Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders on Thursday released a comprehensive immigration plan in which he promises to end several Trump-era initiatives. The Vermont senator vowed to protect recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which shields young immigrants for deportation, in addition to plans to disband ICE and halt construction of the border wall. He also leveled harsh criticisms at President Trump, whom he labeled “a racist, a xenophobe, and a demagogue.”
“He has tried, as all demagogues do, to divide us by demonizing immigrants and blaming them for society’s problems,” Sanders said of Trump. “He has used hateful and disgusting rhetoric to try to dehumanize an entire group of people, and he has used the power of the federal government to mistreat and terrorize immigrants at the border and in our communities.”
Sanders promised to complete several tasks on his first day of office, including:
- instituting a moratorium on deportations;
- "swiftly" reuniting children who were separated from their parents at the border;
- ending Trump’s “zero-tolerance” border policy, Operation Streamline, the Muslim ban, the “Remain in Mexico” plan, metering, and the “Safe Third Country” policy;
- and stopping construction of the border wall.
Shuttering Immigrations and Customs Enforcement in particular has become a key progressive talking point. Sanders proposes transferring control over border policy and deportations to the Department of Justice, while naturalization and citizenship proceedings would fall to the State Department and the Treasury Department would handle customs enforcement, per CNBC.
Sanders also plans to expand DACA, as well as the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) policies. The expansion will allow 85 percent of undocumented people who have lived in the U.S. for five or more years remain in the country without the risk of deportation looming over their heads. Sanders will also urge Congress to forge a path for 11 million undocumented people already in the country to become citizens.
Sanders said he was motivated by the extensive contributions immigrants have made to America. “This country is a nation of immigrants," he wrote in the plan's introduction. "Other than the native peoples of the Americas, every one of our families came here from somewhere else. Some came by choice, some by necessity, and others in chains. As we have developed as a nation, each of us has contributed to the growth and prosperity of America in our own way. And our nation has been most successful and most true to its ideals when that prosperity has been shared among all of us.”
Sanders specifically cited his father’s journey from Poland to the United States in 1921. “He didn’t have much of an education and no real skills,” Sanders wrote. “But he built a life for himself and his family through determination and hard work. Millions of immigrant families in the United States today are doing the exact same thing.”