The senator’s newly released plan—to halt deportations, abolish ICE, create a path to citizenship, and boost worker protections—marks a shift not only in Democratic policy but even from his own prior positions.
Senator Bernie Sanders’s immigration plan, released on Thursday, is one of the boldest immigration plans any major politician has put forward in years, and comes amid a campaign season that has seen a major shift to the left among Democratic candidates on immigration. With calls for a total moratorium on deportations, abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, the plan serves as a road map for what a fair and just immigration policy can be. Most strikingly, it represents a shift in some of Sanders’s past positions on immigration, making it as much a reflection of an increasingly powerful and coherent pro-immigrant movement as it is of the senator’s own changing stance on the issues.
For decades the standard line of US immigration policy has been to hound, prosecute, cage, and deport migrants, without giving a second thought to the root economic and social causes of migration. Republicans have been outright racist and xenophobic, and Democrats have typically been little better, caving to the status quo of a militarized border and trying to build political capital—toward passage of a spectral omnibus immigration reform package—by ramping up the deportation machine. Washington’s focus on border security and immigration enforcement have allowed ICE, Customs and Border Protection, and the Department of Homeland Security to grow into the ravenous monsters they have become. Sanders’s plan goes against all this history to focus on justice for immigrants, and then successfully shows how immigration relates to his signature issues of labor and universal medical care in a way that no other candidate has yet been able to muster.
By John Washington for THE NATION
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