On CNN's Sunday morning show "State of the Union," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) cast the Republican Party's refusal to protect young immigrants as a grave mistake and echoed other Democrats' statements that he would be willing to negotiate on a border wall in order to keep "Dreamers" safe from deportation.
In his interview with Jake Tapper, the senator denounced an ad released by President Donald Trump's reelection campaign which portrayed Democratic lawmakers as "complicit" in any murder committed by an undocumented immigrant.
"It is really unbelievable and so sad for our country that we have a president of the United States who says such nonsense and such outrageous statements," Sanders said, adding that the vast majority of Americans support protections for Dreamers—about 800,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children and have been protected by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which Trump has moved to repeal.
"They need a path towards citizenship. That's not my view. That is the overwhelming view of the American people," Sanders said. "Then you see a president put stuff like that on the air trying to divide us up, trying to foment hatred? It is—it is really sad."
Tapper pointed out that Republicans have called Sanders and other members of the Democratic caucus hypocritical since the government shut down at 12:01am on Saturday, brought on by the Democrats' refusal to back a spending bill that did not include DACA protections.
"You were blaming the Republicans back in 2013 for what the Democrats and those who caucus with the Democrats are doing today," Tapper said, paraphrasing a statement by White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. "You don't get your way, and you're shutting down the government."
In 2013, the senator reminded him, Republicans were intent on shutting down the government in protest of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
"Obama was not going to repeal Obamacare and...allow tens of millions of people to lose their health insurance," said Sanders.
A Quinnipiac poll taken in October 2013 found that, similarly to today, most Americans opposed the GOP's position surrounding that month's two-week government shutdown.
Seventy-two percent of those surveyed that month said Congress should not cut off government funding to prevent implementation of the law.
Sanders also echoed statements by Democrats including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) who said that while they did not agree with Trump's signature campaign promise to erect a 30-foot wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, they were willing to negotiate on the border wall in order to protect Dreamers.
"I think the wall was a great idea in the 15th century, when the Chinese built the Great China Wall. I don't think it makes a whole lot of sense now," Sanders noted. "But I'm willing to sit down in a room and do what the American people want. And what the American people want is to provide legal status to the dreamers and a path towards citizenship."
As Brianna Rennix wrote at Current Affairs last week, a compromise on the border wall could work as a long-term strategy for Democrats to win long-term protections for immigrants.
"The Wall will take a very long time to build, and will have many fewer immediate-term impacts on vulnerable immigrants than any of the other items on the Republicans’ wishlist," wrote Rennix. "In the longer term, walls are not very hard to demolish. Under the circumstances, the fact that the Wall may well prove an ineffectual waste of funds is a boon, not a disadvantage: Democrats complaining that the Wall is poor value for money ought to be grateful for the opportunity to divert a chunk of Trump’s budget towards something that will fail to accomplish his diabolical goals."