2020 Primary Guide | PAAIA

2020 Primary Guide

2020 Presidential Election Center

With the race to the White House well underway, Iranian Americans are again demonstrating their growing voice in the electoral arena. Throughout the nation, Iranian Americans are hard at work raising funds, organizing events, and reaching out at the grassroots level to promote presidential candidates of their own choosing.

PAAIA has compiled a list of the major 2020 presidential candidates for the Democratic primary, in addition to Republican primary candidates including President Trump. PAAIA provides you with the opportunity to review each of the candidates’ positions on major issues affecting Iranian Americans, including immigration, foreign policy and U.S.-Iran relations.

Each section provides a link to the candidates’ websites, offering viewers multiple opportunities to get involved, and links to the candidates’ views on other issues of importance like taxes. Whenever you contact or get involved with a campaign, be certain to identify yourself as an Iranian American so the campaign knows who we are as a community and what issues are important to us.

The aim of PAAIA’s primary guide is not to endorse a particular candidate. Instead, it focuses on providing information concerning candidate positions on relevant issues affecting the Iranian American community and on harnessing community efforts to support candidates of their own choosing.

For the Democratic primary, PAAIA decided to include only candidates who qualified for the most recent debate in January. As candidates rise and fall in support, we may add or remove candidates.

For any views of the candidates on issues not included in this guide, we recommend looking at POLITICO’s comprehensive candidate guide

Democratic Presidential Candidates

Joseph R. Biden

Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Former Vice President of the United States

Former Vice President Joe Biden has a varied and lengthy history of public service. Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania and raised in Delaware, Biden graduated from the University of Delaware with his Bachelor’s degree in 1965 and Syracuse University School of Law with his Juris Doctor degree in 1969. Following law school, Biden practiced law in Delaware and was elected to New Castle County Council. After three years on the New Castle County Council, Biden ran and won the 1972 U.S. Senate election in Delaware. Biden served as a Senator for Delaware until 2009, when he was inaugurated as Vice President under former President Barack Obama’s administration. Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign marks his third time running for the office of the presidency, having unsuccessfully run in 1988 and 2008. Biden is best known for his efforts in the Senate to lead the passage of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act and the Violence Against Women Act.

Immigration

Biden has been vocal in his opposition to the Travel Ban, promising to remove it if elected. He has said that the Travel Ban is a “disgrace” and emphasizes that “we are a nation of immigrants, and we need a leader who recognizes that our diversity is our greatest asset.” Additionally, Biden has argued that the Travel Ban makes the U.S. less safe, as it is “like putting up a great big recruiting banner for terrorists.”

More generally, Biden supports immigration to the United States, and cites immigrants as an integral part to boosting the U.S. economy. Additionally, he has proposed improving the asylum process and providing a pathway for citizenship to Dreamers brought to the U.S. as children as well as to current unauthorized immigrants. Biden supports retaining criminal penalties for illegal entrants in the U.S. In terms of employment-based immigration, Biden supports reforming the system to make the process less cumbersome for visa applicants and companies. He believes the current system disincentivizes high-skilled temporary workers from entering the U.S. labor force, takes advantage of low-skilled seasonal workers, and ineffectively supports the agricultural industry’s retention of labor. Despite his emphasis on employment-based immigration, Biden also believes in bolstering family-based immigration, as “millions of immigrants granted a visa based on family ties make valuable contributions to our country and economy.” In order to prioritize family reunification, Biden would allow approved applicants to utilize temporary non-immigrant visas until the applicant’s permanent visa is processed.

Foreign Policy

In general, Biden supports reducing military intervention in Middle East conflicts, having said he “would bring American combat troops in Afghanistan home during my first term.” He also supports renewing the U.S.’s commitment to international agreements and cooperation and has proposed the creation of a global Summit for Democracy in order to promote international consensus on fighting corruption, authoritarianism and human rights abuses.

A supporter of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) since its inception, Biden has stated that he would rejoin the deal if elected. He based his position on the premise that Iran returns to full compliance. Additionally, he has stated that he would attempt “to strengthen and extend it” by working with allies.

Michael Bloomberg
Michael Bloomberg
Former NYC Mayor

Michael R. Bloomberg is known as a leader in the U.S. economy. Born in Boston, he studied Electrical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University and earned his MBA from Harvard University. He is most well-known for his extensive business ventures, such as Bloomberg L.P, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the Bloomberg news organization. A former member of the Republican Party, he served as mayor of New York City from 2002 to 2013. Bloomberg left the party during his time as mayor and began to support Democratic candidates for office across the country. He became a member of the Democratic Party shortly before announcing his intention to run for the Democratic nomination.

Immigration

Bloomberg supports protecting Dreamers and individuals with Temporary Protected Status designations by creating an “earned pathway to citizenship” for undocumented persons in the United States. He supports an end to construction of a border wall, an end to family separations at the border, and reforms to ICE and CBP to prioritize safety and national security.  In order to encourage more immigration to the United States, Bloomberg will clear backlogs on naturalization, reduce application fees, and invest in community based efforts to assist immigrants through the process. In terms of employment-based immigration, Bloomberg supports making the immigration system more responsive to economic conditions and reforming temporary worker visas to assist with labor shortages. He plans on expanding and reforming the temporary work visa, including raising wage requirements, making the visas portable, and providing frequent temporary worker visa recipients a pathway to legal citizenship.

Bloomberg has committed to ending the Travel Ban if elected, viewing the policy as “counter to our deepest values as Americans.” He believes that our values as Americans, including welcoming newcomers, does not need to come at the cost of protecting U.S. national security – which is what he believes the Travel Ban does.

Foreign Policy

Bloomberg supports protecting Dreamers and individuals with Temporary Protected Status designations by creating an “earned pathway to citizenship” for undocumented persons in the United States. He supports an end to construction of a border wall, an end to family separations at the border, and reforms to ICE and CBP to prioritize safety and national security.  In order to encourage more immigration to the United States, Bloomberg will clear backlogs on naturalization, reduce application fees, and invest in community based efforts to assist immigrants through the process. In terms of employment-based immigration, Bloomberg supports making the immigration system more responsive to economic conditions and reforming temporary worker visas to assist with labor shortages. He plans on expanding and reforming the temporary work visa, including raising wage requirements, making the visas portable, and providing frequent temporary worker visa recipients a pathway to legal citizenship.

Senator Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders
U.S. Senator from Vermont

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Senator Bernie Sanders is a U.S. Senator for Vermont, having served in the Senate since 2007. Before his tenure at the Senate, Sanders was the at-large U.S. House Representative for Vermont, having been elected in 1991. He holds the title of the longest serving Independent in Congress. In the 1980s, Sanders was mayor of Burlington, Vermont for eight years. Sanders received national recognition in 2015 with his unsuccessful bid to become the democratic nominee in the 2016 presidential race.

Immigration

As a vocal opponent since the Travel Ban’s inception, Bernie Sanders commits to repealing the policy upon his first day in the White House, stating that the “travel ban was never about keeping America safe. We need only look at Trump’s own words to understand that this has always been a racist and anti-Islamic attempt to ban Muslims from entering this country.”

More generally, Sanders supports an immigration policy that is grounded in decriminalizing our immigration system and demilitarizing our border. Specifically, Bernie Sanders supports providing a pathway for citizenship to Dreamers brought to the U.S. as children. Sanders supports repealing criminal penalties for illegal entrants in the U.S., believing that illegal crossing should be a civil offense and not a criminal offense. He also believes in reforming the U.S. employment-based immigration system to better support immigrant labor, prioritizing fair and safe labor standards no matter the individuals immigration status. One proposed policy plan he has is to work with Congress to pass legislation that would expand the U-visa to protect unauthorized immigration from retaliation for reporting labor and workplace violations. Another measure is to withhold federal contracts from employers who are guilty of exploiting guest workers. 

Foreign Policy

Sanders has long held an anti-interventionist foreign policy. As a young adult, he opposed the Vietnam War, and as a member of Congress he voted against the Iraq War, recently calling it “the worst foreign policy blunder the United States has ever made.” Sanders supports a withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan, and led the effort for the first-ever instance of a War Powers Resolution passing the House of Representatives and the Senate. 

Sanders believes in a U.S. foreign policy that emphasizes democracy, human rights, diplomacy and peace, and economic fairness, and does not support regime change. Additionally, Sanders prioritizes Congress reasserting its congressional authority to declare war and is against further escalations between the U.S. and Iran. However, Sanders’s top priority is for Iran not to develop a nuclear weapon. In line with these views, Sanders supports rejoining the JCPOA and pursuing diplomatic engagement with Iran on other issues of interest.

Elizabeth Warren
Elizabeth Warren
U.S. Senator from Massachusetts

Senator Elizabeth Warren is a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, having served in the Senate since 2013. Upon election, Warren became the first woman Senator from Massachusetts. Born in Oklahoma, Sen. Warren graduated from the University of Houston and Rutgers Law School.  Following law school, Warren began practicing law from her home up until she began her career as a law professor, teaching at public and private universities across the country for more than 30 years. She is nationally recognized as one of the top experts in bankruptcy and commercial law and has utilized her expertise in her time in the Senate. In 2008, Warren served as chair to the Congressional Oversight Panel. The panel was created in response to the 2008 financial crisis and was tasked in monitoring the Troubled Asset Relief Program. In 2010, Warren was appointed Assistant to the President and Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury. During this time, she is best known for her work to create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Immigration

Warren views immigrants as “a vital source of American strength.” In that vein, she supports immigration reform that prioritizes growing our economy, reuniting families and meeting our labor market demands. As a result, Warren proposes raising the refugee cap to at least 125,000 in her first year of office and providing a pathway for citizenship to Dreamers brought to the U.S. as children. Warren also supports repealing criminal penalties for illegal entrants in the U.S., as “we should not be criminalizing mamas and babies trying to flee violence at home or trying to build a better future.” She believes in separating law enforcement from immigration enforcement and reducing overall immigration detention. 

Upon election, Warren has committed to reversing the Travel Ban  on her first day in office. 

Foreign Policy

Warren has criticized the current administration for its approach towards Iran, preferring an approach that prioritizes diplomacy and de-escalation of tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Additionally, Warren has pledged to re-enter and negotiate the JCPOA if the Iranian regime returns to compliance with the initial agreement first.

Warren believes that a strong military like the U.S.’s is meant to serve as a deterrent that makes the necessity for military intervention minimal. While she believes in maintaining the strength of our military, she also calls for the reduction of defense spending and reducing the prevalence of defense contracting. Additionally, she advocates for focusing on diplomacy and working with allies in promoting foreign policy.

Pete Buttigieg
Pete Buttigieg
Mayor of South Bend, Indiana

Mayor Pete Buttigieg most recently was mayor of his hometown, South Bend, Indiana, having entered the position in 2012. In 2017, he ran an unsuccessful bid for chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), which led to him gaining nationwide prominence. Prior to his election as mayor, Buttigieg joined the Navy Reserve and was deployed to Afghanistan for seven months in 2014. Buttigieg was awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal and the Joint Meritorious Unit Award for his service and was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy Rescue in 2017. Pete Buttigieg attended Harvard and Oxford. Buttigieg was a recipient of the Rhodes Scholarship.

Immigration

In general, Buttigieg views immigration as central to American society and aims to modernize the U.S. immigration system, while also protecting the border and the people who arrive at it. He has several specific plans to enact his vision of a modernized immigration system, including the creation of an independent immigration court system, the allocation of funds to provide counsel for people in deportation proceedings and the implementation of a process to review the current administration’s deportation decisions. Buttigieg supports providing a pathway for citizenship to Dreamers brought to the U.S. as children and supports repealing criminal penalties for illegal entrants in the U.S., believing that illegal crossing should be a civil offense and not a criminal offense. For employment-based visas, Buttigieg proposes a new review system that sets the allotment of visas every other year and bases them on “labor market needs, engagement with immigrant and other stakeholders, and analysis of domestic and global trends.”

If elected, Buttigieg has committed to immediately ending the Travel Ban, calling it something that “cuts against our values and does nothing to make us safer.” Additionally, he would urge Congress to pass the NO BAN Act, legislation that would ensure a similar ban could not be imposed as easily by a future administration and would require congressional oversight over future bans.

Foreign Policy

Buttigieg believes in a foreign policy that restores the U.S.’s credibility on the world stage and raises the standard on military deployment. His stance seems grounded in prioritizing diplomacy and rebuilding U.S. institutions of international engagement. Additionally, he sees climate security as a key basis for diplomacy. Some examples of foreign policy he would enact includes rejoining the Paris climate accord, withholing some funds from Israel if it annexes part of the West Bank, and repealing and working with Congress to replace the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF).

If elected, Buttigieg has stated that he will recommit the U.S. to the Iran nuclear accord on the basis of U.S. national security interests, stating that “whatever [the deal’s] imperfections, this was perhaps as close to the real ‘art of the deal’ as diplomatic achievements get.”

Amy Klobuchar
Amy Klobuchar
U.S. Senator from Minnesota

Amy Klobuchar is a U.S. Senator from Minnesota, having served in the position since 2007. Born in Plymouth, Minnesota, she has remained a resident of the state for the majority of her lifetime. She graduated from Yale with a Bachelor’s in Political Science in 1982, and went on to study Law at the University of Chicago, where she graduated in 1985. She began her career as a corporate lawyer, but in 1999 she became the County Attorney of Hennepin County, Minnesota, which includes the city of Minneapolis. She served in this position until 2007, when she was sworn in as a United States Senator for Minnesota.

Immigration

Klobuchar is against the Travel Ban and has stated that within the first 100 days of her presidency, she would end the Travel Ban because she recognizes “that immigrants don’t diminish America, they are America. While security and vetting should stay in place, the Trump Administration’s ban was wrong.”

Klobuchar supports providing a pathway for citizenship to Dreamers brought to the U.S. as children. She is a strong supporter of immigration, saying “immigrants and refugees strengthen our communities – they are an important part of our economy and society as our police officers, small business owners, students, and teachers. They don’t diminish America, they are America.” Klobuchar believes the U.S. should increase legal immigration, but should not abolish U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

Foreign Policy

Amy Klobuchar believes the United States must stand strong with its allies and not conduct foreign policy by tweet. She would invest in a State Department that prioritizes diplomacy and cybersecurity, while also modernizing U.S. military forces. Klobuchar believes an expanded State Department should include a higher budget for foreign assistance, which would begin to restore an image of America as a global leader.  Additionally, Klobuchar has expressed a commitment to rejoin international agreements that advance the interests of the United States, such as the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Klobuchar supported the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and would re-open negotiations on a new nuclear deal with Iran if elected in order to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

Tom Steyer
Tom Steyer
Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Fundraiser, Activist

Tom Steyer is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, fundraiser and activist. Born and raised in New York City, Tom graduated from Yale summa cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in economic and political science and Stanford with a MBA. Steyer has extensive experience in hedge fund management, having started his own firm, Fallaron Capital, after having worked at Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and a number of other private equity firms. Beyond his work in the private sector, Steyer recently founded the grassroots organizing group NextGen America and also the impeachment-focused group Need to Impeach. His presidential run is his first run for public office.

Immigration

Steyer believes “America is a nation of immigrants, and we must never trade border security for compassion.” He has worked to support immigrants and establish a legal network for them to provide services for over 1,600 immigrants and refugees. Steyer supports a path to citizenship for Dreamers, as well as taking executive action to secure their ability to receive legal status in the event of congressional inability to pass legislation. Steyer additionally supports repealing criminal penalties for illegal entrants in the U.S. Steyer supports asylum and refugee reform to become inclusive of those who have been displaced due to climate crises. In terms of employment-based immigration, Steyer supports streamlining the H-1B visa application process, increasing the overall amount of visas available, and creating a pathway to permanent residency for visaholders. Tom Steyer is against the Travel Ban, committing to ending the policy on day one if elected president.

Foreign Policy

Tom Steyer supports reigniting global alliances and coalitions to work on issues that extend beyond domestic borders, such as climate change and renegotiated trade deals which include labor and environmental groups in the discussion. He also supports investing in an expansion of the State Department. In terms of the JCPOA, Steyer has been critical of U.S. withdrawal from the agreement and has argued that “it is increasing tensions in the region and pulling the U.S. deeper into a ‘proxy war’ in Syria.” As a result, Steyer has stated he would rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) if elected to office. 

Republican Presidential Candidates

Donald Trump
Donald J. Trump
45th President of the United States

President Donald Trump has had a brief but robust record of public service, and has an extensive private sector record. Born in Queens, New York as the son of a successful real estate developer, Trump graduated from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania of Delaware in 1969, with a degree in Economics. Following college, Trump joined his father’s real estate company, becoming company president in 1971. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Trump expanded the scope of the family business, acquiring and developing a number of buildings, golf courses, and resorts, including the namesake Trump Tower, which opened in 1983. Trump also had numerous side ventures, such as Miss Universe, the Trump Foundation, Trump Wine, and more, including multiple stints as an actor and an author. Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign would, if successful, make him the first President to be elected twice without any prior public or military service. 

Immigration

President Donald Trump does not support providing a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. President Trump supports the Travel Ban, showing no signs of removing it or narrowing its scope, as he is in fact expanded the Travel Ban to include several more countries. President Trump emphasizes immigration that prioritizes national security and a secure border. Additionally, Trump is focused on a merit-based immigration system that “protects American wages and safety net programs, prioritizes immediate families, and creates a fair and transparent process for immigration to America.”

Foreign Policy

Donald Trump has had a mixed approach with regards to Iran. Early in his presidency, Donald Trump exited the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was a campaign promise. Donald Trump has pursued a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, which includes a stringent sanctions regime, with the goal of pressuring Iran back to the negotiating table for a new deal. Since recent escalations between the U.S. and Iran, Trump has indicated an interest in a peaceful resolution over war, but has stressed his belief that Iran should never be able to obtain a nuclear weapon, and that the United States will interfere if it is deemed necessary.

Bill Weld
Bill Weld
Former Massachusetts Governor

Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld has a lengthy history of public service. Born in Smithtown, New York, Weld graduated from Harvard College with his Bachelor’s degree in 1966, studied economics at Oxford, and earned a doctorate in 1970 from Harvard Law School. Weld began his career as a junior counsel during the 1974 impeachment process of then-President Richard Nixon. In 1978, he ran for Massachusetts Attorney General, which he lost. In 1981, he was recommended by Rudy Guiliani to become the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, a position which he did become appointed to. In 1986, then-President Ronald Reagan promoted Weld to head the Criminal Division of the Justice Department, a position he held for two years. From 1991 to 1997, he served as the Governor of Massachusetts.  In 2016, Weld left the Republican Party to become the Libertarian Party nominee for Vice President. In 2019, he returned to the Republican Party to launch a primary campaign for President.

Immigration

Weld believes that the United States has “always been best defined by those who are willing to risk everything to come in search of the American Dream.” Weld supports an increase in the number of work visas offered to potential immigrants. Weld also supports a simplified immigration process which includes a pathway towards citizenship for undocumented immigrants and a stop to mass deportations. Lastly, Weld believes that foreign interpreters who apply for a visa to come to the United States should have their process simplified.

Weld stated in 2016 that the Travel Ban is unworkable and unrealistic. Weld believes that the U.S. government cannot exclude people based on their religion, however he has not committed to removing the Travel Ban within a specific timeline.

Foreign Policy

Weld believes that the decision of President Donald Trump to exit the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is a “colossal blunder,” but similar to the President strives to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Weld does not believe that recent, newer sanctions are a productive method of encouraging Iran to participate in the terms of the JCPOA, instead holding the opinion that they have served to provoke Iran further. Weld believes a new deal should be negotiated.

More generally, Weld is against isolationism in his foreign policy and believes that the U.S. should support its allies. He has stated that he is running for the presidency “in part to return the United States to the stable, bipartisan foreign policy that brought the United States through the Cold War.”

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