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A Honduran migrant recently released from federal detention boards a bus while carrying his two-year-old daughter at a bus depot on June 11, 2019, in McAllen, Texas. (Photo: Loren Elliott/AFP via Getty Images)

To Create 'Welcoming and Safe Nation for All,' Sanders Immigration Plan Would End Family Separations, Break Up ICE, and Tackle Root Causes

If elected president in 2020, Sanders vowed he will "end the barbaric practice of ripping children from their parents and locking children in cages."

Jake Johnson

With the goal of creating a "welcoming and safe nation for all," Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday unveiled a sweeping plan to fundamentally overhaul America's inhumane immigration system by reversing President Donald Trump's xenophobic executive orders, placing a moratorium on deportations, ending ICE raids, and confronting root causes—including "decades of disastrous foreign policy decisions"—that have destabilized and impoverished Latin American nations.

If elected president in 2020, Sanders vowed to use his executive authority to "overturn all of President Trump's actions to demonize and harm immigrants" on his first day in the White House.

"We will end the ICE raids that are terrorizing our communities, and on my first day as president, I will use my executive power to protect our immigrant communities and reverse every single horrific action implemented by Trump."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders

But Sanders' proposal, detailed on his website, makes clear that decades of U.S. foreign and trade policies that long predate Trump must be addressed in concert with Latin American nations in order to tackle "the root causes of migration."

Sanders also pointed to the climate crisis as a key factor in driving migration and said the U.S. must do its part in combating the emergency and welcoming those displaced by it.

"No parent would take their child and travel thousands of miles on foot except under dire, dangerous circumstances," Sanders' plan states. "Decades of disastrous foreign policy decisions in Latin America and bad trade deals have caused destabilization and poverty in South and Central America. We must end global inequality and the international race to the bottom so that no human being needs to migrate for survival."

Sanders said, if elected, he will "immediately call a summit of leaders from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, and other countries."

The proposal states that Sanders as president 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."

The Vermont senator's plan—which he described as "the most progressive immigration proposal put forth in presidential history"—also calls for:

  • Breaking up Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP);
  • Decriminalizing immigration and demilitarizing the border;
  • Pushing Congress to establish a "swift, fair" pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people currently living in the U.S.;
  • Immidiately extending "legal status to the 1.8 million young people currently eligible for the DACA program";
  • Closing for-profit detention centers;
  • Ending the separation of families; and
  • Bolstering immigrant worker protections by ending workplace raids and enacting a "Domestic Workers Bill of Rights" that would include at least a $15 minimum wage and collective bargaining protections.

"My father came to America as a refugee without a nickel in his pocket, to escape widespread anti-Semitism and find a better life," Sanders said in a statement. "As the proud son of an immigrant, I know that my father's story is the story of so many Americans today."

"These protections are long overdue, and it's encouraging to see a policy proposal that sends such a strong message that immigrants are central to the future of our country."
—Marielena Hincapié, NILC Immigrant Justice Fund

"We will end the ICE raids that are terrorizing our communities," Sanders added, "and on my first day as president, I will use my executive power to protect our immigrant communities and reverse every single horrific action implemented by Trump."

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the NILC Immigrant Justice Fund, praised Sanders for articulating "a vision in which everyone, regardless of where they were born or how much they make, can pursue their full human potential."

"Sanders' plan would roll back some of the greatest threats coming from the Trump administration," said Hincapié, "and it addresses laws predating Trump that have criminalized and locked up immigrants for decades, while also protecting the rights of immigrants in our schools, workplaces, and healthcare system, and in our communities."

"These protections are long overdue," Hincapié said, "and it's encouraging to see a policy proposal that sends such a strong message that immigrants are central to the future of our country."

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