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On the issues: Presidential candidates worlds apart on immigration policy

By Eric DuVall
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On the issues: Presidential candidates worlds apart on immigration policy
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, right, stands with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio during a campaign event in Iowa in January. Arpaio is an outspoken critic of the nation's immigration policy and has been the target of protests for his crackdown on illegal immigrants in the Phoenix area for years. File Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, May 12 (UPI) -- In the landscape of issues being debated in this year's presidential campaign, it is difficult to find one where Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump differ more starkly than immigration.

Trump made railing against the nation's estimated 10.8 million undocumented immigrants a centerpiece of his primary campaign but has since softened some of that rhetoric. He advocates building a wall on the Mexican border, immediately deporting any undocumented individual with a criminal record and would allow the remainder of those found in the country illegally to be processed by immigration courts.

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Clinton supports comprehensive immigration reform. She said she will continue President Barack Obama's executive actions, currently being challenged in the courts, to halt mass deportations and enact legislation that would provide a pathway to citizenship for the vast majority of those living in the country illegally.

Here is an in-depth look at where the presidential candidates stand on the issue of illegal immigration.

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For Trump, it's all about the wall

There may well be no single policy proposal that has garnered more attention and evoked more passion than Trump's promise to build a wall separating the United States and Mexico.

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He mentions the wall at nearly every campaign stop, generating huge cheers from supporters and angry protests from liberals. In the issues portion of his campaign website, "Pay For The Wall" has its own section -- the first one on the list.

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So how, exactly, does he propose to pay for it?

Trump has mentioned the nation's trade imbalance with Mexico as a source of leverage for the United States government. Trump points out the fact Mexico relies on American consumers to buy their products as a huge portion of their nation's economy.

"It's an easy decision for Mexico: make a one-time payment of $5-10 billion to ensure that $24 billion continues to flow into their country year after year," his website states.

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If they refuse to comply, Trump has promised to implement tariffs on Mexican goods, essentially a tax on imports he says would easily cover the cost of building the wall.

He also has proposed changing executive orders to prohibit those living in America illegally from wiring money to Mexico.

Federal law allows the executive branch to define what financial institutions are subject to regulation. He proposes including wire transfer companies like Western Union, and requiring all people seeking to wire money out of the country to first prove their lawful citizenship.

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The practical effect would be denying Mexican citizens the ability to receive cash payments from relatives living and working in the United States illegally.

"They receive approximately $24 billion a year in remittances from Mexican nationals working in the United States," Trump's website states. "The majority of that amount comes from illegal aliens. It serves as de facto welfare for poor families in Mexico."

As for the remainder of Trump's immigration proposals, he has called for:

-- Tripling the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.

-- The implementation of a national e-verify employment system to prevent businesses from hiring undocumented immigrants.

-- Cutting off federal funds to so-called "sanctuary cities," or municipalities that refuse to report undocumented immigrants to the federal government.

-- Cracking down on individuals who overstay their visas.

-- The end to birthright citizenship.

While the issue was brought up in the context of combatting terrorism, not illegal immigration, Trump has also called for temporarily banning all Muslims from entering the country.

But some of his tough talk in the primaries has given way to a softer approach in the general election. Where he once advocated creating a "deportation force" that would root out undocumented individuals, he now says he would leave border enforcement to federal border patrol agents and local law enforcement. He said he does not support creating detention centers to house illegals while their cases are being adjudicated. He also said he would continue the deportation efforts begun under the Bush and Obama administrations, but with "more energy."

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Clinton wants comprehensive reform

Clinton has embraced the Democrats' broad strokes of a comprehensive immigration reform package.

She want to provide a path to legal status for those in the country illegally. She want to provide some measure of comfort to those here illegally by easing restrictions on employment and greater support for them through federal social programs.

She has said she would stop deporting undocumented immigrants who do not have a criminal record, though she pledges to deport violent criminals and anyone suspected of terrorist ties.

While in the Senate, Clinton voted for a comprehensive immigration reform package negotiated by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, a point of contention between her primary opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders, who voted no.

During the Democrats' debate in Florida in March, Clinton hammered Sanders for that "no" vote, saying he opposed legislation that would have improved the lives of millions of undocumented immigrants.

Clinton has emphasized her belief immigration policies should be sensitive to families, with a nod toward keeping families intact, and ending the practice of deporting parents of children with legal U.S. citizenship.

"We have to finally and once and for all fix our immigration system -- this is a family issue. It's an economic issue too, but it is at heart a family issue," she said during a rally in early May. "If we claim we are for family, then we have to pull together and resolve the outstanding issues around our broken immigration system."

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Her position paper on immigration seeks to "put in place a simple, straightforward, accessible system for parents of DREAMers and others with a history of service and contribution to their communities to be able to make their case and be eligible for deferred action as well."

She has also pledged to create a federal department dealing specifically with immigration issues, a sort of one-stop department where individuals, states and local governments could go to get information and resources to help navigate the various issues pertaining to immigration.

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