Sanders’ Immigration Plan Aims to Stop Border Wall, End ICE Raids

By Justin Morgan

On Thursday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—calling for a complete restructuring of the system through legislative action and a series of executive orders—released his comprehensive immigration plan.

According to the Intercept, the plan comes after months of criticisms from the left about his immigration policy.

The candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination said he would place a moratorium on deportations, and end raids by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

His plan also includes bringing construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall to a halt and ending family separations and shutting down for-profit detention centers.

“Bernie will end the barbaric practice of ripping children from their parents and locking children in cages, thoroughly audit and close detention centers, and work to undo the damage President Trump has done to our immigrant community and our national character,” the plan reads.

Bernie Sanders
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), speaks at Hawkeye Downs Expo Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Nov. 2, 2019. (Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo)

Under his “A Welcoming and Safe America for All” plan, Sanders indicated that he will reverse guidance from the Trump administration’s Department of Justice and permit asylum claims from those fleeing domestic or gang violence.

Sanders would also overturn Trump’s so-called “public charge” rule and ensure that immigrants are not discriminated against based on income or disability.

In his proposal, Sanders expands on his support for extending legal status to the 1.8 million young people who are currently eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program while pledging to provide relief to their parents.

The plan also looks to make broad, immediate and overarching changes to the current immigration system by restructuring the Department of Homeland Security. Sanders would absorb ICE into the Justice Department and Customs and Border Protection into the Treasury Department.

According to Politico, Sanders’ plan bespeaks of a fundamental distrust in border enforcement, and seeks to reshape the methodology employed by previous presidents.

“Putting everything in one basket under DHS has not just not worked out, and it is what has allowed Trump and company to weaponize immigration in a racist way,” Sanders told reporters.

“Instead of treating everything immigration-related the same, we break up the parts where it makes sense to do that, so given ICE’s federal law enforcement function, moving it to the Justice Department is incredibly important,” he added.

In addition to strengthening immigrant labor rights by prioritizing the interests of immigrants and workers in trade negotiations, Sanders also suggests creating a whistleblower visa that would allow immigrants to report illegal actions without fear of retribution.

The plan also requires all domestic and farm workers be paid a minimum of $15 an hour, and be paid for overtime.

Other elements of the proposal include, creating a welcome program for migrants displaced by climate change, and downgrading illegal border crossings to a civil offense from a federal crime.

In April, former Obama Housing Secretary Julián Castro became the first Democratic presidential hopeful to release a comprehensive immigration plan that supported making crossing the border illegally a civil rather than a criminal offense.

Julián Castro speaks at the Liberty and Justice Celebration
Democratic presidential candidate, former HUD Secretary Julián Castro speaks at the Liberty and Justice Celebration at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa on Nov. 1, 2019. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

But Castro is winding down his presence in the key state of New Hampshire and isn’t likely to qualify for the debate later this month in Georgia, raising questions about how much longer he can continue.

At a town hall in Oskaloosa, Iowa, in April, Sanders was asked if his positions on immigration meant he was for open borders.

“That’s not my thing. I think what we need is simply comprehensive immigration reform,” he said in response to an audience question. “There’s a lot of poverty in this world, people from all over the world. And I don’t think that’s something we can do at this point. That’s not my position.”

The Associated Press and the CNN-Wire contributed to this report.