The Democratic Party delivered a huge win to immigration activists in its party platform draft released Friday, taking a liberal stance in sharp contrast to Republican proposals.
The party, counting on a boost in November from predicted record Hispanic turnout, called immigration "a defining aspect of the American character and history."
The platform calls for a path to citizenship "for law-abiding families who are here," the defense of President Obama's executive actions on immigration, the end of immigration raids against children and families, due process for "those fleeing violence in Central America," and to rescind statutory bans on immigrants who modify their status in the country.
Maureen Meyer, director of the Washington Office on Latin America's Mexico Program, lauded the platform, saying, "the platform recognizes the pressing need address the status of the more than 11 million undocumented migrants living and raising their families in the Unites States. It provides assurances that the raids that have been threatening recently arrived Central American families and which have caused fear in the immigrant community will be stopped."
Democrats also used the opportunity to hit presumptive Republican nominee Donald TrumpDonald TrumpDeputy AG: DOJ investigating fake Trump electors Former Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz elected to Baseball Hall of Fame Overnight Health Care — Senators unveil pandemic prep overhaul MORE, whose campaign has focused on proposals to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, build a wall on the border with Mexico and to place a ban on Muslims traveling to the United States.
The platform calls religious tests for entry un-American and explicitly mentions Trump and his rhetoric.
"Finally, Democrats will not stand for the divisive and derogatory language of Donald Trump. His offensive comments about immigrants and other communities have no place in our society. This kind of rhetoric must be rejected,” the platform reads.
Meyer said "the platform rightfully denounces statements that seeks to criminalize migrants and minority populations.”
The 2016 document contrasts sharply with the 2012 version, which also touted the need for comprehensive immigration reform, but stated that undocumented immigrants should "get right with the law, learn English, and pay taxes in order to get on a path to earn citizenship," language unpopular with Hispanic and immigrant rights groups.
The turn to the left signals a Democratic need to energize the Latino electorate, after failed promises of comprehensive immigration reform and perceived heavy-handed enforcement policies drove a wedge between the Hispanic community and the Obama administration.
Latino turnout is widely perceived as crucial for important down-ballot races and key swing states like Colorado, Florida and Nevada.
A surge of undocumented immigrant from Central America in 2014 caught officials flat-footed. It allowed Republicans to score political points arguing weak border security while at the same time angering Hispanics for perceived mistreatment of migrants, particularly unaccompanied minors.
The 2016 platform, in response to that crisis, "recognizes that it isn't enough to just address the undocumented population currently in the US but also the need to support efforts to address the root causes of violence that is a driving factor in Central American migration to the country," said Meyer.