2020 Democrats share their families' immigration histories

2020 Democrats share their families' immigration histories

Democrats vying for the 2020 presidential nomination shared the stories of how their families arrived in the United States as immigration shapes up to be a defining issue on the campaign trail.

Twenty-one of the 24 Democratic White House hopefuls sat down with The New York Times and described the diverse background of their first American ancestors, ranging from English colonial settlers in the 1600s to students coming for an education in the 1950s. 

Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony Booker2020 Democrats defend climate priorities in MSNBC forum MSNBC Climate Change Forum draws 1.3M viewers in 8 pm timeslot Iowa Steak Fry to draw record crowds for Democrats MORE (N.J.) spoke of appearing on the PBS show “Finding Your Roots” and learning of his genealogy from host Henry Louis Gates.

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“I am the descendant of slaves, of people that were born from a slave and a slave master,” Booker said.

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren: Congress is 'complicit' with Trump 'by failing to act' Sanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest Pelosi wants to change law to allow a sitting president to be indicted MORE (Mass.) previously stirred controversy when she took a DNA test to prove that she had Native American history, but she did not mention that side of her family during the interview with the Times. Instead, she spoke of how her father’s grandfather came to the U.S. as a boy and help found a series of hardware stores in Oklahoma.

Many of the candidates have traced their heritages back to Europe.

Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetThe Hill's Campaign Report: De Blasio drops out | Warren gains support from black voters | Sanders retools campaign team | Warning signs for Tillis in NC Williamson: Climate change result of an 'amoral' economic system Bennet: 'This generation has a lot to be really angry at us about' MORE (Colo.) said his family history stretches from the arrival of Mayflower to when his mother came at the age of 10 years old as a Polish Jew who had survived the Holocaust.

Rep. Seth MoultonSeth MoultonYoung insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight Wall Street ends volatile month in major test for Trump The Hill's Morning Report — Hurricane headed for Florida changes Trump's travel plans MORE (Mass.) described his family as a “New England family from the start,” noting how his ancestors came from England as early as the 1600s and settled in the region. 

Several other candidates — including Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellMarkey fundraises ahead of Kennedy primary challenge The Hill's Campaign Report: De Blasio drops out | Warren gains support from black voters | Sanders retools campaign team | Warning signs for Tillis in NC Swalwell to DNI: 'You do not have to be a part of a lawless administration' MORE (Calif.), former Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyWilliamson: Climate change result of an 'amoral' economic system The Hill Interview: Sanford says Trump GOP doing 'serious brand destruction' Krystal Ball: Reality debunks Biden's 'Medicare for all' smear MORE (Md.), former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (Texas) and Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John RyanThe Hill's Campaign Report: De Blasio drops out | Warren gains support from black voters | Sanders retools campaign team | Warning signs for Tillis in NC Williamson: Climate change result of an 'amoral' economic system Overnight Energy: Top presidential candidates to skip second climate forum | Group sues for info on 'attempts to politicize' NOAA | Trump allows use of oil reserve after Saudi attacks MORE (Ohio) — spoke of having Irish, English or Welsh familial ties.

Many first-generation Americans spoke of their parents arriving in the country for better opportunities, often to get an education. 

“My parents arrived in the late 1950s. My mother came from India to go to the University of California, Berkeley, to study science,” said Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisTrump reignites court fight with Ninth Circuit pick MSNBC Climate Change Forum draws 1.3M viewers in 8 pm timeslot Iowa Steak Fry to draw record crowds for Democrats MORE (Calif.).

Entrepreneur Andrew YangAndrew Yang2020 Democrats defend climate priorities in MSNBC forum Yang: 'Cancel culture' has become source of 'fear' for Americans Hundreds of thousands turn out in New York, other major cities for climate marches MORE’s parents also came to the U.S. to study at the school in the 1960s from Taiwan.

Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul Buttigieg2020 Democrats defend climate priorities in MSNBC forum MSNBC Climate Change Forum draws 1.3M viewers in 8 pm timeslot Iowa Steak Fry to draw record crowds for Democrats MORE, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., described his father landing at John F. Kennedy Airport in the 1970s from Malta.

“He said it was such a chaotic and intimidating scene that he briefly thought about getting right back on the plane and heading home,” Buttigieg told The Times.

Sen. Bernie Sander’s (I-Vt.) father came to the U.S. from Poland when he was a teenager. His mother’s family came from Russia.

“And when we talk about the fact that I am the son of an immigrant, I am somewhat sensitive to the issue of immigration and immigration reform and the kind of ugly attacks that we’re seeing right now on the immigrant community,” Sanders said.

Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockIowa Steak Fry to draw record crowds for Democrats The Hill's Campaign Report: De Blasio drops out | Warren gains support from black voters | Sanders retools campaign team | Warning signs for Tillis in NC New poll finds Biden, Warren in virtual tie in Iowa MORE admitted that he did not know precise details about his family’s immigration stories.

“I should know that and I don’t know,” Bullock said with a laugh. “I know that the family history is probably not as solid … and I know that on my mother’s side, I think her great-great-grandfather settled in Henry country in Iowa. And on my father’s side, I’m not sure where."