Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders unveiled his immigration plan on Tuesday with promises to build on President Obama’s executive actions in a way that “keeps families together.”
Drawing a sharp contrast with Donald Trump’s border plans, Sanders said border security can be improved by investing in new technologies, and not by building “boondoggle walls” or militarizing border communities.
Sanders’ immigration plan appears to be the most progressive put forth so far by the field of presidential hopefuls, including his Democratic challengers. It even seems to go into more detail than some of the statements by the Clinton camp.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, Sanders challenged Americans to use the holidays to reflect on how the country’s failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform is hurting families across the nation. “Millions of families are torn apart by our broken immigration policies,” the senator said in a press release. “We cannot forget about the aspiring Americans who continue to live in the shadows.”
Sanders said he would dismantle deportation programs and end contracts with private detention centers. He added he would strengthen policies to fight ethnic profiling and discrimination at the border, while mapping out a “swift legislative path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants.”
The Sanders campaign claims the plan would help “close to 9 million aspiring Americans” apply to remain legally in the United States, and would protect those who have been living in the U.S. for at least 5 years from deportation. The candidate promised he would initiate a six-point plan during his first 100 days in office:
- Dismantle inhumane deportation programs and detention centers.
- Pave the way for a swift and fair legislative roadmap to citizenship for the eleven million undocumented immigrants.
- Ensure the border remains secure while respecting local communities.
- Regulate the future flow of immigrants by modernizing the visa system and rewriting bad trade agreements.
- Enhance access to justice and reverse the criminalization of immigrants.
- Establish parameters for independent oversight of key agencies in the Department of Homeland Security.
The Vermont senator wants to move away from militarizing the border and instead allocate more resources towards a “humane immigration policy” that raises accountability for border patrol agents through better training and body cameras.
Sanders’ plan aims to reduce the number of immigrant deaths at the border by avoiding the practice of dumping deportees in parts of Mexico controlled by organized crime groups. In addition, Sanders said he would expand support for all refugees and extend aid to young children from Latin America.
Part of the candidate’s immigration plan also calls for “balanced” trade agreements; he refers to NAFTA—the free-trade agreement between the U.S., Mexico and Canada—as an “ill-conceived” treaty that has “devastated local economies and pushed millions to migrate.”
The newly unveiled plan is a central part of his campaign’s concerted effort to energize Latino outreach efforts, and it’s already receiving some early acclaim.
“Sanders would end the expensive contracts we have with immigrant detention centers, as well as the highly controversial bed quota that guarantees them business at all of our expense. These are large points of difference and will have a huge impact on the day-to-day lives of diverse, mixed-status families,” Hina Naveed, a DREAMer activist, told the Las Vegas Sun.
Others are more skeptical that Sanders would be able to deliver.
“Bernie is using all the buzzwords that immigrants want to hear, it’s perfect, but it’s only a plan, and a plan changes when a candidate becomes a president, and we can see that with Obama,” Leni Gonzalez, a Latino community activist based in Virginia, told Fusion. “The plan offers everything we want to see happen, but he would have to work with Congress and that hasn’t happened in eight years.”