All three Democratic White House hopefuls have been actively courting the rapidly growing Latino community and promising to build on President Obama’s record of executive-level reforms at a time when Congress remains paralyzed on the issue of immigration.
Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley issued a far-reaching immigration plan over the summer, while Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has articulated several of the same principles in speeches and proposals on her Web site.
“Establishing an immigration policy that stops the criminalization of communities of color and keeps families together will be a top priority of my Administration,” Sanders said in an introduction to his “Families First” plan.
While promising to take executive action in the short term, Sanders also said he would work with Congress to develop a permanent pathway to citizenship for the nation's undocumented immigrants. He said "aspiring Americans" should be able to navigate the pathway within five years and without financial penalties that are too onerous.
Sanders’s plan also includes provisions to allow undocumented immigrants to purchase health insurance through the exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act; put an end to private detention centers; make it easier for immigrants to access the judicial system; and “close loopholes” that allow federal agencies to use racial and ethnic profiling at the border.
The initiatives backed by Sanders and other Democrats stand in stark contrast to the positions being pushed by the Republican presidential candidates. GOP front-runner Donald Trump has proposed deporting all 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States -- a notion Sanders calls “unjust.”
In his plan, Sanders references his own status as the son of an immigrant.
“My father came to this country from Poland without a nickel in his pocket,” the senator says. “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.”