This country is a nation of immigrants. 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. In many ways, that is what this campaign is about: building a movement to create an America where everyone shares in the prosperity that they and their ancestors helped create.
To Bernie, immigration is personal. Bernie’s father came to the United States at age 17 with no money and knowing almost no English. He didn’t have much of an education and no real skills. 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. That is the story of Bernie’s family and that is the story of America. We have welcomed those who seek the American dream, build our communities and strengthen our economy. More importantly, we have served as a place of refuge and beacon of hope for those fleeing persecution and danger in their native countries, leading the world by example.
We now have a President who is 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. 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. We must stand together with our immigrant friends and neighbors and stand up to President Trump’s xenophobic words and actions.
The Trump administration’s treatment of immigration exclusively as a criminal and national security matter is inhumane, impractical, and must end. As president, Bernie Sanders would treat border crossings as a civil matter, and fundamentally reform the government agencies tasked with enforcing immigration law to ensure our immigration agencies and officers are serving a humanitarian mission, not a law enforcement one.
Bernie supports a family-based immigration system grounded in civil and human rights. Bernie believes we must stand up for our values and accept refugees, asylum-seekers, and families who come to the United States in search of the American Dream. This is how America was built and it has made our country strong.
As president, Bernie will reverse the actions President Trump has taken to harm our immigrant communities. Bernie will come together and stand in solidarity with our immigrant neighbors, friends, classmates, and colleagues and create an America that works for all. And he will reject the hate and divisiveness spewed by some and ensure America is a welcoming and safe nation for all. Bernie believes that love will conquer hate.
Bernie believes that no human being is illegal. Unauthorized presence in the United States is a civil, not a criminal, offense, but President Trump and others before him have used a racist, outdated United States law that criminalizes border crossings to separate families and incarcerate immigrants fleeing violence and poverty. Punitive policies have been justified as a deterrent to migration, but in addition to being morally wrong, there is no evidence that these policies have served this purpose. The criminalization of immigrants has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars, dehumanized vulnerable migrants, and swelled already-overcrowded jails and prisons. Decades of unaccountable funding for militarizing our border has created a dangerous situation that has led to thousands of deaths along the border and at least seven children have died in the custody of the United States since last year. Bernie believes this is unacceptable.
By criminalizing immigration, we have worsened the effects of mass incarceration and racial disparities in our broken criminal justice system. Black immigrants make up 5 percent of the undocumented population but account for 20 percent of those facing removal on criminal grounds. Tying local law enforcement to immigration enforcement perpetuates racial biases in policing, where black and brown people are stopped, harassed, and arrested at higher rates than white people. We must decouple local law enforcement and immigration, leaving the proper authorities to carry out their respective missions.
Our border policy and immigration court system is badly broken. There are currently almost 1 million pending court cases straining a system already stretched to breaking by the shortage of immigration judges, who are forced to handle complex and sensitive cases as quickly as possible to meet sky-high quotas. Children as young as three years old have absurdly been forced to defend themselves in court in front of judges. Often, immigrants never receive notice of their hearings, or notices come only in English, and are sometimes marked as absent for hearings that never physically took place. This is not justice. The fact is, when immigrants are given access to counsel, they attend hearings at a rate of nearly 100 percent. We will exercise due process at the border and establish a humane and fair review process for asylum claims.
Bernie believes it is reprehensible that corporations are making a profit from locking children and their families in cages and will immediately close for-profit and private detention centers. Community-based alternatives to detention are more effective, less expensive, and more humane. Bernie will partner with nonprofit organizations to authorize and greatly expand these programs and end detention for nearly all immigrants, with rare exceptions for flight risks or extenuating circumstances. For any shelters necessary, such as those legally required to house unaccompanied minors until they are connected with family or sponsors, Bernie will implement strong quality standards.
Bernie voted against the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2002, a plan concocted by Senator Joe Lieberman in the wake of 9/11 that centralized disparate and distinct agencies into one bureaucratic behemoth. DHS is now the third-largest government agency and suffers from wasteful spending, bureaucratic bloat, and no clearly defined mission. Critics from across the political spectrum have documented the dysfunction and unaccountability of DHS, and President Trump has turned Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) into a renegade detention and deportation force. Immigration is not a threat to national security. It is long past time we break up the Department of Homeland Security and refocus its mission on keeping our country safe and responding effectively to emergencies.
For too long, employers have exploited undocumented immigrants and guest workers to violate labor laws, skirt the minimum wage, and maximize their own profits. Large corporations target vulnerable communities as a source of labor and use their immigration status to retaliate when workers stand up for their rights. President Trump demonizes immigrants but had no qualms with employing undocumented workers at his golf clubs and hiring guest workers at his properties. Employers have also used guest worker visa programs to exploit a captive workforce that does not have the ability to quit or change jobs.
Immigrants make up nearly three-quarters of our farmworkers, and between half and 70 percent of the workforce is undocumented. The average farmworker makes $10 an hour for backbreaking work in brutal heat, working for 10 or more hours with no overtime pay due to racist exclusions in labor law. Domestic workers – primarily immigrant women – are similarly excluded from basic labor protections and face harassment and poverty wages. Trump has raided and terrorized meat processing plants, which rely on immigrant and undocumented workforces to do dangerous and backbreaking work, while loosening safety regulations and scaling back safety inspections.
We currently spend more than eleven times as much enforcing immigration as we do enforcing labor standards. Bernie will redirect resources to ensure that immigrants are protected at the workplace and cannot be exploited or mistreated by employers, no matter the worker’s immigration status. Bernie believes that all workers deserve dignity, a living wage, and a union, and he will end these exemptions for agricultural and domestic workers and take action against all employers who mistreat workers. Enforcing strong, fair and safe labor standards benefits all workers, not just immigrant workers.
Bernie not only voted against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), he led the fight against it. Supporters of NAFTA claimed that unfettered free trade would increase the standard of living in Mexico and significantly reduce the flow of undocumented immigrants into this country. As history has demonstrated, the opposite is true. Since the implementation of NAFTA, the number of Mexicans living below the poverty line has increased by more than 14 million. Not surprisingly, we saw a 185 percent increase in the number of undocumented immigrants from Mexico between 1992 and 2011. NAFTA decimated small farmers in Mexico, forcing them north to provide for their families. Bernie will renegotiate a North American trade agreement that puts workers – in the United States, Mexico, and Canada – first, not multinational corporations and special interests.
Bernie will also acknowledge the history of U.S. intervention in the South and Central American region, as well as overseas, often in support of authoritarian regimes that brutally repressed their own people, and engage with human rights defenders throughout the hemisphere to promote freedom and dignity for all.
In addition to reversing Trump’s cruel and un-American refugee and immigration policies, Bernie will lead the world in addressing the most critical issue of our time: climate change. We are already seeing the effects of climate change and how it will continue to drive people from where they live. By 2050, an estimated 200 million people will be displaced by climate change. Bernie will lead the international community in combating this crisis and America will do its part to welcome those who are forced from their homes by climate change.
Immigrants make our country and our society strong. Immigrants are our neighbors, friends, classmates, and coworkers. We must ensure that all the benefits and rights of being an American are available to all, regardless of where you come from. In our public schools, the children of Latino immigrants attend the most racially segregated schools. School districts that serve predominantly black and brown children receive billions less in funding than those that serve predominantly white students. Nearly a quarter of “lawfully present” immigrants are uninsured, compared to only 8 percent of whites. Bernie believes that a good public education, a good job, decent and affordable housing, a secure retirement, and good health care are fundamental rights. We must address these disparities to ensure these rights extend to all.
Trump has not only waged a divisive campaign against immigrants at the border, but has also worked to make it harder and slower to immigrate through all channels and has made it harder for those residing in the United States to become citizens. Under Trump, USCIS has slowed their approval processes and added to the growing backlog of pending immigration applications. Bernie will reverse Trump’s posture and ensure all agencies tasked with distributing benefits and reviewing immigration applications are fully funded and staffed, and cut waiting times, costs, and bureaucratic complexities for those pursuing legal permanent residency and naturalization.