Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has taken the nation by storm, attracting millions of supporters with promises to reform the education and financial sectors. In his bid for the Democratic ticket for the White House, the Vermont senator also is assuring followers he’ll provide a “fair and humane” immigration policy if elected, and has declared, “I am the son of an immigrant myself. Their story, my story, our story is a story of America.”
Sanders’ policy, particularly concerning undocumented immigrants, builds in part upon the efforts of the current administration on this issue, and puts “the sanctity of families at the forefront” while being “grounded in civil, human, and labor rights.” At the National Association of Latino Elected Officials conference in Las Vegas in June, the candidate said he’ll “push for immigration reform and go even further than President Barack Obama in expanding deportation relief… It is time for this disgraceful situation to end.”
Immigration Reform Under Sanders
Sanders’ plan for immigration reform includes goals such as shutting down inhumane deportation programs and centers, crafting a pathway to citizenship for roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country, protecting the border in a way that respects neighboring communities, updating the visa system, allowing access to health insurance to all immigrants, and welcoming refugees to our shores while finding additional ways to confront the crisis in Syria. Some of these proposals are detailed below.
On deportation, Sanders promises to grant relief to the parents of U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, Dreamers, or undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, and others, expanding President Obama’s DACA and DAPA programs. This move would affect nearly nine million people currently in the country, and would guarantee them at least five years more in the United States.
The Democratic Socialist is also fighting to help undocumented workers who are mistreated by employers by proposing whistle blower visas to those who report abuses. On his website, Sanders writes, “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.” These visas would afford those affected the ability to speak out without fear of deportation.
On detention policies, Sanders has proposed an end to family detention and for-profit private prisons, and a guarantee of due process for detained immigrants, among other things.
Pathway to Citizenship
At the NALEO conference, Sanders cited the need for a pathway to citizenship for 11 million people in the country illegally. “We cannot allow a continuation of this ridiculous idea that suddenly we are going to throw millions of people out of this country. That is wrong and that type of discussion must end now,” he said.
To this end, he has said he’ll lead a “political revolution” to provide an inclusive process for this transition to occur, ending what he calls arbitrary cut off dates and application periods, and providing a reasonable wait time for citizenship, as well as minimizing potential penalties and fees required to stay in the country.
Sanders is calling for an end to ideas like “boondoggle walls” and “high grade cameras;” instead, he’d like to see more training and accountability for Customs & Border Patrol agents, and a focus on repairing the infrastructure in communities surrounding the southern border — modernizing and “demilitarizing” them. He also wants those who attempt to cross the border to be treated more humanely, openly criticizing the number of deaths that occur each year, and asking especially for the best interests of children to be considered.
Sanders believes the visa system needs real reform, especially for H-2B visas, H-1B visas, and J-1 visas. He supports raising wages for guest workers, and improving their qualify of life by permitting spouses to work and not tying workers down to specific employers. Moreover, he hopes to partner with Congress to pass legislation that protects the legal rights of guest workers, as he says “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,” and to keep in place the Diversity Visa program, an annual lottery program that grants lawful permanent residency.
The candidate also rejects the call for “merit-based” visas, opting instead for a continuation of our family-based visa system, albeit one that is part of a “more humane, reformed immigration system.”
As Syrian refugees continue to flee the war-torn nation, Sanders is pushing a policy that would welcome people from that country and elsewhere. Despite the threat of terrorism and calls from other candidates to shut the borders to Syrian refugees, at a campaign rally in Cleveland, Sanders urged Americans not to ignore those in need, saying, “We will not turn our backs on the refugees who are fleeing Syria and Afghanistan. We will do what we do best and that is be Americans — fighting racism, fighting xenophobia, fighting fear.”
Affordable Care Act
While the Affordable Care Act is currently not available to undocumented immigrants, Sanders believes all individuals should be able to purchase coverage through this program, an action that he says will help reduce healthcare costs to the overall system, and will bring us a step closer to universal health coverage, a proposition the candidate strongly endorses.
Contact KPPB Law For Professional Legal Assistance
To learn more about U.S. visas and the immigration process, and to take advantage of our array of immigration services, please contact KPPB Law online or call directly at (703) 594-4040 today.
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