Bernie Sanders’s immigration platform, released Thursday, is a classic Bernie Sanders plan: a policy agenda that reflects demands from activists on the left while still framing immigration as part of his signature issue of workers’ rights.
Sanders’s progressive bona fides on immigration have been questioned in the past.
In the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton criticized the senator for voting against comprehensive immigration reform in 2007 — a bill that would have opened a pathway to citizenship for 12 million undocumented immigrants while investing in border security. (Sanders, who has long supported a pathway to citizenship, says he voted against the bill because of the lack of labor protections in the bill’s guest worker provisions.)
He has also repeatedly warned against “open borders,” which he calls a “Koch brothers proposal,” arguing it would depress wages for American workers.
“If you open the borders, my God, there’s a lot of poverty in this world, and you’re going to have people from all over the world,” Sanders said at an April town hall in Iowa. “And I don’t think that’s something that we can do at this point. Can’t do it.”
Sanders’s long track record defending labor interests has seemingly sometimes stood in opposition to his otherwise pro-immigrant rhetoric. His policy platform is an attempt to reconcile the two: a worker-centric immigration agenda that bolsters immigrants’ labor rights and offers them a part of the social safety net through programs like Medicare-for-all.
The most sweeping part of the plan: a proposal to use executive action to protect unauthorized immigrants who have lived in the US for more than five years from deportation, which, according to the Pew Research Center’s estimate, would cover almost 9 million people — more than any other legalization plan in the field.
Sanders would use executive action liberally
Sanders’s plan, like those of the rest of the Democratic field, relies on sweeping executive actions to scale back Trump’s immigration enforcement regime.
If Democrats win the White House and Republicans keep the Senate in 2020, the long congressional impasse on comprehensive immigration reform will probably continue. Congress has had some recent movement on bipartisan bills tackling smaller slices of the legal immigration system; one measure would amend per-country caps on green cards, but it has yet to pass the Senate.
That means any change to immigration policy will likely come from the president.
By Nicole Narea and Tara Golshan for V O X
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