor of immigration and "closing the border."

Visiting Yuma, Arizona, in early June, Kennedy called the rate of unauthorized migration "not a good thing for our country" and said it was "unsustainable." But Kennedy has also advocated for reforming the U.S.’s immigration system, and said that, if elected, he would make it easier for migrant workers to enter the country on H1-B visas.

Marianne Williamson

Author and speaker Marianne Williamson, who is challenging Biden in the Democratic primary, supports a pathway to citizenship for all immigrants who have not broken "serious" laws. She has also said she would seek to abolish the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and repeal the Patriot Act.

Donald Trump

In his third presidential bid, Trump says he plans to reinstate and expand the immigration policies of his first presidential term including finishing the U.S.-Mexico border wall and reviving the "Remain in Mexico" and asylum restrictions as he promises to "carry out the largest domestic deportation operation in American History." Trump has also promised to sign an executive order to end birthright citizenship for "illegal aliens" on the first day of his new term, which would almost certainly face significant legal hurdles as birthright citizenship is enshrined in the 14th Amendment.

Trump focused heavily on immigration during his first presidential campaign, including building the border wall with what he claimed would be Mexican money, though his failure to do so has become an attack line from his primary rivals.

Ron DeSantis

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has taken some of the strictest stances on immigration out of the entire GOP primary field, including supporting using deadly force against migrants crossing over the border who are suspected of trafficking illegal drugs.

During the rollout of his immigration policy, DeSantis said he would also seek to eliminate birthright citizenship for children of unauthorized parents who are still born in the U.S., which like Trump's pledge would likely spark legal battles.

The governor has also been among the most vocal critics of the Trump administration for not completing the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

Nikki Haley

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has campaigned as less of a firebrand on social issues than some of her Republican rivals, but she has lamented illegal immigration, noting that her parents, both immigrants from India, get upset when people cross the border without authorization.

She has not said she would back ending birthright citizenship, but she has opened the door to limiting it.

"For the 5 million people who've entered our country illegally, I am against birthright citizenship," Haley said on Fox News in July. "For those that are in this country legally, of course, I think we go according to the Constitution, and that's fine."

"It's the illegal immigrants that we have to make sure that just because they get here, if they have a child, you’re just building on the problems," she said.

Vivek Ramaswamy

Entrepreneur and commentator Vivek Ramaswamy has been a hard-liner on immigration among the 2024 Republican contenders.

He has repeatedly vowed to try and end birthright citizenship and said he would deport U.S.-born children of unauthorized immigrants. He's also supported trying to use military force in Mexico against cartels and has said he would finish the border wall.

Ramaswamy has also said he would scrap the H1-B visa program for high-skilled foreign workers in specialized industries even though his former biotech firm used the program.

Mike Pence

Former Vice President Mike Pence has said securing the southern border is a "day one" priority, promising to finish the border wall and reinstate the "remain in Mexico" and Title 42 policies implemented during his time in office with Trump. Pence says he wants to introduce a merit-based immigration system based on the kinds of workers different states need to reform legal immigration.

A Republican, Pence visited a portion of the border in Arizona in June and blamed the Biden administration for what he called a "crisis of epic proportions" despite some of the current White House's policies mirroring those of the Trump administration.

Chris Christie

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has said that he would support pursuing a bipartisan agreement on immigration, saying in July that as president, he would put "both sides in a room and say we are not leaving until we come up with a compromise."

Christie, a Republican, has also pledged swift action on the southern border if elected, promising to finish the wall promised by Trump and to deploy the National Guard to support the interdiction of fentanyl carried by smugglers.

Christie has expressed support for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's deployment of floating barriers in the Rio Grande, which has been challenged in court, telling a town hall in New Hampshire that "whatever steps we need to take to secure that border is what we need to do."

Tim Scott

South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott has said he supports reinstating Title 42, the pandemic-era public health authority that allowed immigration officials to quickly reject migrants who reach the border seeking asylum. Scott has also insisted that he would finish the southern border wall, though has not been as vociferous a critic as candidates like DeSantis over the Trump administration's failure to complete it.

When asked in August if he would revoke birthright citizenship by CBS News, he stated that the president "cannot do that by himself or herself."

Doug Burgum

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum's first campaign promise was to visit the southern border within his first two weeks of office. Since launching his long shot campaign for the GOP nomination, he's advocated for strong border security to stop illegal immigration and ensure a safe flow of goods and services.

Burgum traveled to the southern border in August and has said clamping down on the flow of fentanyl from China to Mexico into the U.S. is a top priority.

Asa Hutchinson

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said he wants to finish the border wall and reinstate Title 42, among other border reforms.

However, counter to his GOP primary rivals, he has proposed expanding visas, including implementing a state-based program that would empower states to grant visas based on the kinds of workers they need.

ABC News’ Gabriella Abdul-Hakim, Libby Cathey, Abby Cruz, Hannah Demissie, Fritz Farrow, Lalee Ibssa, Soo Rin Kim, Nicholas Kerr, Will McDuffie, Kendall Ross and Kelsey Walsh contributed to this report.