DEMOCRATIC presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has promised to take executive action on immigration if elected in 2016 to permit undocumented immigrants who have been in the United States for at least five years to remain in the country without fear of deportation.
His plan, called “Families First,” would affect nearly 9 million individuals.
“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 in a statement on Tuesday, Nov. 24. “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 said modernizing America’s immigration system would be a top priority in a Sanders administration, which would create a path to citizenship for the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country. Under his plan, he said he would expand Obama’s executive actions – the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) programs.
“I will not stand idly by waiting around for a dysfunctional Congress to act. Instead, during the first 100 days of my administration I will take extensive action to accomplish what Congress has failed to do and build upon President Obama’s executive orders,” Sanders said in the statement.
Although Sanders vowed to take executive action in the short term, he also said he would work with Congress to create a permanent road to citizenship for America’s undocumented immigrants, who he referred to as “aspiring Americans.” He said he would seek a five-year path to citizenship for those residing in the United States illegally.
Other provisions under the senator’s plan include allowing undocumented immigrants with relief under the DREAM Act to receive financial aid and qualify for in-state tuition if they satisfy a state’s residency requirements; allow undocumented immigrants to purchase health insurance through exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act; put an end to for-profit and family detention centers; minimize financial fees and penalties associated with applying for immigration relief; make it easier for immigrants to access the judicial system; close loopholes that allow federal agencies to use racial and ethnic profiling at the border; and increase oversight of key Department of Homeland Security agencies to protect against fraud, waste and abuse.
Looking ahead, Sanders’ plan for the future flow of immigrants is focused on keeping families together, protecting women from discrimination, strengthening and expanding support for refugees, ending the economic exploitation of immigrant workers and reducing health care costs.
In his plan, Sanders also touched on his own status as the son of an immigrant.
“My father came to this country from Poland without a nickel in his pocket. Their story, my story, our story, our story is the story of America: hardworking families coming to the United States to create a brighter future for their children.”
Along with Sanders, Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley have also been prioritizing immigration in their campaigns, appealing to the party’s growing segment of Latino voters.
Conversely, Republican presidential candidate front-runner Donald Trump has proposed deporting the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in America, which Sanders said is “unjust.”
The proposal comes several days following the Obama administration filed an appeal to the Supreme Court to review its plan to shield millions of immigrants in the country illegally from deportation. n