immigration

Do you support the option of detaining asylum-seeking families together in non-prison settings until their asylum claims can be processed, or should they always be released into the country while awaiting a decision?

Eliminate or limit family detention

Eliminate or limit family detention

Michael Bennet

U.S. senator, Colorado

Bennet supports eliminating or limiting family detention, he told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Michael Bennet
Bennet

Cory Booker

U.S. senator, New Jersey

Booker signed a letter calling for the end of family detention in 2016. He also told The Post, “I introduced the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act, which would significantly restrict family detention and prevent the federal government from detaining immigrants except in instances where they pose a flight risk or a risk to public safety.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Cory Booker
Booker

Steve Bullock

Governor, Montana

“We shouldn’t waste resources — especially military resources — on detaining asylum-seeking families that don’t pose a risk to our country, especially when the asylum process can last for months on end,” Bullock told The Post. “However, it is critically important to improve this process with additional judges and by reinstating the Obama-era policy of allowing people to apply for asylum in their home countries or in a neighboring, safer country.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Steve Bullock
Bullock

Pete Buttigieg

Mayor, South Bend, Ind.

“Because asylum hearings currently take far too long, keeping families in limbo for years on end, we must prioritize alternatives to detention, like the Family Case Management Program, and only use family detention as a last resort,” Buttigieg told The Post. “More fundamentally, we must fix our broken immigration system, including by adjudicating asylum claims much more quickly.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Pete Buttigieg
Buttigieg

Julian Castro

Former mayor, San Antonio

“My immigration policy would implement alternatives to detention modeled on successful programs pioneered under the Obama administration that are more compassionate, cost a fraction of detention programs and have a greater than 99 percent compliance rate,” Castro told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Julian Castro
Castro

John Delaney

Former U.S. representative, Maryland

“The government should have the option of detaining asylum-seeking families in limited circumstances,” Delaney told The Post. “I strongly believe that our focus should be on providing legal counsel and increasing the number of immigration judges to speed up the process of determining immigration cases.”

Candidate positions highlighted
John Delaney
Delaney

Bill de Blasio

Mayor, New York City

De Blasio would eliminate family detention, he told the Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Bill de Blasio
de Blasio

Tulsi Gabbard

U.S. representative, Hawaii

Gabbard would eliminate or limit family detention, she told the Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Tulsi Gabbard
Gabbard

Kirsten Gillibrand

U.S. senator, New York

Gillibrand does not support detention for asylum-seeking families. She co-sponsored the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act, which would restrict the use of detention centers.

Candidate positions highlighted
Kirsten Gillibrand
Gillibrand

John Hickenlooper (Dropped out)

Former governor, Colorado

Hickenlooper is no longer running for president. Hickenlooper said he supports eliminating or limiting family detention, he told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
John Hickenlooper
Hickenlooper

Jay Inslee

Governor, Washington state

Inslee does not support detention for asylum-seeking families, according to his immigration plan.

Candidate positions highlighted
Jay Inslee
Inslee

Wayne Messam

Mayor, Miramar, Fla.

Messam does not support detention for asylum-seeking families, he told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Wayne Messam
Messam

Seth Moulton

U.S. representative, Massachusetts

“Low-risk asylum seekers should be released to the community pending immigration hearings,” Moulton told The Post. “Holding people in detention and separating families is wrong — it permanently damages children through no fault of their own. We’re better than that.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Seth Moulton
Moulton

Beto O'Rourke

Former U.S. representative, Texas

O'Rourke does not support detention for asylum-seeking families, his campaign told The Post. He co-sponsored the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act of 2017, which would restrict the use of detention centers.

Candidate positions highlighted
Beto O'Rourke
O'Rourke

Tim Ryan

U.S. representative, Ohio

Ryan does not support detention for asylum-seeking families, his campaign told The Post. “I believe it’s important to keep families together, and the Trump administration’s current trajectory on border security and its treatment of those seeking entry to or asylum within the United States is cruel and unusual,” he said. “We can and must move toward practices that treat every human with dignity and respect, and we can do that in part by working to quickly and efficiently process those seeking entry into the United States and asylum within our borders.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Tim Ryan
Ryan

Bernie Sanders

U.S. senator, Vermont

“We should not lock up children and families in the United States. Community-based alternatives to detention are far less expensive and have nearly 100 percent compliance rates with check-ins and court hearings,” Sanders told The Post. “We must promote and implement these cheaper, more effective and more humane alternatives to keeping children and families detained in overcrowded, understaffed and ad-hoc facilities.” Sanders co-sponsored the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act, which would restrict the use of detention centers.

Candidate positions highlighted
Bernie Sanders
Sanders

Joe Sestak

Former U.S. representative, Pennsylvania

Sestak does not support detention for asylum-seeking families, his campaign told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Joe Sestak
Sestak

Eric Swalwell (Dropped out)

U.S. representative, California

Swalwell is no longer running for president. “There is no reason non-dangerous persons should be detained while their asylum claims are pending when we have good alternatives to detention,” Swalwell told The Post. “We should put our efforts and resources into our immigration court system so people's asylum claims can be processed more quickly.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Eric Swalwell
Swalwell

Elizabeth Warren

U.S. senator, Massachusetts

“As President, I’ll issue guidance ensuring that detention is only used where it is actually necessary because an individual poses a flight or safety risk,” Warren's immigration plan said. She told The Post: “I’ve called on the Trump administration to reinstate an Obama-era policy prohibiting holding pregnant migrants in detention centers. And private detention facilities and government-run detention centers need to be held accountable for their appalling and seriously poor conditions.” She also co-sponsored the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act, which would restrict the use of detention centers.

Candidate positions highlighted
Elizabeth Warren
Warren

Marianne Williamson

Author

“We need alternatives to detention. Families should be kept together,” Williamson told The Post. “We should ban cages. We need to increase funding to immigration courts so they have the resources needed to do their job.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Marianne Williamson
Williamson

Family detention in improved facilities

Family detention in improved facilities

Andrew Yang

Tech entrepreneur

“I think we should increase funding to our courts so that these claims can be processed in a timely manner, so that neither long-term detention nor release into the country is necessary,” Yang told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Andrew Yang
Yang

Unclear/No response

Unclear/No response

Joe Biden

Former vice president

Biden did not provide an answer to this question.

Candidate positions highlighted
Joe Biden
Biden

Kamala D. Harris

U.S. senator, California

Harris did not provide an answer to this question.

Candidate positions highlighted
Kamala Harris
Harris

Amy Klobuchar

U.S. senator, Minnesota

Klobuchar did not provide an answer to this question.

Candidate positions highlighted
Amy Klobuchar
Klobuchar

Hover for more information

Tap for more information

Background The Trump administration has sought to detain a greater share of border crossers who are captured by law enforcement officials until they can be processed through the court system. Congressional Democrats have sought to limit the number of new detention beds in an effort to force the release of more migrants who are awaiting court dates. The most recent budget deal, in February 2019, set funding for an average of about 45,000 beds. The percentage of Democrats who say that illegal immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border is at a “crisis” increased 17 percent since January, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll in April.

How candidate positions were compiled

The Washington Post sent a detailed questionnaire to every Democratic campaign asking whether it supports various changes to U.S. immigration and border security policy. Candidates with similar stances were organized into groups using a combination of those answers, legislative records, action taken in an executive role and other public comments, such as policy discussion on campaign websites, social media posts, interviews, town hall meetings and other news reports. See something we missed? Let us know.

We expect candidates to develop more detailed policy positions throughout the campaign, and this page will update as we learn more about their plans. We also will note if candidates change their position on an issue. At initial publication, this page included major candidates who had announced a run for president or an exploratory committee. The Post will contact additional candidates as they enter the race and include them here.

Curious about where candidates stand on another policy? Fill out this suggestion form.