We are a nation of immigrants. I am proud to be the son of an immigrant. My father came to this country from Poland without a nickel in his pocket. Their story, my story, our story is a story of America: hard-working families coming to the United States to create a brighter future for their children. But even as this tradition is carried on proudly by so many families all across the United States, we have eleven million people in this country who are undocumented – who came here to improve their lives, to escape oppression, to flee desperate poverty and violence – and are systematically shut out from that same opportunity.
In 2008, I traveled to the tomato fields of southern Florida and met with migrant workers who were paid starvation wages for backbreaking work and were being ruthlessly exploited. After the visit, I invited leaders of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to Washington to testify during a Senate committee hearing regarding abusive labor practices. As a result of the tremendous grassroots effort of this coalition, working conditions in Immokalee improved and workers received a wage increase.
But how many more Immokalees are out there?
Many in the business community argue for a massive expansion of temporary guest worker programs. That is not the answer. As the Southern Poverty Law Center has documented, employers routinely cheat guest workers out of wages, hold employees captive by seizing documents, coerce workers to live in inhumane conditions, and deny medical treatment for on-the-job injuries.
It is time for this injustice to end.
We cannot and should not sweep up millions of men, women, and children – many of whom lived here for many years, contribute to our society, and are integrated into the fabric of American life – and throw them out of the country unjustly. It is categorically unacceptable that so many voices insisted that the large numbers of desperate, vulnerable, and unaccompanied children primarily from Central America who crossed our borders last year should be turned away and sent back to the countries they fled. Sadly, many of these same voices now advocate for the United States to turn our backs on desperate refugees fleeing violence and terrorism in Syria. Now is not the time for us to succumb to racism and bigotry. We cannot allow ourselves to be divided by the anti-immigrant and xenophobic hysteria that Republican presidential candidates are ginning up.
America has always been a haven for the oppressed. We cannot and must not shirk the historic role of the United States as a protector of vulnerable people fleeing persecution.
Establishing an immigration policy that stops the criminalization of communities of color and keeps families together must be a top priority. My immigration policy will put the sanctity of families at the forefront and will be grounded in civil, human, and labor rights. With bold action that moves our nation towards common sense immigration policies, we can reverse the decline of our middle class, allow the United States to compete economically in the 21st Century and build upon the best parts of our tradition of embracing diversity and harnessing it for the common good.
In 2013, Senator Sanders voted for the comprehensive immigration reform bill that would have legalized millions of aspiring Americans. That legislation, however, contained a series of compromises that should now be rejected. A legislative solution to modernize our immigration system must be a top priority.
Unfortunately, our nation’s foreign policy towards Latin America has made difficult economic and political problems even worse. Supporters of the North American Free Trade Agreement (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 over 14 million. Not surprisingly we saw 185 percent increase in the number of undocumented immigrants from Mexico between 1992 and 2011.
A political revolution that mobilizes millions of Americans inclusive of Latinos and immigrants will ensure that Congress acts on what the majority of Americans demand – comprehensive and humane immigration reform policies.
Senator Sanders will fight to implement a humane and secure immigration policy that will:
- Dismantle inhumane deportation programs and detention centers;
- Pave the way for a swift and fair legislative roadmap to citizenship for the eleven million undocumented immigrants;
- Ensure our border remains secure while respecting local communities;
- Regulate the future flow of immigrants by modernizing the visa system and rewriting bad trade agreements;
- Enhance access to justice and reverse the criminalization of immigrants;
- Establish parameters for independent oversight of key U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agencies.
1. Deportation and Detention
The growth of the immigrant detention/deportation machine and the expansion of border militarization has perpetuated unjust policies and resulted in the separation of hundreds of thousands of immigrant families.
- Expand DACA and DAPA – Senator Sanders will fight to expand President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) to provide broad administrative relief to the parents of DREAMers, the parents of citizens, the parents of legal permanent residents, and other immigrants who would have been given legal protections by the 2013 Senate-passed immigration bill.This would allow all undocumented people who have been in the United States for at least five years to stay in the country without fear of being deported.
Under this plan, close to nine million individuals would be able to apply for deferred action.
- Protect Immigrant Workers Exercising their Rights. We must establish a whistleblower visa for workers reporting labor violations. Administratively, Senator Sanders will fight to establish an affirmative process for these individuals to request deferred action. Many employers regularly abuse immigrant workers knowing employees will not hold them accountable for fear of deportation.
- Provide Permanent Immigration Relief to Families. Senator Sanders wishes to expand parole-in-place policies to include undocumented relatives of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents and also provide deferred action for relatives who came to the U.S. on a visa but fell out of status. Today, this policy is only available to current and aspiring service members and their families. Expanding parole-in-place would eliminate the barriers that prevent certain relatives of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents from obtaining lawful permanent resident status (or a “green card”) under federal law.
- Decouple Local Law Enforcement from Immigration Enforcement. In too many instances, deportation programs like the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), the 287(g) program, and the Criminal Alien Program have unjustly turned local law enforcement officials into immigration officers. Racial profiling and the criminalization of communities of color form the foundation of these deportation programs which will be eliminated under a Sanders Administration. Senator Sanders will fight to implement the recommendations of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing to “decouple federal immigration enforcement from routine local policing.”
- Employ Humanitarian Parole to Reunite Families. We must expand the use of humanitarian parole to ensure the return of unjustly deported immigrants. The United States must do the right thing and guarantee the swiftest possible reunification of these broken families.
- Promote Cooperation Between Immigrants and Local Law Enforcement. Senator Sanders wholeheartedly rejects the “The Great Sanctuary City Slander” as the politics of fear, and supports enacting community trust policies. These policies will strengthen relationships between community members and local law enforcement, respect the constitutional rights of immigrants, and reflect the will of a locally elected electorate.
- Expand Access to Counsel for Immigrants. Based on the constitutionally enshrined principle of habeas corpus, Senator Sanders will fight to increase access to legal counsel for detained immigrants. This expansion is critical in light of instances where ICE coerced large numbers of immigrants to sign their own deportation order. Senator Sanders will vigorously push to implement the protection against coerced or “unwitting deportation” established as part of Padilla v Kentucky (2010).
- Properly Fund Our Nation’s Immigration Courts. To ensure that our immigration system respects constitutional protections, Senator Sanders will work to provide additional funding and immigration judges to the Executive Office for Immigration Review and restore discretion to judges and allow them to consider the unique circumstances of an individual’s case.
- Close Loopholes that Allow Racial Profiling by Federal Authorities. Senator Sanders will fight to end racial profiling. Immigrants should never face deportation as a result of racial or ethnic profiling. Senator Sanders will work to revise the U.S. Department of Justice’s Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies. Under the current guidance, the Department of Justice carved out significant exceptions for federal law enforcement agencies like the FBI, TSA and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to profile racial, religious, and other minorities at or in the vicinity of the border. Furthermore, the Guidance does not apply to most state and local law enforcement agencies.
- End For-Profit Detention. We must fight to end federal, state and municipal contracts with for-profit private prisons within two years. Termination of these contracts will eliminate the incentive for the private prison industry to support punitive, over-inclusive laws that lead to the detention of 34,000 immigrants on any given day. It is essential that Congress enact the Justice is Not for Sale Act, which would reinstate a federal parole program that will include immigrants.
- End Family Detention. We must end family detention. He will work to ensure that detention centers do not hold families and adhere to the letter and spirit of the Flores Order. The detention of families, most of which come to our country seeking protection under our laws, is an affront to the values our nation was founded upon.
- Propose Budgets with Smart, Targeted Enforcement. Congress must defund the detention bed quota. Detention should be based on actual need and not arbitrary numbers set by Congress. At the other end of the deportation pipeline, Senator Sanders will also work to defund the Department of Justice’s State Criminal Alien Assistance Program.
- Make Detention Practices Accountable. In the narrow, rare circumstances where detention may continue, Senator Sanders will push to improve conditions inside detention facilities, especially for vulnerable populations including pregnant women, LGBT individuals, and detainees with disabilities. Moreover, Senator Sanders knows we must immediately address the racial bias on display in the disproportionate detention of Mexican nationals. This deplorable reality bears witness to bias displayed at both the arrest stage and then again when making custody determinations.
- Alternatives to Detention. We must promote alternatives to detention, which can cost as little as 70 cents a day. The use of these substitutes to detention would allow thousands of non-violent immigrant detainees to reunite with their families as they wait for their day in court.
- Guarantee Due Process and Bond Hearings. Senator Sanders will fight to ensure that immigrants have their day in court, including bond hearings and access to due process protections.
2. Eleven Million New Americans
It is critical that we make a path to citizenship for the undocumented population the building block of a new humane immigration system and not as a pretext to ramp up enforcement that separates families. Recognizing the difficult path to legislate a comprehensive solution to our nation’s outdated immigration system, Senator Sanders will lead a political revolution that mobilizes millions of Americans, particularly Latinos and immigrants, to ensure that Congress acts on what the majority of Americans demand – a comprehensive and humane immigration reform policy.
- Establish Broad Eligibility for Relief. Senator Sanders will work to ensure that the roadmap to citizenship is inclusive, particularly for women and does not contain arbitrary cut off eligibility dates and application periods. Such dates risk excluding hundreds of thousands of people that have arrived in the United States “too late” but have become part of the American fabric. Moreover, in light of our nation’s deep-rooted belief in rehabilitation and acknowledgement of the criminalization of communities of color, the roadmap to citizenship must allow non-violent individuals with prior contacts with our criminal justice system to apply for relief. For example, non-violent immigration-related offenses should not automatically disqualify a worker or their family from obtaining immigration relief. Old convictions like those that led to the deportation of an Iowa City pastor, should not disqualify individuals from the roadmap to citizenship.
- Establish a Reasonable and Fair Wait for Citizenship. Future legislation must contain a roadmap to citizenship that allows aspiring Americans to become lawful permanent residents and become citizens within five years. The registered provisional immigrant status in the 2013 Senate immigration bill was a compromise that delayed eligibility for citizenship and created additional, unnecessary bureaucracy.
- Minimize Financial Penalties and Fees. As DACA has demonstrated, monetary costs often represents the greatest obstacle for eligible individuals to come forward and apply for immigration relief. Immigrants will already have to pay thousands of dollars in regular administrative fees to apply for permanent administrative relief. Future immigration reform should not add onerous fines on top of those administrative fees. Consequently, Senator Sanders will work to ensure that the financial penalties in a roadmap to citizenship are fair.
- End the Three-Year, Ten-Year, and Permanent Bars. Senator Sanders will work to end the lengthy, forced and prolonged exit from the country that many immigrants endure when trying to leave the country to adjust their status by rescinding the three-year, ten-year and permanent bars.
- Provide Expansive Relief to DREAMers. Future legislation must immediately declare DREAMers eligible to serve in the uniformed services, receive financial aid, and become eligible for in-state tuition if they meet a state’s residency requirements. Additionally, future immigration reform should provide expeditious citizenship to DREAMers.
3. Border Security and Militarization
Senator Sanders believes that we can ensure that our borders are modern and secure. Indeed, we must continually modernize our border security measures and maintain security, all while protecting the rights and needs of our border communities. Border communities have much to offer the nation economically and culturally, but these contributions have been stunted or overshadowed by a negligent buildup of border enforcement. Communities along our border, particularly along the southern border, have become militarized and are being patrolled by a highly weaponized Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP).
- A 21st Century Border Must Use Resources Efficiently and Effectively. Appropriations must be re-directed away from boondoggle walls to high grade cameras, thermal imaging, movement sensors and other technologies. More resources must also be allocated to CBP training and oversight, and to rebuild crumbling infrastructure along the border region. Senator Sanders will work to ensure that the CBP is a highly functioning law enforcement body.
- Reject Piecemeal Border Enforcement. Senator Sanders rejects the argument that the border must be further militarized before the implementation of a roadmap to citizenship. We must remove the insecurity that border communities face as we modernize and make our border security operations more efficient.
- Reduce Border Deaths. Senator Sanders will work to reduce the unacceptable and inhumane number of deaths on the border. One practice that has no place in a humane immigration system is the use of remote deportations. Dumping someone in an unfamiliar location can be lethal as the State Department has recognized that parts of Mexico are run by “organized criminal groups.”
- End Operation Streamline and Barriers to Asylum. Senator Sanders will fight to end Operation Streamline and remove the barriers established in 1996 that prevent those removed under Expedited Removal from applying for asylum.
- Implement the “Best Interests of the Child” Standard. It is imperative that a “best interests of child” standard is used in all decision-making and implement child welfare screenings that are conducted by CBP officers along with child welfare experts. In addition, Senator Sanders knows we must ensure that all children at our borders will be provided procedural protections by providing counsel, and legal orientation programs in the child’s native language.
- Turn Back the Militarization of the Southern Border. The militarization of the border has reached new heights. Senator Sanders will work to ensure that we have a modern, secure, efficient border, avoiding the militarization of our border communities.
- Hold CBP Accountable. Professionalism, accountability, and transparency at the CBP must be a central agency mission. Senator Sanders will require CBP agents to wear body cameras, make complaints public, expand training, and hold agents accountable for excessive force just like any other law enforcement agency. In addition, Senator Sanders will advance legislation supported by a bi-partisan coalition of border communities and leaders aimed at improving training, increasing accountability, and ensuring the input and consultation of border community residents. The number of deaths of civilians, including numerous U.S. citizens, by CBP are unacceptable. The CBP internal affairs office must be fully funded and staffed. Steps taken by the CBP surrounding excessive force on the southern border must be expanded and we must eliminate racial profiling, violence and prolonged detention.
- End the “Constitution Free” Zone. Senator Sanders will ensure that border security resources are invested where needed. In order to set the tone for a more efficient and humane immigration policy, Senator Sanders will fight to update antiquated federal regulations that define the border region for certain purposes as extending 100 miles from the actual border and direct those resources where they are most needed. For example, we must conduct an immediate review of the nearly 170 Border Patrol checkpoints in the interior of the U.S. and redirect resources where most needed.
4. FUTURE FLOW OF IMMIGRANTS
A humane immigration system must honestly look at creating viable, legal channels that match our labor market needs. We must seriously reassess our foreign and international trade policies in light of the effects they have on migration and U.S. workers. A failure to do so will contribute to future flows that even the best-designed system will have extreme difficulty in addressing.
- Keep Families Together. A humane immigration system must, at its core, recognize that family is integral to a worker’s pursuit of happiness and economic productivity. Additionally, family members are often either workers themselves or, in the case of children, future workers. The preservation of family-based visas is at the center of a more humane, reformed immigration system which recognizes that workers with families nearby are healthier and that their families, particularly children, benefit immensely. Prioritizing the unity of families is a time-tested American value.
- Protect Women from Discrimination. Senator Sanders rejects the so-called “merit-based” “social engineering” immigration policies that discriminate against women. In addition to upholding the family-based visa system, he will work to ensure that mothers, sisters and wives who come into the United States with their families have the same right to work as their male relatives while enhancing protections for survivors of gender-based violence and human trafficking.
- Strengthen and Expand Our Support for Refugees. In light of the Syrian refugee crisis, it is essential we continue to welcome refugees to the US and meet our international responsibilities. When hundreds of thousands of people have lost everything and have nothing left but the shirts on their backs, we should not turn our backs on refugees escaping violence, whether it be Syrians in the Middle East or young children in Latin America. We need to continue our efforts to provide refugees fleeing violence with the opportunity for a new life, and explore additional ways to address the humanitarian crisis.
- End the Economic Exploitation of Immigrant Workers. The visa system must be fundamentally reformed to prevent employers from abusing and exploiting guest workers, especially in the context of H-2B, H1-B, and J-1 workers. Binding workers to a specific employer or not allowing their family members to work creates a situation rife for abuse and exacerbates an already unequal relationship between the employer and the employee. We must substantially increase prevailing wages that employers pay temporary guest workers. To build on Senator Sanders’ previous legislation, Senator Sanders will ensure that if there is a true labor shortage, employers must offer higher, not lower wages.
- Protect and Expand the Legal Rights of Immigrant Workers. Regardless of status, immigrant workers should not fear holding employers accountable for exploitation. Senator Sanders will work with Congress to authorize and substantially increase funding for the Legal Services Corporation to provide legal representation to guest workers exploited by employers. Moreover, Senator Sanders will work toward requiring employers to reimburse guest workers for housing, transportation expenses, and workers’ compensation.
- Operate Smart and Fair Employment Verification. The regime of employer sanctions enacted through President Reagan’s immigration reform legislation has morphed from the terror of workplace raids to the “silent raids” of I-9 audits. In both scenarios, workers usually lose out in the end, particularly when employers turn over their employees to ICE during labor disputes. An electronic verification system like E-Verify should protect workers’ due process rights, and contain the strongest possible protections against abuse.
- Reduce Health Care Costs. Senator Sanders strongly believes that all immigrants, including undocumented workers and their families, must be able to purchase health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) marketplace exchanges. Aspiring Americans represent a large portion of the remaining uninsured and allowing these Americans to purchase health insurance with their own money is critical to reducing health care costs and moving forward with universal health care coverage. Moreover, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services must promulgate regulations that restore access to the ACA for all immigrants with deferred action, including DACA and DAPA recipients, by classifying them as “lawfully present.”
- Defend the Diversity Visa from Attacks. Humane immigration reform must protect and expand the diversity visa. Too often, Congress seeks to end the Diversity Visa program on the grounds that immigration is a zero-sum game. The Diversity Visa program is an enormous and inexpensive source of goodwill, affords potential immigrants with no family ties an opportunity to join our great nation, and is particularly important to African immigrants.
- Ensure Access to Asylum for Persecuted Immigrants. We must fight for the Attorney General to replicate former Attorney General Janet Reno’s efforts to help extend asylum to victims of domestic violence and by classifying unaccompanied minors coming from Latin American and victims of criminal gang activity as distinct groups of people fleeing persecution. This classification will reduce the barriers for these groups to successfully apply for and receive asylum. Additionally, Senator Sanders knows we must restore the credible fear of persecution standard to its pre-2014 level, allowing more people to present their claims to an immigration judge instead of being summarily deported. The DHS must screen arriving immigrants, especially juveniles and families, for humanitarian and immigration relief.
5. Balanced Trade Agreements
Inequality across the world is universally acknowledged as the driving force behind migration. This inequality does not develop organically and the United States must be introspective about its role. For example, the ill-conceived NAFTA, devastated local economies and pushed millions to migrate.
- Establish Fair and Equitable Trade Policies. Senator Sanders will fight to rewrite our trade policies to end the race to the bottom and work to lift the living standard of Americans and workers throughout the world. Not only have our trade policies with Mexico, Central America, and China led to the loss of millions of decent-paying jobs and thousands of factories, but they have led to destitution for local communities around the world. Accordingly, our nation must level the playing field for workers everywhere. Those who wish to remain in their home country should be able to earn livable wages and not migrate for economic survival. Furthermore, Sanders will work tirelessly to build an international coalition to fight global poverty and address crises to humanely manage migration patterns. Multi-faceted policies that look beyond our borders are critical to addressing the root causes of migration and economic inequality.
6. IMMIGRANT INTEGRATION
Integration into the great American mosaic is extremely important. Yet our immigrant integration policies, often not a priority in our national discourse, gravitate towards forced assimilation and, even as our society became more inclusive, provided little support, guidance, or even a welcome path to becoming an American.
- Fully Fund and Prioritize Immigrant Integration. Senator Sanders recognizes that integration is a two-way process that benefits newcomers and Americans alike. Helping immigrants become part of our ever-changing national fabric is essential to a true national security policy, one where aspiring Americans deeply believe in the values of our nation. Senator Sanders will call for greater investment in immigrant integration as the returns on modest investments are often substantial, both culturally and economically.
- Expand Access to Naturalization. There are approximately nine million lawful permanent residents who are eligible to naturalize and become citizens but do not due to financial obstacles. As such, it is well past time to for Congress to appropriate resources to strengthen the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) budget and to reduce application fees. High fees for immigration benefits, especially naturalization, act as a deterrent for aspiring Americans to embrace U.S. citizenship and are not in keeping with the American immigrant tradition.
- Connect Integration with Educational Programs. Immigrant integration occurs in our schools, our workplaces, and in the community at large. Senator Sanders’ policies to make public colleges and universities tuition free, raise the minimum wage, expand Social Security, and make it easier for workers to form unions will benefit all Americans, regardless of immigration status. In addition, Senator Sanders will foster increased access to English as a Second Language instruction, and early learning programs for children.