Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on Thursday released a sweeping immigration plan that would impose a moratorium on deportations, "break up" existing immigration enforcement agencies, grant full welfare access to illegal immigrants and welcome a minimum of 50,000 “climate migrants” in the first year of a Sanders administration.
The plan effectively establishes Sanders at the far left of the immigration debate, as he aims to energize a base that helped drive his 2016 primary campaign amid competition from other liberal candidates in the field this time around.
In the plan, Sanders pledges to extend legal status to those eligible under the DACA program, as well as to grant relief for their parents. He also promises to use executive authority to allow illegal immigrants who have lived in the country for five or more years to stay “free from threat of deportation.”
On day one of a Sanders presidency, he would also place a moratorium on deportations until there was a full audit of "current and past practices and policies." He would also end the so-called Trump travel ban, as well as other Trump policies such as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), action against sanctuary cities and the public charge rule that restricts green cards to those immigrants deemed likely to rely on welfare.
Sanders then wants to provide a “pathway to citizenship” via Congress for all illegal immigrants living in America -- which he says is currently around 11 million -- and would ensure that “old or low-level contacts with the criminal justice system” do not prevent illegal immigrants from walking along that path.
As president, Sanders also would decriminalize illegal border crossings, making it a civil violation. Among a number of enforcement policies he wants to overturn or abolish, he would also end detention for those without a violent crime conviction, and also fund “community-based alternatives to detention” that gives illegal immigrants “health, legal, educational and work resources.”
He would also set up a $14 billion federal grant program for legal defense for poor immigrants, end the use of video conferencing, and ensure access to translation and interpretation services "throughout every step of the legal process."
He would also create a new program to “welcome migrants displaced by climate change” and push to accept a minimum of 50,000 “climate migrants” in his first year in office. Additionally, he wants to increase aid to Central and South American countries, fund programs to end corruption, repression and poverty, as well as lifting caps on refugees.
As for those agencies that enforce immigration law, Sanders promises to “restructure” the Department of Homeland Security.
For those immigrants, illegal or not, who are in the country, Sanders accelerates the sometimes-cautious calls by the 2020 Democratic field to include illegal immigrants in welfare programs and other government services such as health care. Under Sanders, everything is on the table for everyone in the country regardless of immigration status.
Sanders promises that both his “Medicare-for-all” and “College-for-all” plans would be available regardless of immigration status. He also wants to include free universal school meals -- breakfast, lunch, dinner (and snacks) -- regardless of immigration status.
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