Sen. Bernie Sanders released his immigration plan Thursday, promising to enact a progressive wish list of policies, such as abolishing ICE, pausing deportations, and pushing a pathway to citizenship, much of it through executive action.
The Vermont senator pledged that if elected, he would use the unilateral powers of the presidency to accomplish several things immediately. Those include granting legal status to the 1.8 million immigrants eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, ending family detention and childhood separation policies at the border, allowing asylum seekers to remain in the United States while their claims are processed, and halting construction of the border wall.
Throughout the campaign this year, Sanders has teased parts of his plan for immigration. Now, the plan, which the campaign said was drafted in consultation with DACA recipients, builds on those statements and consolidates them into an overarching framework that shows how Sanders plans to govern on the issue.
Sanders’ plan calls for broadening President Barack Obama’s clemency program to shield the estimated millions of immigrants who have lived undocumented in the United States for more than five years from the threat of deportation. Sanders would pause all deportations until the federal government audits its immigration practices.
“Bernie will use every executive tool available to remove barriers to legal permanent residence and naturalization for as many as possible, even if he has to sign every form by hand,” according to the plan released on his website.
Sanders also pledged to push Congress to enact immigration reform that gives a pathway to citizenship or legal status to undocumented immigrants within five years.
During his 2015 campaign for the presidency, Sanders also proposed using executive actions as a way to spur immigration reform. Back then, he proposed unilaterally expanding the DACA program and a similar program for parents of those young immigrants.
In another step that is sure to make progressives happy, Sanders’ campaign said he would do away with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection agencies and spread their duties around to different parts of the government, while refocusing border enforcement on drugs and firearms, rather than people.
He would end law enforcement’s ability to search and seize property without a warrant within 100 miles of a U.S. border, as well as other laws that are part of the 1996 immigration reforms — years-long bans for people found in the country illegally, mandatory detention and permanent deportations.
Sanders is also promising a strong worker focus in his immigration plan. He would give create a whistleblower visa for immigrant workers who expose exploitative working conditions, end workplace raids, and increase labor protections for low-wage immigrant workers, among other things.
Sanders also promises that the sweeping social programs he wants to enact would apply equally to immigrants, including Medicare for All, free college and free school meals.
Cover: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during the Iowa Democratic Party's Liberty and Justice Celebration, Friday, Nov. 1, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)