Bernie believes we must stand up for our values and accept refugees, asylum-seekers, and families who come to the United States in search of the American Dream.
- Institute a moratorium on deportations until a thorough audit of past practices and policies is complete.
- Reinstate and expand DACA and develop a humane policy for those seeking asylum.
- Completely reshape and reform our immigration enforcement system, including breaking up ICE and CBP and redistributing their functions to their proper authorities.
- Dismantle cruel and inhumane deportation programs and detention centers and reunite families who have been separated.
- Live up to our ideals as a nation and welcome refugees and those seeking asylum, including those displaced by climate change.
This country is a nation of immigrants. Other than the native peoples of the Americas, every one of our families came here from somewhere else. Some came by choice, some by necessity, and others in chains. As we have developed as a nation, each of us has contributed to the growth and prosperity of America in our own way. And our nation has been most successful and most true to its ideals when that prosperity has been shared among all of us. In many ways, that is what this campaign is about: building a movement to create an America where everyone shares in the prosperity that they and their ancestors helped create.
To Bernie, immigration is personal. Bernie’s father came to the United States at age 17 with no money and knowing almost no English. He didn’t have much of an education and no real skills. But he built a life for himself and his family through determination and hard work. Millions of immigrant families in the United States today are doing the exact same thing. That is the story of Bernie’s family and that is the story of America. We have welcomed those who seek the American dream, build our communities and strengthen our economy. More importantly, we have served as a place of refuge and beacon of hope for those fleeing persecution and danger in their native countries, leading the world by example.
We now have a President who is a racist, a xenophobe, and a demagogue. He has tried, as all demagogues do, to divide us by demonizing immigrants and blaming them for society’s problems. He has used hateful and disgusting rhetoric to try to dehumanize an entire group of people, and he has used the power of the federal government to mistreat and terrorize immigrants at the border and in our communities. We must stand together with our immigrant friends and neighbors and stand up to President Trump’s xenophobic words and actions.
The Trump administration’s treatment of immigration exclusively as a criminal and national security matter is inhumane, impractical, and must end. As president, Bernie Sanders would treat border crossings as a civil matter, and fundamentally reform the government agencies tasked with enforcing immigration law to ensure our immigration agencies and officers are serving a humanitarian mission, not a law enforcement one.
Bernie supports a family-based immigration system grounded in civil and human rights. Bernie believes we must stand up for our values and accept refugees, asylum-seekers, and families who come to the United States in search of the American Dream. This is how America was built and it has made our country strong.
As president, Bernie will reverse the actions President Trump has taken to harm our immigrant communities. Bernie will come together and stand in solidarity with our immigrant neighbors, friends, classmates, and colleagues and create an America that works for all. And he will reject the hate and divisiveness spewed by some and ensure America is a welcoming and safe nation for all. Bernie believes that love will conquer hate.
For decades, presidents and candidates from both parties have promised to enact comprehensive immigration reform. While Bernie will pursue necessary legislative reforms to our immigration system, he will not accept delays from Congress, and will not trade limitless and unaccountable funding for border militarization, detention beds, and deportation forces for a deal that has yet to materialize. Bernie will use the constitutional authority vested in the president to take bold and necessary executive action if Congress fails to enact the commonsense immigration reforms supported by the vast majority of Americans.
Bernie will overturn all of President Trump’s actions to demonize and harm immigrants on the first day of his presidency. There is a humanitarian crisis at the border — one that Trump has manufactured. Bernie will end the barbaric practice of ripping children from their parents and locking children in cages, thoroughly audit and close detention centers, and work to undo the damage President Trump has done to our immigrant community and our national character.
Bernie also knows that no parent would take their child and travel thousands of miles on foot except under dire, dangerous circumstances. Decades of disastrous foreign policy decisions in Latin America and bad trade deals have caused destabilization and poverty in South and Central America. We must end global inequality and the international race to the bottom so that no human being needs to migrate for survival. That’s why he will immediately call a summit of leaders from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, and other countries to address the root causes of migration.
As president, Bernie will:
- Put a moratorium on deportations until a thorough audit of current and past practices and policies is complete.
- Stop all construction of the racist and ineffective wall on the U.S.-Mexico Border and instead rely on cost-effective and innovative methods to counter the real threats of drug importation and human trafficking, not manufactured ones targeting the most vulnerable.
- Overturn President Trump’s racist and disgusting Muslim ban.
- Work with Congress to codify limitations on the President’s ability to restrict or suspend the entry of people or classes of people into the United States by passing the National Origin-Based Antidiscrimination for Nonimmigrants (NO BAN) Act.
- Instruct DOJ to drop any litigation or funding restrictions relating to sanctuary cities.
- End President Trump’s “Remain in Mexico,” metering, and “Safe Third Country” policies and allow asylum seekers to make their claims in the United States, to qualified asylum officials, pursuant to international law.
- Reverse President Trump’s attempts to end Temporary Protected Status agreements and extend TPS designations until a permanent solution is reached.
- End President Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy and Operation Streamline, returning to the long-time standard of handling border crossings through civil proceedings.
- End for-profit detention and connect detainees with sponsors and supports.
- Reverse DOJ guidance to deny asylum claims on the basis of fleeing domestic or gang violence, including those targeted for their sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Rescind any proposed rules that deny public housing to families with an undocumented member.
- Rescind President Trump’s so-called “public charge” rule to ensure our system does not discriminate on the basis of income or disability and that immigrants do not have to fear endangering their immigration status in order to access basic supports and services.
- Ensure all children who were separated from their families by the United States government are reunited swiftly.
- Convene a hemispheric summit with the leaders of Latin American countries who are experiencing migration crises and develop actionable steps to stabilize the region.
Expanding on DACA and DAPA
Bernie supported President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). He will expand and fully implement these programs to provide security and stability to these families, using his full executive authority to provide relief for parents and caregivers of citizens and lawful permanent residents. He will go further, ensuring that the 85 percent of those undocumented immigrants who have lived, worked, and contributed in America for five or more years can live their life without fear of deportation. Bernie will use every executive tool available to remove barriers to legal permanent residence and naturalization for as many as possible, even if he has to sign every form by hand.
As president, Bernie will:
- Immediately reinstate DACA for 1.8 million young people currently eligible for the program, and provide administrative relief to their parents, those with Temporary Protected Status, and parents of legal permanent residents.
- Expand DACA to all those who came to the United States under the age of 18 and remove arbitrary cut off dates.
- Use executive authority to allow undocumented immigrants who have resided in the United States for five or more years to remain free from threat of deportation.
- Use advance parole to reunite families that have been ripped apart by deportation policies and provide for and return unjustly deported servicemembers.
- Expand parole in place to the families and caregivers of citizens and legal permanent residents and employed workers, and use hardship waivers and lower burdensome fees to remove barriers to green cards and citizenship for as many eligible cases as possible.
- Use the newly created independent clemency board in the White House to remove barriers to status adjustment such as old or low-level contacts with the criminal justice system, and unlawful presence.
A Swift, Fair Pathway to Citizenship
Our undocumented friends and neighbors have always been part of the fabric of this nation. They are in our communities, in our schools, working in our stores, homes, and fields, and striving to make a better life for themselves and their families. The American people overwhelmingly support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented individuals living in the United States. They believe that immigrants make this country stronger and contribute to the economy. Bernie believes that it is not a radical idea to enact the will of the people when in office. He will push Congress, immediately, to provide a legislative path to citizenship to bring 11 million people out of the shadows to make our communities safer, our economy stronger, and live up to the ideals of our nation. Bernie has met undocumented young people across the country who have told him the terror they live with every day, not knowing whether they are safe walking home from school, or whether their loved ones will be home when they return. Bernie will end this fear and uncertainty in the undocumented community.
As president, Bernie will:
- Push Congress to enact a swift, fair pathway to citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants currently living, working, and contributing in America today.
- Ensure the path to citizenship is broad, inclusive, and minimizes financial burdens.
- Establish a path to legal permanent status and citizenship within five years.
- Ensure that old or low-level contacts with the criminal justice system, such as marijuana possession, do not automatically prevent undocumented immigrants from attaining citizenship.
- Prioritize expedited citizenship for undocumented youth.
- Ensure any path to citizenship does not come with a reduction in traditional, family-based visas.
Decriminalize Immigration and Demilitarize Our Border
Bernie believes that no human being is illegal. Unauthorized presence in the United States is a civil, not a criminal, offense, but President Trump and others before him have used a racist, outdated United States law that criminalizes border crossings to separate families and incarcerate immigrants fleeing violence and poverty. Punitive policies have been justified as a deterrent to migration, but in addition to being morally wrong, there is no evidence that these policies have served this purpose. The criminalization of immigrants has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars, dehumanized vulnerable migrants, and swelled already-overcrowded jails and prisons. Decades of unaccountable funding for militarizing our border has created a dangerous situation that has led to thousands of deaths along the border and at least seven children have died in the custody of the United States since last year. Bernie believes this is unacceptable.
By criminalizing immigration, we have worsened the effects of mass incarceration and racial disparities in our broken criminal justice system. Black immigrants make up 5 percent of the undocumented population but account for 20 percent of those facing removal on criminal grounds. Tying local law enforcement to immigration enforcement perpetuates racial biases in policing, where black and brown people are stopped, harassed, and arrested at higher rates than white people. We must decouple local law enforcement and immigration, leaving the proper authorities to carry out their respective missions.
As president, Bernie will:
- Repeal 8 U.S. Code Section 1325, putting border crossings on par with other forms of immigration violations, such as overstaying a visa.
- End the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), the 287(g) program, Secure Communities, the Criminal Alien Program and other programs that turn local law enforcement into immigration officers.
- Repeal the 1996 immigration laws.
- Repeal three- and ten-year bars.
- End permanent deportation.
- End expedited removal.
- End mandatory detention.
- Restore case by case discretion for immigration judges.
- Restore the definition of “aggravated felony” to its initial intent, violent crimes and serious drug trafficking.
- End the “Constitution-free zone” within 100 miles of the border.
A Border Policy and Adjudication Process Rooted in Human and Civil Rights
Our border policy and immigration court system is badly broken. There are currently almost 1 million pending court cases straining a system already stretched to breaking by the shortage of immigration judges, who are forced to handle complex and sensitive cases as quickly as possible to meet sky-high quotas. Children as young as three years old have absurdly been forced to defend themselves in court in front of judges. Often, immigrants never receive notice of their hearings, or notices come only in English, and are sometimes marked as absent for hearings that never physically took place. This is not justice. The fact is, when immigrants are given access to counsel, they attend hearings at a rate of nearly 100 percent. We will exercise due process at the border and establish a humane and fair review process for asylum claims.
Bernie believes it is reprehensible that corporations are making a profit from locking children and their families in cages and will immediately close for-profit and private detention centers. Community-based alternatives to detention are more effective, less expensive, and more humane. Bernie will partner with nonprofit organizations to authorize and greatly expand these programs and end detention for nearly all immigrants, with rare exceptions for flight risks or extenuating circumstances. For any shelters necessary, such as those legally required to house unaccompanied minors until they are connected with family or sponsors, Bernie will implement strong quality standards.
As president, Bernie will:
- Work with Congress to pass the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act introduced by Rep. Pramila Jayapal to fundamentally reform our immigration detention system by:
- Ending contracts with private immigrant detention centers.
- Virtually eliminating immigrant detention by requiring a “presumption of release” standard for determining detention, and ensuring that a past criminal conviction cannot be the sole deciding factor in detention.
- Requiring release on recognizance or alternatives to detention for vulnerable persons — including children, pregnant individuals, LGBTQ+ individuals, people with disabilities, and asylum seekers — and caregivers.
- Authorizing and funding community-based alternatives to detention, which will connect migrants with health, legal, educational, and work resources.
- Mandating all detention facilities meet standards in line with the American Bar Association’s Civil Immigration Detention Standards.
- Mandating routine inspections and enforceable penalties for facilities not up to standards.
- Requiring immediate notification and a mandatory investigation of any deaths in custody of immigration officials.
- Creating a cause of action for migrants mistreated or harmed in custody.
- More than double funding for immigration adjudication to fully fund and staff immigration courts and eliminate the case backlog.
- Ensure justice and due process for immigrants at the border and in the interior, including the right to counsel and an end to cash bail.
- Create a $14 billion federal grant program for indigent defense, set a national minimum salary for public defenders, and set national quotas for public defenders based on population and need.
- Ensure access to translation and interpretation services throughout every stage of the legal process.
- End the use of video conferencing for immigration cases.
- End the targeting, surveillance, and prosecution of migrant justice activists as well as those providing humanitarian and legal aid at the border.
Restructure the Department of Homeland Security
Bernie voted against the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2002, a plan concocted by Senator Joe Lieberman in the wake of 9/11 that centralized disparate and distinct agencies into one bureaucratic behemoth. DHS is now the third-largest government agency and suffers from wasteful spending, bureaucratic bloat, and no clearly defined mission. Critics from across the political spectrum have documented the dysfunction and unaccountability of DHS, and President Trump has turned Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) into a renegade detention and deportation force. Immigration is not a threat to national security. It is long past time we break up the Department of Homeland Security and refocus its mission on keeping our country safe and responding effectively to emergencies.
As president, Bernie will:
- Break up ICE and CBP and redistribute their functions to their proper authorities.
- Deportation, enforcement, border and investigatory authority would return to the Department of Justice.
- Customs authority would return to the Treasury Department.
- Naturalization and citizenship authority would be given to the State Department.
- Refocus border enforcement on stemming the flow of firearms and drugs at ports of entry that have contributed to the opioid epidemic, ensuring that labor standards on the border are enforced, and stopping human trafficking.
- Ensure those handling the intake and processing of migrants are recruited and trained for a humanitarian mission, not a law enforcement mission.
- End the use of CBP’s cruel, freezing holding facilities, often referred to as “the iceboxes,” or las hieleras. These facilities are designed to intimidate and harm asylum seekers, as well as deprive them of their rights. They have no place in our immigration system and must be shut down immediately.
- Ensure religious observances, such as diet and prayer times, are respected.
- Expand Department of Justice official guidance on profiling to apply at and in the vicinity of the border to stop immigration enforcement officials from profiling on the basis of national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity, in addition to race and ethnicity.
- Ensure schools, places of worship, medical facilities, courthouses and other sensitive areas are exempted from immigration targeting and enforcement.
- End the use of DNA testing and facial recognition technology for immigration and border enforcement.
Protect and Strengthen Immigrant Labor Rights
For too long, employers have exploited undocumented immigrants and guest workers to violate labor laws, skirt the minimum wage, and maximize their own profits. Large corporations target vulnerable communities as a source of labor and use their immigration status to retaliate when workers stand up for their rights. President Trump demonizes immigrants but had no qualms with employing undocumented workers at his golf clubs and hiring guest workers at his properties. Employers have also used guest worker visa programs to exploit a captive workforce that does not have the ability to quit or change jobs.
Immigrants make up nearly three-quarters of our farmworkers, and between half and 70 percent of the workforce is undocumented. The average farmworker makes $10 an hour for backbreaking work in brutal heat, working for 10 or more hours with no overtime pay due to racist exclusions in labor law. Domestic workers – primarily immigrant women – are similarly excluded from basic labor protections and face harassment and poverty wages. Trump has raided and terrorized meat processing plants, which rely on immigrant and undocumented workforces to do dangerous and backbreaking work, while loosening safety regulations and scaling back safety inspections.
We currently spend more than eleven times as much enforcing immigration as we do enforcing labor standards. Bernie will redirect resources to ensure that immigrants are protected at the workplace and cannot be exploited or mistreated by employers, no matter the worker’s immigration status. Bernie believes that all workers deserve dignity, a living wage, and a union, and he will end these exemptions for agricultural and domestic workers and take action against all employers who mistreat workers. Enforcing strong, fair and safe labor standards benefits all workers, not just immigrant workers.
As president, Bernie will:
- Work with Congress to pass the Protecting Our Workers from Exploitation and Retaliation (POWER) Act, which would expand the U-visa to protect undocumented immigrants who report labor and workplace violations.
- Through executive authority, provide an opportunity for deferred action to undocumented immigrants who report labor violations.
- Restructure work visas to make them portable and do not trap immigrant workers at a single workplace, are self-petitioning to protect workers from unscrupulous “recruiters,” allow spouses to work, raise the prevailing wage, and include a pathway to citizenship for those seasonal workers who wish to pursue it.
- Withhold federal contracts for employers found exploiting guest workers.
- End workplace raids and shift the focus of enforcement from workers to employers who mistreat their workforce.
- Strengthen labor protections for farmworkers, domestic workers, gig economy workers and other historically under-regulated industries that rely heavily on immigrant and undocumented workforces.
- Protect farmworkers.
- Require at least a $15 minimum wage and overtime pay for agricultural workers and remove farmworker exemptions from the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act.
- Direct OSHA and the EPA to create and enforce heat stress and air quality standards to protect farmworkers from the dangerous impacts of climate change.
- Require employers to provide protective gear and respiratory equipment to farmers working in conditions affected by smoke and wildfires.
- Enact a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.
- Provide domestic workers with at least a $15 minimum wage, strong protections for collective bargaining, workers’ rights, workplace safety, and fair scheduling, regardless of immigration status, and that they have the information and tools they need to act on these rights and protections.
- Roll back Trump’s dangerous “line speed” rules and strengthen protections and oversight for line workers at poultry, beef, and pork processing plants.
- Increase funding for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and remove reporting and enforcement exemptions.
- Pass the Workplace Democracy Act, which would prevent employers from misclassifying employees as independent contractors.
- Protect farmworkers.
Fair Trade Deals and Humane Foreign Policy
Bernie not only voted against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), he led the fight against it. Supporters of 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 more than 14 million. Not surprisingly, we saw a 185 percent increase in the number of undocumented immigrants from Mexico between 1992 and 2011. NAFTA decimated small farmers in Mexico, forcing them north to provide for their families. Bernie will renegotiate a North American trade agreement that puts workers – in the United States, Mexico, and Canada – first, not multinational corporations and special interests.
Bernie will also acknowledge the history of U.S. intervention in the South and Central American region, as well as overseas, often in support of authoritarian regimes that brutally repressed their own people, and engage with human rights defenders throughout the hemisphere to promote freedom and dignity for all.
In addition to reversing Trump’s cruel and un-American refugee and immigration policies, Bernie will lead the world in addressing the most critical issue of our time: climate change. We are already seeing the effects of climate change and how it will continue to drive people from where they live. By 2050, an estimated 200 million people will be displaced by climate change. Bernie will lead the international community in combating this crisis and America will do its part to welcome those who are forced from their homes by climate change.
As president, Bernie will:
- Negotiate trade deals that strengthen, not undermine, the rights of workers in the United States and abroad, and oppose any new agreement that do not meet adequate labor standards.
- Restore and increase aid to Central and South American nations, work to strengthen human rights, and fund programs to curb corruption, political repression, violence, and poverty.
- Lift President Trump’s refugee caps and live up to our nation’s ideals and international law by welcoming those displaced from their homes.
- Create a new program to welcome migrants displaced by climate change, and set a floor of accepting at least 50,000 climate migrants in his first year in office.
Supporting and Strengthening Immigrants in America
Immigrants make our country and our society strong. Immigrants are our neighbors, friends, classmates, and coworkers. We must ensure that all the benefits and rights of being an American are available to all, regardless of where you come from. In our public schools, the children of Latino immigrants attend the most racially segregated schools. School districts that serve predominantly black and brown children receive billions less in funding than those that serve predominantly white students. Nearly a quarter of “lawfully present” immigrants are uninsured, compared to only 8 percent of whites. Bernie believes that a good public education, a good job, decent and affordable housing, a secure retirement, and good health care are fundamental rights. We must address these disparities to ensure these rights extend to all.
As president, Bernie will:
- Enact Medicare for All, which will address racial and other disparities in health care and provide comprehensive care to everyone in America, regardless of immigration status.
- Enact College for All, which will make public colleges and universities tuition and debt free to all regardless of immigration status, and provide first-generation and minority students supports and services needed to end equity gaps in higher education attainment.
- Ensure that immigrant children and their parents are free from harassment and surveillance at school, regardless of their immigration status.
- Increase access to English as a Second Language instruction.
- Build on the Strength in Diversity Act to increase, not cut, federal funding for community-driven strategies to desegregate schools.
- Triple Title I funding to ensure at-risk schools get the funding they need and end funding penalties for schools that attempt to desegregate.
- Provide year-round, free universal school meals; breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks through our school meals programs to all students regardless of immigration status, and offer incentives for sourcing food from local sources.
- Address disciplinary practices in schools that disproportionately affect Black and Brown children.
- Pass a permanent repeal of the public charge statute, so we do not penalize immigrants who at some point may need to access support programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
- Pass the Embrace Act introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to ensure immigrants get the assistance they need.
Streamline Immigration and Naturalization
Trump has not only waged a divisive campaign against immigrants at the border, but has also worked to make it harder and slower to immigrate through all channels and has made it harder for those residing in the United States to become citizens. Under Trump, USCIS has slowed their approval processes and added to the growing backlog of pending immigration applications. Bernie will reverse Trump’s posture and ensure all agencies tasked with distributing benefits and reviewing immigration applications are fully funded and staffed, and cut waiting times, costs, and bureaucratic complexities for those pursuing legal permanent residency and naturalization.
As president, Bernie will:
- Ensure customs and immigration agencies have the funding and personnel necessary to eliminate the backlog of pending applications and cut wait times for immigration applications.
- Work with Congress to provide funding to swiftly unify families stuck in pending backlogs.
- Provide necessary funding for outreach, integration, and naturalization programs.
- Protect and expand family-based visas and cut waiting times and backlogs.
- Overhaul and streamline the visa system to reduce errors and costs and eliminate burdensome fees.
- Eliminate discrimination facing LGBTQ+ families throughout immigration laws, including making sure that all children born to U.S. citizen parents have acquired citizenship. regardless of a biological relationship.
- Direct the newly created National Office of Disability Coordination to work with agencies to ensure the immigration and citizenship process is fully accessible to people with disabilities.
- This includes streamlining our visa and citizenship system and making it easier to navigate, fully accessible, and broadly inclusive.
- Ensure customs and immigration agencies make reasonable accommodations and, where necessary, disability waivers for the English and civics test broadly available and publicized for people with disabilities to access.