Posted by Nadia Aziz on September 26, 2016 in Blog

Tonight is the first of the three presidential debates ahead of November 8th. Moderated by Lester Holt of NBC, the debate is expected to be cover three topic areas: America’s Direction, Achieving Prosperity, and Securing America. 

We have heard a lot from the 2016 candidates already, and have been tracking their policy positions and public statements on AAI’s Election Central Candidate Profiles. Below is a snap shot of what Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have already said regarding the issues we expect to arise during tonight’s debate. 

Immigration and Refugee Resettlement

Hillary Clinton:

 "I am absolutely in favor of and have long been an advocate for tough vetting for making sure that we don't let people into this country...We need a better visa system. Let's remember what happened on 9/11. These were not refugees who got into airplanes and attacked our city and our country."" (September 19, 2016 - NYC press event)

 "Ever since the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, America has distinguished itself as a haven for people fleeing religious persecution. Under Donald Trump, America would distinguish itself as the only country in the world to impose a religious test at the border. Come to think of it, there actually may be one place that does that. It’s the so-called Islamic State. The territory ISIS controls. It would be a cruel irony if America followed its lead. (August 25, 2016 – Utah speech)

"In too many communities, immigrants still face significant language, education, and economic barriers that prevent them from fully adjusting in their new home. Given the cross-cutting nature of immigrant integration policy concerns, Hillary believes it is critical that there be a pro-active effort to coordinate policies and programs across federal agencies and with state and local governments. In 2014, the Obama Administration announced a Task Force to study integration services and make recommendations for improvements.  Hillary would work to implement the Task Force’s recommendations, and create the first ever federal Office of Immigrant Affairs to ensure there is a dedicated place in the White House where integration services for immigrants and refugees are managed." (April 14, 2016 -

 “I think also, though, there’s a lot of evidence that moving toward comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship would be good for our economy. We already know that undocumented workers are putting about $12 billion into the Social Security trust fund with no anticipation at this point that they’ll ever get anything out. They’re paying payroll taxes; they’re paying other forms of taxes — state and local as well as federal.” (June 22, 2016 - Interview with Ezra Klein for Vox)

Donald Trump:

"I want a database for the refugees if they come into this country. We have no idea who they are. When the Syrian refugees start pouring into this country, we don't know if it's ISIS, we don't know if it's a Trojan horse. And I definitely want a database and other checks and balances. We want to go with watch lists. We want to go with databases. And we have no choice. We don't know who's being sent in here... This could be the great Trojan horse of all time." (November 2015, ABC)

“We need to tell the truth, also, about how Radical Islam is coming to our shores. We are importing Radical Islamic Terrorism into the West through a failed immigration system -- and through an intelligence community held back by our president. Even our own FBI Director has admitted that we cannot effectively check the backgrounds of the people we are letting into America. All of the September 11th hijackers were issued visas. Large numbers of Somali refugees in Minnesota have tried to join ISIS. The Boston Bombers came here through political asylum. The male shooter in San Bernardino – again, whose name I won't mention -- was the child of immigrants from Pakistan, and he brought his wife – the other terrorist - from Saudi Arabia, through another one of our easily exploited visa programs." (June 13, 2016 - Rally in Manchester, NH)

When asked to comment on President Obama's most recent call to welcome Syrian refugees in the United States, Trump said, "I can't even believe that he's saying it. It's inconceivable that he's saying it. It is disgraceful that he could say this. It is just insane what this man is saying." (March 27, 2016 -Fox and Friends)

When asked if he can look Syrian refugee children in the eye and tell them they cannot go to school in the United States, Trump said, "I can look in their faces and say, ‘You can’t come here.’" (February 9, 2016 - New Hampshire townhall)

 “We're going to triple the number of ICE deportation officers. Within ICE I am going to create a new special deportation task force focused on identifying and quickly removing the most dangerous criminal illegal immigrants in America who have evaded justice.” (August 31, 2016 – Arizona speech)

“We will build a great wall along the southern border. And Mexico will pay for the wall. One hundred percent. They don't know it yet, but they're going to pay for it. And they're great people and great leaders but they're going to pay for the wall. On day one, we will begin working on intangible, physical, tall, power, beautiful southern border wall.” (August 31, 2016 – Arizona speech)

Our take: 

The United States has a proud tradition of welcoming refugees. Throughout some of the direst humanitarian crises across the globe, the United States has historically opened its doors to the world’s most vulnerable populations. Anti-Immigrant and anti-refugee rhetoric has conflated a humanitarian crisis with a national security issue, despite a robust vetting process that is in place for refugees. Read more about the refugee vetting process here. Learn more about the Anti-refugee backlash and resettlement here.


Civil Rights and Profiling

Hillary Clinton:

"Since 9/11 law enforcement has worked hard to build trustful and strong relationships with American Muslim communities. As the Director of the FBI told congress, anything that erodes that trust makes their job more difficult. We need every American community invested in this fight, not fearful and sitting on the sidelines. So when Republican candidates like Ted Cruz call for treating American Muslims like criminals, and for racially profiling predominantly Muslim neighborhoods – it’s wrong, it’s counterproductive, it’s dangerous." (March 23, 2016 - Stanford speech)

“On the criminal justice side, look, we've got to have better policing. That means body cameras, that means ending profiling, that means doing everything we can to make sure there's respect between the community and the police.”(March 6, 2016 - Flint Michigan Debate)  

Donald Trump: 

When asked if he still supports the idea of a Muslim ban, Trump responded, "Well, I think profiling is something that we're going to have to start thinking about as a country. And other countries do it; you look at Israel and you look at others and they do it and they do it successfully. You know, I hate the concept of profiling. But we have to start using common sense, and we have to use, you know, we have to use our heads ... we really have to look at profiling. We have to look at it seriously." (June 19, 2016 – CBS Face the Nation)

“If somebody looks like he’s got a massive bomb on his back we won’t go up to that person and say, ‘I’m sorry,’ because if he looks like he comes from that part of the world we’re not allowed to profile. Give me a break...In Israel they profile. They’ve done an unbelievable job, as good as you can do. 

When asked if he stands by his comments that the U.S. must use profiling tactics like Israel, Trump said “I never said the term ‘Muslim.’ I’m saying we’re going to profile people that maybe look suspicious, I didn’t say [if] they were Muslims or not.” When asked what makes people look suspicious, Trump said - "I don’t know! These are [profiling] experts, that’s what they do. They profile. You go to Israel, and [U.S. law enforcement] should study [Israel], because Israel’s done a phenomenal job at this. They’re not happy about [having to profile], but they do it. And people aren’t complaining about it. But we have to do it, we have to profile." When asked if his calls for profiling are targeting 'blue-eyed' people, Trump said, “I’m not using the term Muslim! I’m saying we’re going to have to start profiling. And I don’t know if it’s that bad, but certainly it’s not a wonderful thing. But we have a country to keep safe. And you know, and I know, it’s going to get worse.” (September 19, 2016 - Fox News)

Our Take:

A wave of legislation following the September 11th attacks ushered in a new culture of government secrecy with the simultaneous abandonment of several core constitutional guarantees, including due process, privacy, and equal protection. 

In the U.S. our government uses profiling as a matter of policy in programs like the TSA SPOT program which is based on the idea of so-called “predictive profiling.” To read more about TSA SPOT and Post-9/11 Civil Rights and Civil Liberties


"Terrorist Watch Lists"

Hillary Clinton:

"If the FBI is watching you for a suspected terrorist link, you shouldn’t be able to just go buy a gun with no questions asked. And you shouldn’t be able to exploit loopholes and evade criminal background checks by buying online or at a gun show. And yes, if you’re too dangerous to get on a plane, you are too dangerous to buy a gun in America." (June 13, 2016 - Rally in Cleveland, OH)

Donald Trump: 

"I didn't suggest a database-a reporter did. We must defeat Islamic terrorism & have surveillance, including a watch list, to protect America." (November 2015, Twitter)

Our Take:

A lot of misinformation has been circulated about watch lists in connection to this renewed debate on gun control in the political sphere—stigmatizing Arab and Muslim Americans in the process. Rhetoric about preventing “suspected terrorists” or “anyone on the terror watch list” from buying guns, as well as the “No Fly, No Buy” catchphrase, are incredibly misleading. Read more here.


Domestic “Countering Violent Extremism” Programs & Surveillance

Hillary Clinton:

“And I began to speak out about their [the Bush administration’s] use of warrantless surveillance and the other behavior that they engaged in. We always have to keep the balance of civil liberties, privacy and security. It's not easy in a democracy, but we have to keep it in mind.” (October 2015,CNN Democratic Debate)

"Hillary rejects the false choice between privacy interests and keeping Americans safe.  She was a proponent of the USA Freedom Act, and she supports Senator Mark Warner and Representative Mike McCaul’s idea for a national commission on digital security and encryption.  This commission will work with the technology and public safety communities to address the needs of law enforcement, protect the privacy and security of all Americans that use technology, assess how innovation might point to new policy approaches, and advance our larger national security and global competitiveness interests." (junem 27, 2016 - Hillary Clinton's Initiative on Technology and Innovation)

“Well, I think the NSA needs to be more transparent about what it is doing, sharing with the American people, which it wasn’t. And I think a lot of the reaction about the NSA, people felt betrayed.” (February 2015, Recode Interview)

Donald Trump: 

In his response to the terrorist attacks in Paris, Trump said, "You're going to have to watch and study the mosques, because a lot of talk is going on at the mosques... And from what I heard, in the old days — meaning a while ago — we had great surveillance going on in and around mosques in New York City. I'm not sure it's a fact, but I heard that under the old regime we had tremendous surveillance going on in and around the mosques of New York City." (November 2015, MSNBC)

"I don't want to close mosques, I want to surveil mosques... Big material and good material from what I understand from a very good source was coming out of those mosques. We we learning a lot were stopping problems and potential problems by learning what was happening... I don't want to close up mosques, but things have to happen where you have got to use strong measures or you're going to see buildings coming down." (November 2015, ABC)

"I didn't suggest a database-a reporter did. We must defeat Islamic terrorism & have surveillance, including a watch list, to protect America." (November 2015, Twitter)

Our Take:  

Domestic Countering Violent Extremism Programs:

Not only do CVE programs – and the vast government resources devoted to them – address a problem that is proportionately small within the landscape of domestic terrorist threats, they are based on disproven theories of radicalization and they are further stigmatizing the Arab American and American Muslim communities. Read more here.


Mass surveillance of U.S. persons is permitted and conducted under a three-part surveillance architecture: the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act of 2008, and Executive Order 12333. Unless these measures are radically changed, mass surveillance of citizens, including programs that target the Arab American and American Muslim communities as well as activists in other movements like Black Lives Matter, will continue. Read more here.