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 react to 'send her back' chants at Trump rally The Hill's Morning Report - Trump seizes House impeachment vote to rally GOP Democrats warm to idea of studying reparations 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 WarrenNew CDC overdose estimates are nothing to celebrate 2020 Democrats react to 'send her back' chants at Trump rally Democratic Houston councilwoman announces Senate bid 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 BennetNew CDC overdose estimates are nothing to celebrate Bullock makes CNN debate stage Sanders draws line as 2020 health care battle heats up 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 Wilbur Moulton2020 Democrats react to 'send her back' chants at Trump rally 2020 Democratic candidates rip Trump remarks at campaign rally Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment 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 SwalwellHere are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment Moulton campaign makes formal case to DNC to be added to debate stage Bullock makes CNN debate stage MORE (Calif.), former Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyMoulton campaign makes formal case to DNC to be added to debate stage Bullock makes CNN debate stage Sanders draws line as 2020 health care battle heats up MORE (Md.), former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (Texas) and Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John Ryan2020 Democrats react to 'send her back' chants at Trump rally Moulton campaign makes formal case to DNC to be added to debate stage Bullock makes CNN debate stage 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 Harris2020 Democrats react to 'send her back' chants at Trump rally Biden's health care gaffe shows he's not ready for prime time The Hill's Morning Report - Trump seizes House impeachment vote to rally GOP MORE (Calif.).

Entrepreneur Andrew YangAndrew Yang2020 Democrats react to 'send her back' chants at Trump rally 2020 Democrats adapt to changing social media landscape Bullock makes CNN debate stage MORE’s parents also came to the U.S. to study at the school in the 1960s from Taiwan.

Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump seizes House impeachment vote to rally GOP 2020 Democrats adapt to changing social media landscape Trump blasts 2020 Dems during campaign rally 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 BullockThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump seizes House impeachment vote to rally GOP Moulton campaign makes formal case to DNC to be added to debate stage Bullock makes CNN debate stage 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."