In recent weeks, former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley (D) and former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R) have unveiled their approaches to immigration. Although both presidential candidates tackle this politically thorny issue, they do so in fundamentally different ways. The titles of their immigration plans say it all. O’Malley’s is called “Welcoming New Americans to Rebuild the American Dream,” while Bush’s is “Securing the Border and Enforcing Our Immigration Laws.”

What Has O’Malley Proposed on Immigration?

The platform O’Malley proposed is heavy on revamping the U.S. immigration system as a whole in an attempt to work out long-standing systemic flaws. Here’s what the plan includes.

O’Malley supports a pathway to citizenship:

  • “From the first days of his Administration, he will work with Congress to modernize our immigration system and secure a path to full and equal citizenship for New Americans. O’Malley believes that this is an economic, moral, and national security imperative – one that is enshrined in our founding principles as a nation.”

O’Malley would expand President Obama’s executive action on immigration until Congress moves forward with immigration reform:

  • “[He will] direct the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to provide immediate relief from deportation, with work authorization, to all individuals covered by the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform proposal.”

O’Malley wants to reform immigration detention and increase the number of immigration judges:

  • “[He will] direct DHS to use alternatives to detention for the vast majority of people” and “end the practice of holding children and families in detention centers.”
  • “[He will] implement critical reforms, including providing counsel for immigrants in deportation proceedings, increasing the number of immigration judges and courts, ending telephonic and video hearings for detainees, ensuring language access, and holding detention facilities and DHS personnel accountable for constitutional rights violations.”

O’Malley would reform the U.S. immigration visa system:

  • “[He will] work with Congress so that the supply of visas better meets demand. He will also reform outdated immigration bars so that previously deported individuals with U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident relatives could lawfully return to the United States.

O’Malley offers a long menu of immigration reform proposals emphasizing human rights, due process, proportionality, and fairness. O’Malley recognizes the fact that you can’t enforce your way out an outdated system.

What Has Bush Proposed on Immigration?

In contrast to O’Malley, Bush focuses on the ramping up of immigration enforcement. He supports tougher immigration laws and heightened immigration enforcement. However, he does recognize the need to address the status of the 11 million undocumented currently living in the U.S. Here are the main elements of Bush’s plan.

Bush supports efforts to bulk up enforcement measures and implement E-Verify across the country:

  • Create “a forward-leaning Border Patrol with the flexibility to deploy resources to meet threats.”
  • “…use new technologies to achieve continuous surveillance of the border.”
  • “….bolster border infrastructure and improve access to federal lands.”
  • “…require electronic verification of employment eligibility.”
  • “…identify and send home the people who are entering the United States and overstaying their visas or otherwise violating the terms of their admission.”

Bush wants to reprimand communities that have ended their cooperation with ICE detainers:

  • “[He will] crack down on sanctuary cities that undermine efforts to enforce immigration laws.”

Bush supports a demanding pathway to legal status:

  • “… these proposals, when combined with a rigorous path to earned legal status, would realistically and honestly address the status of the 11 million people here illegally today and protect against future illegal immigration.”

The primary piece of Bush’s immigration plan focuses on enforcement, and it appears he has little to say on other aspects of reform needed to bring our immigration system into the twenty-first century. It remains to be seen if Bush will commit to an inclusive legalization plan and whether it would include a pathway to citizenship. He also provides no indication about how he would reform our outdated visa system. These are crucial components of reform and are needed to promote our country’s economic growth and ensure that our immigration system reflects our nation’s values.

Photos by Michael Vadon and Gregory Hauenstein.