Asked at a presidential candidate forum in California Saturday night if the Obama administration made a mistake by deporting an estimated 3 million people during its 8-year tenure, 2020 hopeful Bernie Sanders offered a direct and one word response: "Yes."
The forum, hosted by the Spanish-language channel Univision in the city of Long Beach amid the state Democratic Party's endorsing convention, had a large focus on immigration issues with many Latino voters in attendance.
The question was asked by moderator Jorge Ramos and Sanders' succinct answer received rousing approval from many in the audience.
.@jorgeramosnews "Can you say that Obama made a mistake deporting 3 million people?"
— People for Bernie (@People4Bernie) November 17, 2019
After applause died down, Sanders pivoted by saying the American people are ready for an immigration policy that no longer has at its center the demonization of those coming to the United States seeking a better life.
"What I'm going to tell you is in fact what the American people want, and they want to stop this ugly demonization of the immigrant community and the racism that is coming from the White House," said Sanders. "They want—it's not my idea, it's what the American people want—is, finally, comprehensive immigration reform and a path toward citizenship for 11 million undocumented."
"Here's the bottom line. I think it is the American people are catching on. There is something profoundly wrong when so few people have so much and so many people are struggling. And they want real change." —Sen. Bernie Sanders
And, Sanders continued, "Here's a promise I will make—I don't make a lot of promises—but on day one, Jorge, I will undo the damage Trump did and, among other things, reestablish the legal status of the 1.1 million young people and their parents eligible for the DACA program."
Immigration reform, said Sanders, is at the "very top" of his agenda and he vowed, if elected, to introduce a comprehensive package to address the situation not only in his first year in office, but within his first hundred days.
Recent reporting on demographic dynamics in the 2020 primary race shows that Sanders continues to lead the pack with Latino voters nationwide. Based on donor data, Politico reported earlier this month, he is also receiving widespread support among the crucial voting bloc.
The #RealAmericaForum has concluded! The Latino vote will be critical in the March Primary! Here are the top 4 according to our poll with @LatinoDecisions. But the Latino engagement can’t stop! We demand more engagement for our people! #CADEM19 https://t.co/mPGrfJkDVa pic.twitter.com/2EmzXOLCH3
— Latino Community Fdn (@LatinoCommFdn) November 17, 2019
Prior to the questions about immigration, Ramos explored other key issues with Sanders and asked him to respond to remarks reportedly made by Obama last week to a room full of "wealthy liberal" Democratic donors in which appeared to be cautioning the party establishment against going "too far left" or "tearing down the system" with proposals like Medicare for All, tuition-free public college, student debt forgiveness, and others.
"When I talk about raising the minimum wage to a living wage, we're not talking about tearing down the system—we're fighting for justice," Sanders said.
"When I talk about healthcare being a human right," he added, "and ending the embarrassment of America being the only major country on Earth that does not guarantee healthcare to every man, woman, and child—that's not tearing down the system. That's doing what we should have done 30 year ago through Medicare for All."
He also added the climate crisis to the list of urgent needs that must be addressed with urgency. "We have a threat to the entire planet," Sanders said. "We've got to stand up to the greed of the fossil fuel industry and transform our energy system as quickly as we can."
Asked specifically by Ramos if he agreed with Obama's "too far left" warning, Sanders answered: "I don't think so. I honestly don't."
"I think the issues that we are talking about, in fact, are supported by the vast majority of the American people. You ask people, should we go out and make colleges and universities tuition free? Should we cancel all student debt in this country by imposing a tax on Wall Street?"
As the crowd cheered each question, Sanders said: "I think the answer you're getting here is the answer the answer you're getting all over the country."
He then added, "And here's the bottom line. I think it is the American people are catching on. There is something profoundly wrong when so few people have so much and so many people are struggling. And they want real change."
Watch the interview: