Bernie Sanders on Immigration

Socialist Jr Senator; previously Representative (VT-At-Large)


I do not support the Minutemen anti-immigrant vigilantes

CLINTON: In 2006, Senator Sanders supported indefinite detention for people facing deportation and stood with the Minutemen vigilantes in their ridiculous, absurd efforts to "hunt down immigrants."

Q: Did you support the Minutemen?

SANDERS: Of course not. There was a piece of legislation supported by dozens of members of the House which codified existing legislation. What the secretary is doing tonight--and has done very often--is take large pieces of legislation and take pieces out of it. No, I do not support vigilantes, and that is a horrific statement, an unfair statement to make. I [spent] my political career fighting for workers, fighting for the poorest people in this country. Madame Secretary, I will match my record against yours any day of the week.

Source: 2016 PBS Democratic primary debate in Miami , Mar 9, 2016

Base policy on uniting families, not dividing families

Immigration reform is a hot debate. It's divided the country. But I would hope that as we have that debate, we do not, as Donald Trump and others have done, resort to racism and xenophobia and bigotry. This idea of suddenly rounding up 11 million people and taking them outside of this country is a vulgar, absurd idea that I hope very few people support. At the heart of my immigration policy is to unite families, not divide families. The idea that a mother is living here and her children are on the other side of the border is wrong. I talked to a young man who was serving in the United States military and while he was serving, his wife was deported. Policies like that should not be allowed to exist.
Source: 2016 PBS Democratic primary debate in Miami , Mar 9, 2016

2007 immigration bill was a bad bill, opposed by many

With regard to that 2007 immigration bill, as you may know, LULAC, the major Hispanic organization in his country, also opposed that bill as did many other Latino organizations. You know, I think it's very hard to make the case that Ted Kennedy, Barack Obama, me, La Raza, United Farmworkers, Dolores Huerta, leaders of the Latino community, would have supported a bill that actually promoted modern slavery. That was one of the many excuses used not to vote for the 2007 bill.
Source: 2016 PBS Democratic primary debate in Miami , Mar 9, 2016

Support Obama's reforms on DAPA and DACA

I supported the 2013 immigration reform bill. We need comprehensive immigration reform, if the Congress does not do its job, as president of the United States I will use the executive powers of that office to do what has to be done, to do what President Obama did, and expand on that. I applaud President Obama for his efforts on DAPA and DACA. And I think we have got to expand those efforts.
Source: 2016 PBS Democratic primary debate in Miami , Mar 9, 2016

I support children entering for asylum from war-torn areas

CLINTON: We need to be very concerned about children coming to this country on their own. In 2006, Senator Sanders voted in the House with hard-line Republicans for indefinite detention for undocumented immigrants, and then he sided with those Republicans to stand with vigilantes known as Minute Men who were taking up outposts along the border to hunt down immigrants.

SANDERS: One of the human tragedies of recent years is children from Honduras. I said welcome those children into this country, Secretary Clinton said send them back. Honduras and that region of the world may be the most violent region in our hemisphere. Gang lords, vicious people torturing people, doing horrible things to families. Children fled that part of the world to try to meet with their family members in this country, taking a route that was horrific, trying to start a new life. Secretary Clinton did not support those children coming into this country. I did. I will not deport children from America.

Source: 2016 PBS Democratic primary debate in Miami , Mar 9, 2016

Focus policy on bringing families together, not deportation

CLINTON: We should be deporting criminals, not hardworking immigrant families who do the very best they can and are keeping economies going in many places. I'm a strong supporter of comprehensive immigration reform. I was one of the original sponsors of the DREAM Act. I voted for comprehensive immigration reform in 2007. Senator Sanders voted against it at that time.

SANDERS: In terms of 2007 immigration reform, yeah, I did vote against it. I voted against it because the Southern Poverty Law Center said that the guest-worker programs that were embedded in this agreement were akin to slavery. Akin to slavery, where people came into this country to do guest work were abused, were exploited, and if they stood up for their rights, they'd be thrown out of this country. It wasn't just me who opposed it. It was LULAC, one of the large Latino organizations in this country. It was the AFL-CIO. It was some of the most progressive members of the United States Congress.

Source: 2016 PBS Democratic debate in Wisconsin , Feb 11, 2016

2007: I voted against slavery-like guest worker programs

CLINTON: We should be deporting criminals, not hardworking immigrant families who do the very best they can and are keeping economies going in many places. I'm a strong supporter of comprehensive immigration reform. I was one of the original sponsors of the DREAM Act. I voted for comprehensive immigration reform in 2007. Senator Sanders voted against it at that time.

SANDERS: In terms of 2007 immigration reform, yeah, I did vote against it. I voted against it because the Southern Poverty Law Center said that the guest-worker programs that were embedded in this agreement were akin to slavery. Akin to slavery, where people came into this country to do guest work were abused, were exploited, and if they stood up for their rights, they'd be thrown out of this country. It wasn't just me who opposed it. It was LULAC, one of the large Latino organizations in this country. It was the AFL-CIO. It was some of the most progressive members of the United States Congress.

Source: 2016 PBS Democratic debate in Wisconsin , Feb 11, 2016

Supports path to citizenship for illegals

I am supportive of comprehensive immigration reform and a path towards citizenship for 11 million people today who are living in the shadows.
Source: MSNBC Democratic primary debate in New Hampshire , Feb 4, 2016

2007: No comprehensive reform: guest workers are semi-slaves

Q: In 2007, you voted against immigration reform. Why should Latino voters trust you now?

A: I voted against that piece of legislation because it had guest-worker provisions in it which the Southern Poverty Law Center talked about being semi-slavery. Guest workers are coming in, they're working under terrible conditions, but if they stand up for their rights, they're thrown out of the country. I was not the only progressive to vote against that legislation for that reason.

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas , Oct 13, 2015

Comprehensive reform with no border fence & no guest workers

Q: What are Bernie's views on immigration generally?

A: Bernie believes America's current immigration system is broken and requires comprehensive reform. An important aspect of immigration reform, according to Bernie, is to establish some pathway to legal residency or citizenship for the 11 million undocumented workers living in the United States so that they need not work and live in the shadows.

Q: What about the border fence?

A: While he believes that border security is important for the country, Bernie doesn't believe that a fence is the way to achieve that security.

Q: What about guest worker visas?

A: Bernie believes that our visa system must protect American jobs instead of simply allowing corporations to score cheap labor via temporary work visas.

Source: 2016 grassroots campaign website FeelTheBern.org, "Issues" , Sep 5, 2015

Secure borders without building a fence

Bernie says that we are a "nation of immigrants. That is, in fact, the strength of America." He believes the US must create an immigration system that invites greater innovation, diversity, and economic opportunity for both American-born citizens and the people who want to make this land their home. Bernie supports immigration reform that will address the legal status of the 11 million undocumented people in our country, protect American jobs by way of visa reform, secure the border, and protect undocumented workers from labor exploitation.
Source: 2016 grassroots campaign website FeelTheBern.org, "Issues" , Sep 5, 2015

Open borders for guest workers pushes down U.S. worker wages

Q: You said being a democratic socialist means a more international view. Does that include raising the level of immigration to a level of open borders?

A: Open borders? No, that's a Koch brothers proposal.

Q: Really?

A: Of course. That's a right- wing proposal, which says essentially there is no United States.

Q: But it would make a lot of global poor richer, wouldn't it?

A: It would make everybody in America poorer --you're doing away with the concept of a nation state, and I don't think there's any country in the world that believes in that. If you believe in a country called the United States or any other country, you have an obligation to do everything we can to help poor people. What right-wing people in this country would love is an open-border policy. Bring in all kinds of people, work for $2 or $3 an hour, that would be great for them. I don't believe in that. I think we have to raise wages in this country, I think we have to do everything we can to create millions of jobs.

Source: Vox.com 2015 coverage of 2016 presidential hopefuls , Jul 28, 2015

Since NAFTA, Mexican undocumented immigration up 185%

Since the implementation of NAFTA, the number of Mexicans living below the poverty line has increased by over 14 million people. Almost 2 million small famers have been displaced. And in the twenty years since NAFTA growth in per capita GDP has been only half of that experienced by other Latin American nations. Not surprisingly we have seen a 185 percent increase in the number of undocumented immigrants from Mexico from 1992 to 2011.

We as a nation have got to realize the importance of dealing not just with the issue of immigration but with the very real refugee crisis we face.

Source: The Essential Bernie Sanders, by Jonathan Tasini, p. 98 , Jun 29, 2015

Disgraceful to shunt our workers into the shadows

It is no great secret that undocumented workers perform a critical role in our economy. Undocumented workers build many of our homes, cook our meals, maintain our landscapes. We even entrust undocumented workers with that which we hold most dear--our children.

Despite the central role they play in our economy and in our daily lives, undocumented workers are reviled by many for political gain and shunted into the shadows. It is time for this disgraceful situation to end. It is time to end the politics of division on this country, of politicians playing one group of people against another: white against black, male against female, straight against gay, native born against immigrant.

That is why I supported the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform legislation. We cannot and we should not even be talking about sweeping up millions of men, women, and children--many of whom have been here for years--and throwing them out of the country. That's wrong and that type of discussion has got to end.

Source: The Essential Bernie Sanders, by Jonathan Tasini, p. 95-6 , Jun 19, 2015

Offer path to citizenship; waive deportation for DREAMers

On immigration: Offer path to citizenship. Waive some deportations now.

Sanders generally agrees with President Obama that most of the undocumented immigrants in the country now should be given a path to citizenship. He voted for the senate immigration bill in 2013, which would have increased border security and issued a provisional immigrant status to millions of undocumented residents once some significant security metrics had been met. In addition, Sanders has supported President Obama's use of executive orders to waive deportation for some groups of immigrants, including those who were brought to the United States as children.

Source: PBS News Hour "2016 Candidate Stands" series , Apr 30, 2015

Climate change lays groundwork for mass migration

Scientists are not the only people warning us about the danger of climate change. Hear what the Department of Defense has to say about the impact of climate change on international and national security. What they point out--and I think what every sensible person understands--is that when people are unable to grow the food they need because of drought, when flood destroys their homes, when people throughout the world are forced to struggle for limited natural resources in order to survive, this lays the groundwork for the migration of people and international conflict. That is what the Department of Defense tells us.
Source: The Essential Bernie Sanders, by Jonathan Tasini, p. 35 , Oct 17, 2013

Immigrant labor should be treated as valuable, but are not

Negative aspects of 21st century farming: water and air pollution, the hazards of industrial agriculture (farms in California or Idaho or New Mexico can exceed 10,00 cows), and milk that is perhaps not as healthful as that obtained from pasture-grazed animals. The labor situation on dairy farms, which are more and more dependent on immigrant labor from Mexico and Central America. Some of these immigrants are treated as the valuable laborers they are; others, unfortunately and tragically, are not.
Source: Sanders Intro to `Milk Money`, by Kirk Kardashian, p. ix-x , Oct 9, 2012

English-Only, based in xenophobia, hurts legal immigrants

As in other countries with economic problems, xenophobia is intensifying. The issue for some can be summarized by the writing I recently saw on a t-shirt: "If you can't speak English, get the f--k out of the US."

The "English Only" bill mandates that all official communication by the federal government be in English. This means that members of Congress from a heavily Hispanic or Polish district, for instance, would be prohibited from communicating with their constituents in Spanish or Polish. Election, tax, and other information needed by millions of citizens would be available only in English. President Clinton indicates that he will veto this legislation, and the bill will not go anywhere--not even to the Senate. But it passes in the House by a vote of 259 to 169. 8 Republicans, 160 Democrats, and I vote against the bill.

Source: Outsider in the House, by Bernie Sanders, p.136 , Jun 17, 1997

Voted YES on continuing federal funds for declared "sanctuary cities".

CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: To create a reserve fund to ensure that Federal assistance does not go to sanctuary cities that ignore the immigration laws of the United States and create safe havens for illegal aliens and potential terrorists. This vote is a motion to table the amendment; voting YES would kill the amendment.

SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO ON TABLING MOTION:Sen. VITTER: There are so-called sanctuary cities which establish as an official policy of their jurisdiction: We are not going to cooperate with Federal immigration enforcement officials. That is wrong. What is more, it is completely contrary to Federal immigration law. My amendment says: We are going to put some consequence to that defiance of Federal law. We are not going to give them COPS funds. We are going to send those funds, instead, to all of those other jurisdictions which abide by Federal law.OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES ON TABLING MOTION:Sen. DURBIN: There are sanctuary cities in about 23 different States across America. What the Vitter amendment will do is to take away the COPS funding from those cities. Police departments will tell you they need the cooperation of everyone to solve crimes and stop crime. If you create fear in the minds of those who are here in an undocumented status that any cooperation with the police will result in their arrest, they will not cooperate and criminals will go free. Let's not use the COPS Program as some sort of threat. If you want to deal with immigration, deal with it responsibly in a comprehensive way. SUPPORTER'S RESPONSE:Sen. VITTER: If folks feel that way, they should come to Congress and change Federal law, not simply defy Federal law. This is another amnesty vote. Are we going to give folks in sanctuary cities amnesty for defying Federal law and refusing to cooperate with Federal immigration officials? LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Motion to Table Agreed to, 58-40

Reference: Bill Table S.Amdt.4309 to S.Con.Res ; vote number 08-S069 on Mar 13, 2008

Voted NO on comprehensive immigration reform.

    Establishes specified benchmarks which must be met before the guest worker and legalization programs may be initiated:
  1. operational control of the border with Mexico;
  2. Border Patrol increases;
  3. border barriers, including vehicle barriers, fencing, radar, and aerial vehicles;
  4. detention capacity for illegal aliens apprehended crossing the US-Mexico border;
  5. workplace enforcement, including an electronic employment verification system; and
  6. Z-visa alien processing.

Proponents recommend voting YES because:

If we do not legislate now, we will not legislate later this year when our calendar is crowded with Iraq and appropriations bills. We are then an election year, and it will be pushed over to 2009. Circumstances will not be better then, they will be worse.

A vote against cloture is a vote to kill the bill. A Senator may vote for cloture and then express himself in opposition to the bill by voting against the bill.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

If this bill becomes law, we will see only a 13% reduction in illegal immigration into America, and in the next 20 years we will have another 8.7 million illegals in our country. How can that be reformed? I submit this would be a disaster.

The Congressional telephone systems have shut down because of the mass phone calls Congress is receiving. A decent respect for the views of the American people says let's stop here now. Let's go back to the drawing board and come up with a bill that will work.

The American people get it, and they do have common sense and wisdom on this issue. They know repeating the fundamental mistakes of the 1986 bill, joining a big amnesty with inadequate enforcement, will cause the problem to grow and not diminish. They know promising enforcement after 30 years of broken promises isn't good enough. They know the so-called trigger is a joke because if the trigger is never pulled, the Z visas, the amnesty happens forever.

Reference: McCain-Kennedy Immigration Reform Bill; Bill S.1639 ; vote number 2007-235 on Jun 28, 2007

Voted NO on declaring English as the official language of the US government.

Voting YES would declare English as the national language of the Government of the US. Unless specifically provided by statute, no person would have an entitlement to have the Government of the US communicate or provide materials in any language other than English. If an exception is made with respect to the use of a language other than English, the exception does not create a legal entitlement to additional services in that language. If any form is issued by the Federal Government in a language other than English, the English language version of the form is the sole authority for all legal purposes. Nothing in this amendment shall prohibit the use of a language other than English.

Proponents recommend voting YES because:

Right now, the polling shows that 91% of the people in America want English as an official language, and 76% of Hispanics believe English should be an official language.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

I believe the American people understand in order to succeed in our society, immigrants need to learn English. But the amendment would do a number of things that are problematical. The first is that it is contrary to the provisions of law that exist in many States. For example, in New Mexico, you have in their State Constitution, a provision that says that many of the documents within that State have to be provided in both English and Spanish. The same thing is true for the State of Hawaii. I believe this is a States rights issue, and those constitutions of those States ought to be respected. I do not believe it is a matter we ought to be imposing here from Washington DC.

Also, this amendment would undo an executive order conceived by President Bill Clinton and implemented by President George Bush. Both recognized it is important that people who have limited English proficiency receive the kinds of services so they can understand what is going on in terms of the interface between the Government and themselves.

Reference: National Language Amendment Act; Bill S.Amdt.1151 to S.1348 ; vote number 2007-198 on Jun 6, 2007

Voted YES on eliminating the "Y" nonimmigrant guestworker program.

Proponents recommend voting YES because:

This legislation says we wish to add something called guest workers or temporary workers. With guest workers, working Americans would discover there is no opportunity for upward mobility at their job. In fact, every day their employers are trying to find ways to push down wages, eliminate retirement, and eliminate health care. What has happened in this country, with what is called the "new global economy," is dramatic downward pressure on income for American workers. The guest worker program provides that 400,000 people will be able to come in to assume jobs in our country per year--adding to the 12 million illegal immigrants already here.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

I certainly concur about the need to secure our borders, about the need to have a workable immigration system, and the need for reform that ensures the rule of law is restored in the US. Where I differ is in the belief that we can actually achieve these goals if we have no ability for temporary workers to come to the country. This amendment would eliminate the temporary worker program from this bill.

Now, there are several reasons why a temporary worker program, within certain constraints, is a good idea. The first reason is because it will help to relieve the magnet for illegal immigration. The reason most of the people are crossing our border illegally is to get employment. There are jobs available for them. Some people say this is work Americans will not do. That is actually not true. But there are not enough American citizens to do all of the work that needs to be done. So naturally the law of supply and demand sets in here. People come across the border illegally, and they take that work. What we want to do is both close the border, but also eliminate the magnet for illegal employment here, because the reality is desperate people will always try to find some way to get into the country.

Reference: Dorgan Amendment; Bill S.Amdt.1153 on S.1348 ; vote number 2007-174 on May 22, 2007

Voted NO on building a fence along the Mexican border.

Within 18 months, achieves operational control over U.S. land and maritime borders, including:
  1. systematic border surveillance through more effective use of personnel and technology; and
  2. physical infrastructure enhancements to prevent unlawful border entry
Defines "operational control" as the prevention of all unlawful U.S. entries, including entries by terrorists, other unlawful aliens, narcotics, and other contraband.

Proponents support voting YES because:

It is obvious there is no more defining issue in our Nation today than stopping illegal immigration. The most basic obligation of any government is to secure the Nation's borders. One issue in which there appears to be a consensus between the Senate and the House is on the issue of building a secure fence. So rather than wait until comprehensive legislation is enacted, we should move forward on targeted legislation which is effective and meaningful. The legislation today provides over 700 miles of two-layered reinforced fencing, and for the rest of the border provides a virtual fence, via integrated surveillance technology.

Opponents support voting NO because:

Just to build the fence is going to cost us at least $7 billion. Where is the money coming from to pay for it? How much is it going to cost to maintain this 700-mile fence? Who is going to do it? This bill contains no funding.

This bill also ignores real enforcement measures, like hiring more Border Patrol personnel, and instead builds a Berlin Wall on our southern border. So long as employers need workers in this country, and while our immigration systems impede rather than facilitate timely access of willing workers to those opportunities, undocumented immigration will never be controlled.

Walls, barriers, and military patrols will only force those immigrants to utilize ever more dangerous routes and increase the number of people who die in search of an opportunity to feed and clothe their families.

Reference: Secure Fence Act; Bill H R 6061 ; vote number 2006-446 on Sep 14, 2006

Voted YES on preventing tipping off Mexicans about Minuteman Project.

Voting YES on this amendment supports the Minuteman Project, a group of volunteers who have taken on surveillance of the Mexican border for illegal immigrants. The amendment states that US funds will not be used to tell the Mexican government about the whereabouts of the Minuteman Project volunteers. Proponents of the Minuteman Project say that they are volunteer citizens doing what the federal government SHOULD be doing, but has failed to do. Opponents of the Minuteman Project say that they are vigilantes at best and anti-Mexican racists at worst. The amendment states:
None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to provide a foreign government information relating to the activities of an organized volunteer civilian action group, operating in the State of California, Texas, New Mexico, or Arizona, unless required by international treaty.
Reference: Department of Homeland Security appropriations; Bill HR 5441 Amendment 968 ; vote number 2006-224 on Jun 6, 2006

Voted NO on reporting illegal aliens who receive hospital treatment.

Vote to pass the bill that would require hospitals to gather and report information on possible illegal aliens before hospitals can be reimbursed for treating them. The bill would also make employers liable for the reimbursements if an undocumented employee seeks medical attention, unless the employer meets particular conditions for exemption. The bill would specify that hospitals aren't required to provide care to undocumented aliens if they can be transported to their home country without a significant chance of worsening their condition.
Reference: Undocumented Alien Emergency Medical Assistance Amendments; Bill HR 3722 ; vote number 2004-182 on May 20, 2004

Voted NO on more immigrant visas for skilled workers.

Vote to pass a bill to increase the number of temporary visas granted to highly skilled workers from 65,000 to 115,000 by the year 2000.
Reference: Bill introduced by Smith, R-TX.; Bill HR 3736 ; vote number 1998-460 on Sep 24, 1998

Rated 0% by FAIR, indicating a voting record loosening immigration.

Sanders scores 0% by FAIR on immigration issues

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) is a national, non-profit, public interest membership organization of concerned citizens united by their belief in the need for immigration reform. Founded in 1979, FAIR believes that the U.S. can and must have an immigration policy that is non-discriminatory and designed to serve the environmental, economic, and social needs of our country.

FAIR seeks to improve border security, to stop illegal immigration, and to promote immigration levels consistent with the national interestómore traditional rates of about 300,000 a year.

With more than 70,000 members nationwide, FAIR is a non-partisan group whose membership runs the gamut from liberal to conservative.

The ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.

Source: FAIR website 03n-FAIR on Dec 31, 2003

Rated 8% by USBC, indicating an open-border stance.

Sanders scores 8% by USBC on immigration issues

OnTheIssues.org interprets the 2005-2006 USBC scores as follows:

About USBC (from their website, www.usbc.org):

U.S. Border Control, founded in 1988, is a non-profit, tax-exempt, citizen's lobby. USBC is dedicated to ending illegal immigration by securing our nation's borders and reforming our immigration policies. USBC [works with] Congressmen to stop amnesty; seal our borders against terrorism and illegal immigration; and, preserve our nation's language, culture and American way of life for future generations.

Our organization accepts no financial support from any branch of government. All our support comes from concerned citizens who appreciate the work we are doing to seal our borders against drugs, disease, illegal migration and terrorism and wish to preserve our nation's language, culture and heritage for the next generations.

Source: USBC website 06n-USBC on Dec 31, 2006

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