Answer the following questions to see how your political beliefs match your political parties and candidates.
The 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings caused several states and cities to pass strict gun control measures. In response, state lawmakers in gun friendly states in the South and West passed bills that would strengthen Stand Your Ground laws and allow weapons in most public places. In 2014, 21 states passed laws that expanded the rights of gun owners allowing them to possess firearms in churches, bars, schools and college campuses. The federal government has not passed any gun control measures since the 1994 Brady Bill and 42 states now allow the possession of assault rifles. In the U.S. two-thirds of all gun deaths are suicides and in 2010 there were 19,000 firearm suicides and 11,000 firearm homicides.
28 states US states currently allow teachers or school staff to be armed in the classroom under varying conditions. Proponents argue that without guns, teachers or other staff have only limited countermeasures available to them when confronted with a shooter. Opponents, include The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, highlight the elevated risk of accidents and negligent use of firearms as more adults in schools are armed.
In 2005, Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). The law protects gun manufacturers and dealers from being held liable when crimes have been committed with their products. The law was passed in response to a series of lawsuits filed against the gun industry in the late 1990s which claimed gun-makers and sellers were not doing enough to prevent crimes committed with their products. Proponents of the law argue that lawsuits will discourage gun manufacturers from supplying stores who sell guns that end up being used in violent crimes. Opponents argue that gun manufacturers are not responsible for random acts of violence committed with their products.
In 1970, Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act which banned the manufacture, importation, possession, use and distribution of certain drugs. The act ranked drugs by their potential for abuse and placed them into five categories. Two of the most widely used drugs in the U.S., wine and alcohol, are exempt from the classifications. Ballot measures in several states including Colorado, Washington and Oregon have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. These laws apply only within the respective states and have no effect on Federal law.
Affirmative action is a policy that encourages the increased representation of members of a minority group. In the U.S. these policies are often enacted by employers and educational institutions in education or employment.
In early 2020, several Democratic presidential candidates including Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke offered different proposals to reforming the Supreme Court. The proposals include adding 5 democratically elected judges to the current court and imposing term limits on current judges. According to the U.S. federal statute, justices have lifetime tenure unless they resign, retire, or are removed from office. Proponents of Supreme Court reform argue that the current court will be filled with too many conservative judges for the next several decades and it is not representative of the US population. Opponents argue that the plans are unconstitutional, would upset the balance of power and reinforce the idea that there are Democratic judges and Republican judges.
After the December shooting in San Bernardino, CA, President Obama stated in his weekly radio address that it was “insane” to allow suspected terrorists on the country’s no-fly list to purchase guns. Shortly after, Senate Democrats introduced a measure that would have restricted anyone on the federal terrorism watch list, also known as the no-fly list, from being able to purchase firearms in the U.S. The measure did not pass after Senate Republicans voted down the measure.
In 2006, the U.S. Senate rejected a Constitutional Amendment which would have allowed Congress to pass legislation prohibiting the burning or desecration of the U.S. flag. The Flag Protection Act of 2005 was introduced by Senators Bob Bennett (R-Utah), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Mark Pryor (D-ARK) and Thomas Carper (D-Del). The Act proposed a punishment of up to one year in jail and a fine of no more than $100,000.
The Patriot Act was enacted in direct response to the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, as well as the 2001 anthrax attacks, with the stated goal of dramatically strengthening national security. Opponents of the law have criticized its provision for indefinite detention of immigrants; permission to law enforcement to search a home or business without the owner’s or the occupant’s consent or knowledge under certain circumstances; the expanded use of National Security Letters, which allows the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to search telephone, email, and financial records without a court order; and the expanded access of law enforcement agencies to business records, including library and financial records. Since its passage, several court challenges have been brought against the act, and federal courts have ruled that a number of provisions are unconstitutional.
Currently, the redistricting of congressional boundaries is controlled by state legislature every ten years. Gerrymandering is the redrawing of districts with the intent of benefiting a political party. It is most often implemented by state political parties with the intent of marginalizing districts of voters who represent the minority party. To gain extra seats, the incumbent party will redraw voting districts so that voters of the minority party will be grouped into smaller districts with less seats. Critics of gerrymandering say these practices allow incumbent representatives to choose their voters instead of voters choosing them. Proponents say that drawing districts is a privilege of the ruling party and have little effect on the popularity of their policies or candidates.
Eminent domain is the power of a state or a national government to take private property for public use. It can be legislatively delegated by state governments to municipalities, government subdivisions, or even to private persons or corporations, when they are authorized to exercise the functions of public character. Opponents, including Conservatives and Libertarians in New Hampshire, oppose giving the government the power to seize property for private projects, like casinos. Proponents, including advocates of oil pipelines and national parks, argue that the construction of roads and schools would not be possible if the government could not seize land under eminent domain.
In January 2018 Germany passed the NetzDG law which required platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to take down perceived illegal content within 24 hours or seven days, depending on the charge, or risk a fine of €50 million ($60 million) fines. In July 2018 representatives from Facebook, Google and Twitter denied to the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary committee that they censor content for political reasons. During the hearing Republican members of Congress criticized the social media companies for politically motivated practices in removing some content, a charge the companies rejected. In April 2018 the European Union issued a series of proposals that would crack down on “online misinformation and fake news.” In June 2018 President Emmanuel Macron of France proposed a law which would give French authorities the power to immediately halt “the publication of information deemed to be false ahead of elections.”
Edward Snowden is a former National Security Agency contractor who turned over classified documents revealing a board global surveillance program previously unknown to anyone outside the intelligence community. After the documents were published in the Guardian Newspaper in June 2013 Snowden fled to Russia where he is currently living under asylum.
In October 2019 Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced that his social media company would ban all political advertising. He stated that political messages on the platform should reach users through the recommendation of other users – not through paid reach. Proponents argue that social media companies don’t have the tools to stop the spread of false information since their advertising platforms aren’t moderated by human beings. Opponents argue that the ban will disenfranchise candidates and campaigns who rely on social media for grassroots organizing and fundraising.
Congress passed the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act (STOCK Act) in 2012, following more than 10 years of allegations of insider trading by members of Congress and staff. Initially introduced in 2006, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) drafted the STOCK Act in response to insider trading allegations against Tony Rudy, a top aide to the onetime House Majority Leader Rep. Tom DeLay, as well as an insider trading scandal faced by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist in 2005. Critics argue that The STOCK Act has failed to achieve its goal of penalizing members for insider trading, as no member of Congress has ever been prosecuted under the STOCK Act, despite persistent credible allegations. In addition to the lack of enforcement, the small penalties associated with violations do not incentivize members to comply with the STOCK Act. The penalty for a member of Congress failing to report a financial transaction is a hardly impactful $200.
In 2015, the U.S. Air Force announced that it had selected Boeing to build the next generation of Air Force One aircraft. Two new aircraft will be built and will enter service in 2024. The defense department estimates that the two new planes will cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $4 billion. In December 2016, President-elect Donald Trump announced that costs for the project were out of control and he would cancel the plane order once he took office. Proponents of the new planes argue that the current planes used for Air Force One will be fifty years old in 2021 and spare parts for the old planes are becoming hard to find.
After the March 22nd terrorist attacks in Belgium, Republican U.S. Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz said law enforcement should be empowered to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.” In defending the plan, Cruz cited former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his aggressive policing efforts, including the alleged targeting of Muslim neighborhoods for surveillance. Current New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton held a press conference where they criticized Cruz’s proposal as “incendiary” and “foolish.”
Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers should treat all data on the internet equally. Proponents of net neutrality laws argue that they balance the rights and duties of individuals, governments and corporations, while ensuring that the Internet continues to be an open and decentralized network. Opponents include internet companies who complain that the law would increase their costs and create barriers to the free flow of information.
The U.S. military budge pays the salaries, training, and health care of uniformed and civilian personnel, maintains arms, equipment and facilities, funds operations, and develops and buys new items. The 2023 U.S. military budget is $773 billion, an increase of 4% over 2022’s budget. The budget includes $177.5 billion for the Army, $194 billion for the Air Force and Space Force and $230.8 billion for the Navy and Marine Corps. Other country’s 2021 military budgets were China $293 billion, United Kingdom $68.4 billion and Russia $66 billion.
In 2002, the George W. Bush administration issued the Torture Memos which argued for a narrow definition of torture under U.S. law. They included granting the CIA authority to use “enhanced interrogation techniques” on enemy combatants. The techniques included waterboarding subjection to extreme cold and confinement in small boxes.
After the September 11, 2001 terror attacks the George W. Bush administration authorized the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” at secret detention facilities around the world run by the defense department and CIA. The authorization approved the use of many techniques including beatings, binding in stress positions, hooding, sleep deprivation and waterboarding. In 2008 President Obama signed an executive order banning the use torture by the U.S. military and CIA. In 2016 the use of torture became a topic during the Presidential race when candidate Donald Trump suggested it should be used against the Islamic State. Opponents of torture argue that the U.S. should never practice torture since it is inhumane and illegal under international law. Proponents argue that the military should not be prevented from using torture if they believe it will keep the country safe.
Foreign aid is a transfer of financial resources or commodities or technical advice and training. The resources can take the form of grants or concessional credits (e.g., export credits). Foreign aid is used to support US national security and commercial interests and can also be distributed for humanitarian reasons. Aid spending is financed by U.S. taxpayers and distributed through 20 government agencies that manage foreign assistance programs. In 2020 the U.S. distributed $39 billion on economic assistance, $25 billion through the U.S. Agency for International Development and $11.6 billion on military assistance.
The UN. is an organization of governments founded in 1945 after World War II. The organization’s objectives include promoting peace and security, protecting human rights, the environment and providing humanitarian aid in cases of famine, natural disaster, and armed conflict. Recent U.N. interventions include the Sri Lankan civil war in 2009 and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The U.S. joined the U.N. as a founding member in 1945. The U.S. is the largest financial contributor to the UN and contributes more than $11.5 billion or 25% of its total budget annually.
Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. To date, the United States has provided Israel $150 in bilateral assistance and missile defense funding since the country’s founding in 1948. Nearly all of U.S. bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance. In fiscal year 2022 the Biden administration requested $3.8 billion in military aid for Israel.
Conscription is the state-mandated enlistment of people in a national military service. In the U.S. the Select Service System drafted men for World War 1, World War 2 and Vietnam. Military service is currently not required in the U.S. Proponents of required service argue that it isn’t fair that a small percentage of Americans serve in the military to protect the rest of the population. Opponents argue that the requirement is unnecessary because modern warfare is fought less and less with ground troops and more with unmanned technology including drones.
The United States embargo against Cuba prevents American businesses from conducting trade with Cuban interests. In December 2014 President Obama ordered the restoration of full democratic relations with Cuba. The order lifted a 54-year-old trade embargo and eased restrictions on banking and American’s travel to the country. When President Trump took office in 2017 his administration re-imposed the U.S. travel ban, citing Cuba poor record with human rights. In July 2021 President Biden imposed new sanctions on Cuba’s police force and on two of Cuba’s leaders in response to the 2021 Cuban protests. Proponents of relations with Cuba argue that U.S. influence through tourism and trade will promote capitalism and weaken its communist regime. Opponents argue that trade and diplomatic relations will only strengthen the communist regime’s grip on the Cuban government.
Drones are unmanned aerial vehicles deployed by U.S. defense and intelligence agencies to collect data and strike suspected enemy targets. The first known U.S. strike was the 2002 killing of al-Qaeda operative Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi in Yemen. Between 2022 and 2020 the U.S. killed between 9,000 and 18,000 enemy combatants and 900-2200 civilians with drone strikes. Opponents of drone strikes have long contended strikes that kill civilians essentially serve as a recruiting poster for terrorist groups. In 2010, a man named Faisal Shahzad tried and failed to bomb Times Square in New York City. Later, Shahzad cited US drone strikes as his motivation for the failed bombing. Proponents of drone strikes argue that they can kill high value w=enemy targets without putting soldiers into combat.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is an intergovernmental military alliance based on the North Atlantic Treaty which was signed on April 4th, 1949. It is a political and military alliance of member countries from Europe and North America that agree to provide military and economic security for each other. NATO makes all of its decisions by consensus and every member country, no matter how large or small, has an equal say.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is an intergovernmental military alliance formed by 28 countries in 1949 after the Second World War. To join NATO each member country pledged to spend at least 2% of their GDP on military spending and defense and defend each other against threats from any non-member country. At the NATO Summit of 2014, each member agreed on a goal of spending 2% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on defense by 2024. Member nations further agreed to devote at least 20% of defense spending on major new equipment and associated Research and Development. As of 2020, eleven of the 30 member nations met the 2% of GDP goal. These nations are Estonia, France, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovak Republic, United Kingdom, and United States. In a July 2016 interview with the New York Times Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump suggested that the United States would not defend NATO member countries who had failed to increase their military budgets to above 2% of Gross Domestic Product.
In December 2017 U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announced the U.S. would move it’s embassy there. The announcement was controversial as both Israel and Palestine claim that Jerusalem is their capital. Foreign governments that recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel support the notion that Israel has sovereignty over the city. In 1949 Israel took control of the western half of the city and Jordan took control of the eastern half. In 2017 the current population of Jerusalem was 61% Jewish and 37% are Arab. Opponents argue that moving the U.S. embassy to Israel is a violation of international law and would set back decades of peace talks between Israel and Palestine. Proponents argue that Jerusalem has been the defect capital of Israel for many years and foreign governments should recognize it.
The cache of documents revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden disclosed that the U.S. used surveillance methods to monitor the emails and phone calls of its closest foreign allies including Germany, France and Brazil. The revelations have severely damaged the U.S.'s relationship with these countries even though State Department officials have insisted that these surveillance programs have thwarted many terrorist threats worldwide.
On February 24 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine in a major escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian War that began in 2014. The invasion caused Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War II, with around 7.1 million Ukrainians fleeing the country and a third of the population displaced. It has also caused global food shortages. From February 2022 – September 2022 the U.S. government approved approximately $50 billion in economic and military aid for Ukraine. The funding is earmarked for training, equipment, weapons and other support—such as salaries and stipends—for Ukraine’s military and security forces and budgetary support for Ukrainian government operations.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization an intergovernmental military alliance between 30 member states – 28 European and two North American. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the Ukrainian government repeatedly requested to be accepted into NATO as a member country. Ukraine’s NATO membership has long been a thorny subject in amongst U.S. government officials due to Article 5 of the alliance’s charter. Article 5 requires the U.S. to militarily defend any member-nation that comes under attack. NATO members countries fear that Ukraine’s immediate entry into NATO — which requires the unanimous approval of all 30 member-nations — would put the U.S. and Russia at war due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine as well as its forced annexations announced in September 2022.
In September 2018, the U.S. signed a security agreement with India unlocked the sales of billions of dollars of high-tech American weapons. India will purchase fighter jets, transport planes, drones and missile defense systems from American military manufacturers including Lockheed Martin. The U.S. government is seeking India as an ally to counter the rise of China and Russia’s military strength in the Indo-Pacific region. Proponents argue that the agreement is necessary to counter China and Russia’s influence and the agreement will generate billions of dollars in revenue for U.S. military defense contractors. Opponents argue that the agreement will encourage China and Russia to beef up their militaries and trigger a global arms race.
The F-35 fighter is a stealth fighter jet being produced for the U.S. military by The Lockheed Martin corporation. Three variations of the single seat stealth fighter jet are being produced for the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy. By 2037 2,457 F-35’s will be delivered to the military and will fly until they retire from service in 2070. The research, development and construction of the F-35 will be the most expensive military weapons program in the history of the U.S. When the F-35 retires in 2070 analysts estimate that the cost of the program will have exceeded $1.5 trillion. Opponents of the program argue that costs for the program are out of control and that the military should scrap the F-35 and continue to fly its current planes. Proponents argue that the fighter is necessary for the U.S. military to maintain its edge over foreign adversaries.
In June 2019 tensions between the U.S. and Iran escalated after a U.S. surveillance drone was shot down by Iran’s revolutionary guard in the Gulf of Oman. The U.S. claimed it was an “unprovoked attack” and the drone was flying in international airspace. 2 weeks earlier the Trump administration blamed Iran for the attacks on two oil tankers who were bombed in the Gulf of Oman. Iran denied any involvement. In early June Iran announced that it would break its uranium stockpile limit set under the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Under the deal Iran was allowed to keep a maximum of 660 pounds of uranium enriched to 3.67%. Analysts predict that if the uranium is enriched to 20% or more Iran would be capable of developing nuclear weapons.
From 2020 – 2022 six US states introduced bills that would make sleeping on public property a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and a month in jail. In 2021 Texas became the first state to pass a statewide law which banned public homeless encampments statewide and pulled state grant funds from non-compliant cities. Proponents of these laws argue that that leaving tens of thousands of Americans—often with severe mental illness or substance use problems—on the streets for decades until they can all be provided with permanent, supportive housing is not a viable or humane model. Opponents argue that the laws do not provide housing solutions and simply encourage homeless people to relocate to other states.
After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks the U.S. Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force. The resolution authorizes the president to undertake war against al-Qaeda and its affiliates without Congressional approval. Since 2001 the law has been used to approve military conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. Proponents argue that the law is necessary to give the President the powers to act quickly in order to prevent another terrorist attack on the U.S. Opponents argue that all U.S. military conflicts should have Congressional approval and this act has been used in military conflicts that have nothing to do with al-Qaeda.
The United States began using drones to conduct targeted killings in the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. President George W. Bush authorized dozens of drone strikes against terrorism suspects , and President Barack Obama continued this practice and actually expanded the use of drones. Drones use continued under President Trump and President Biden. Drones were used in areas of war, such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya and also against terrorist suspects found in countries such as Pakistan, Somalia and Libya.
“Defund the police” is a slogan that supports divesting funds from police departments and reallocating them to non-policing forms of public safety and community support, such as social services, youth services, housing, education, healthcare and other community resources.
In the U.S. police budgets are set by elected officials at local and state levels. In 2020 elected officials in New York, Seattle, Los Angeles and Minneapolis approved plans to reduce police budgets in response to the nationwide protests following the killing of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. After the budget cuts many US cities saw a rise in crime, with murder rates up by double digits in many cities. In the last three months of 2020, homicides rose 32.2% in cities with a population of at least one million, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Quarterly Uniform Crime Report. Law-enforcement officials and criminologists say pandemic stress and a police pullback amid protests are likely contributors. Proponents of the spending cuts argue that between 1977 and 2017, local spending on policing rose 176%, versus a 137% rise in general expenses, accounting for inflation. Opponents of the cuts will lower morals amongst police officers and contribute to a spike in crime.
In April 2016, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe issued an executive order which restored voting rights to more than 200,000 convicted felons living in the state. The order overturned the state’s practice of felony disenfranchisement, which excludes people from voting who have been convicted of a criminal defense. The 14th amendment of the United States prohibits citizens from voting who have participated in a “rebellion, or other crime” but allows states to determine which crimes qualify for voter disenfranchisement. In the U.S. approximately 5.8 million people are ineligible to vote due to voter disenfranchisement and only two states, Maine and Vermont, have no restrictions on allowing felons to vote. Opponents of felon voting rights argue that a citizen forfeits their rights to vote when they are convicted of a felony. Proponents argue that the arcane law disenfranchises millions of Americans from participating in democracy and has an adverse affect on poor communities.
Qualified immunity is a defense that police officers cannot be sued for misconduct if they were unaware at the time that their conduct was illegal and if there is no previous legal case with similar facts that ruled that officers may not engage in that conduct. Proponents argue that more intense criticism of police will disincentivize officers from doing their jobs resulting in crime rates going up. Opponents argue that police officers should be held more accountable for misconduct.
Prison overcrowding is a social phenomenon occurring when the demand for space in prisons in a jurisdiction exceeds the capacity for prisoners. The First Step Act of 2018 passed overwhelmingly in both houses of Congress and was signed by President Trump. Within the first year of enactment, more than 3,000 federal prisoners were released based on changes to the good-time credits calculation formula under the First Step Act, and more than 2,000 inmates benefited from sentence reductions.
Currently, police unions are allowed to collectively bargain with government officials over the methods used to hold police officers accountable for misconduct. Proponents argue that collective bargaining stands in the way of accountability. Opponents of limiting collective bargaining argue that more intense criticism of police will disincentivize officers from doing their jobs resulting in crime rates going up.
In January 2016, President Obama issued a series of executive actions banning federal prisons from using solitary confinement to punish juveniles and prisoners who commit low level infractions. His orders also lowered the number of days an adult inmate could be subject to solitary confinement from 365 days to 60 days. A recent study found that prisoners who were subject to solitary confinement were 20-25% more likely to be repeat criminal offenders than prisoners who avoided it.
In March 2018, President Trump asked the Justice department to seek more death-penalty cases against drug traffickers. Trump announced the proposal as part of a plan to combat the opioid epidemic which is claiming the lives of more than 100 people a day in the U.S. In 1988 the federal government passed a drug law which imposed the death penalty on drug “kingpins” who commit murder in the course of their business. Analysts estimate that this law has resulted in only a few executions. 32 countries impose the death penalty for drug smuggling. Seven of these countries (China, Indonesia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore) routinely execute drug offenders. Asia and the Middle East’s tough approach contrasts with many Western countries who have legalized cannabis in recent years (selling cannabis in Saudi Arabia is punished by beheading).
Mandatory minimum sentences are automatic, minimum prison terms set by Congress. Judges in the U.S. are required to base their sentences on the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, mandatory minimum sentencing laws, or both. In 1986 the U.S. Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act which enacted new mandatory minimum sentences for drugs. People caught with 5 grams of crack cocaine were given jail sentences of 5 years without parole (the same sentence as people caught with 500 grams). The legislation was in response to the moral panic involving the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980’s. In 2010 Congress and President Obama eliminated the crack cocaine mandatory sentence with the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act. Opponents of mandatory minimum sentences argue that they often impose long prison terms on non-violent criminals. Proponents argue that the sentences are designed to help judges punish drug cartels and those responsible for the country’s drug epidemic.
In 2021 the U.S. Justice Department announced that federal agents would be required to wear body cameras when executing arrest warrants or searching buildings. A 2022 Bureau of Justice Statistics report found that 80% of local police departments in the US used body cameras. The study found that departments that used body cameras showed improvement in officer safety, increased evidence quality and reduced civilian complaints.
Private prisons are incarceration centers that are run by a for-profit company instead of a government agency. The companies that operate private prisons are paid a per-diem or monthly rate for each prisoner they keep in their facilities. In 2016 8.5% of the prisoner population was housed in private prisons. This is an 8% decline since 2000. Opponents of private prisons argue that incarceration is a social responsibility and that entrusting it to for-profit companies is inhumane. Proponents argue that prisons run by private companies are consistently more cost effective than those run by government agencies. In 2017 President Trump reversed an Obama administration directive to gradually reduce the number of contracts with for-profit prison operators, saying it would interfere with meeting the demands of the prison population. In January 2021 President Joe Biden signed an executive order which banned the Justice Department’s use of private prisons. In 2020 the Justice Department paid more than $945 million to private prison companies.
In 2015 U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump issued a proposal to build a wall along the Mexico-U.S. border. The wall would extend along the 1,900 mile border and would prevent illegal goods and people from entering the U.S. In 2013 the Government Accountability Office reported that the border patrol had intercepted 61% of individuals who had attempted to cross the border that year. Analysts say that building a wall along the entire border is impossible since it parts of it contain rocky, uneven terrain. Proponents argue that the wall will cut down on the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs into the U.S. Opponents argue that the wall is impossible to build and illegal immigration into the U.S. has declined significantly since the 2008 financial crisis.
Illegal immigrants, as well as legal immigrants in the country less than five years, are not eligible for free healthcare through Medicaid. A 2007 study estimated that less than 1 percent of Medicaid spending went to healthcare for illegal immigrants. Proponents of subsidized healthcare for immigrants argue that increased access to basic preventive care will lower the demand for costly emergency care. Opponents argue that immigrants in the healthcare system run the risk of becoming "permanent patients," because they have no relatives, insurance or an established address where they can go once released.
Currently sixteen states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington) allow illegal immigrants to pay the same in-state tuition rates as other residents of the state. To qualify, students must have attended a school in the state for a certain number of years, have graduated high school in the state, have confirmed they are applying for legal citizenship.
The 14th amendment of the U.S. constitution states that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” Opponents of birth right citizenship argue that the 14th amendment is not clear since it does not specifically state that babies born to parents who were in the United States unlawfully were automatically citizens. Proponents argue that overturning the 14th amendment would increase the number of undocumented immigrants with each child born here, cost the U.S. taxpayers billions, and reduce the tax base.
A sanctuary city is a city that adopts local policies designed to not prosecute people solely for being an undocumented individual in the country in which they are currently living. In January 2017, President Trump issued an executive order that would withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities. In April 2017 a federal judge ruled that Trump’s order was unconstitutional.
At a December 7th campaign stop in South Carolina, Presidential candidate Donald Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the country. The announcement sparked outrage from across the political spectrum with Republicans and Democrats both deeming it unconstitutional. Proponents argue that the government has little idea who is entering the U.S. through its current immigration system and that a temporary ban on Muslims is necessary after the terrorist attack in California. Opponents argue that the proposed ban is unconstitutional and racist towards Muslims.
Amnesty is an act by passed by the federal government which grants immunity from immigration laws to undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. Various levels of criteria have been proposed for immigrants to be granted amnesty including proof of employment and willingness to pay taxes.
On October 7, 2013 California Governor Jerry Brown signed a state bill prohibiting law-enforcement officials from detaining an individual on the basis of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold after that person becomes eligible for release, unless he or she has been charged with or convicted of certain crimes, including violent felonies.