By Jasper Craven, VTDigger.org
As part of a comprehensive immigration plan, Sen. Bernie Sanders says as president he will give all undocumented people who have been in the country at least five years immunity from deportation. Sanders also calls for a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
Sanders’s made the announcement on a visit to Vermont for Thanksgiving, following a campaign tour through the South.
“As we gather with our loved ones to give thanks, we should reflect on the fact that not all families will be so lucky,” Sanders said. “Millions of families are torn apart by our broken immigration policies.”
“We cannot forget about the aspiring Americans who continue to live in the shadows,” the Vermont senator added.
Sanders said he would make immigration a top priority as president and would use executive powers to grant immunity to all immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for five years or more. President Barack Obama has said he would not deport undocumented children. Hillary Clinton, Sanders’ Democratic primary opponent, has embraced Obama’s policies, offering amnesty to young immigrants. Her policy would protect 5 million immigrants currently undocumented; Sanders said his plan would protect twice as many.
“Let me be clear: I will not stand idly by waiting around for a dysfunctional Congress to act,” Sanders said. “Instead, during the first 100 days of my administration I will take extensive action to accomplish what Congress has failed to do and to build upon President Obama’s executive orders.”
The plan would also dismantle private detention centers, close loopholes that allow racial and ethnic profiling at the border and open the judicial system to immigrants, according to spokesman Michael Briggs.
Sanders said he would offer asylum and a more humane approach to Latin Americans fleeing dangerous circumstances in their countries. He also said he would ensure the southern border remains secure and enhance measures to make it so, if needed.
The Republican presidential candidates have driven the discussion on immigration, with candidate Donald Trump calling for the construction of a wall. Trump has made controversial statements about Mexicans, calling them criminals and rapists.
Sanders pointed to his family lineage as a son of Polish immigrants and said that immigrants have been a crucial part of the fabric of America.
“As the son of an immigrant, I can tell you that their story – my story, your story, our story – is the story of America,” Sanders said. “The story of hardworking families coming to the United States to create a brighter future for their kids… We have an obligation to enact policies that unite families, not tear them apart,” he added.