2016 Candidates Stance on Immigration—Bernie Sanders
Official Immigration Plan
A FAIR and Humane Immigration Policy | Official Candidate Website
FAIR offers the following analysis on five key immigration issues: amnesty; legal immigration; border security; interior enforcement; and taxpayer benefits to illegal aliens.
The core of Sanders’s immigration plan is mass amnesty for the 12 million illegal aliens in the country. Although lacking details, Sanders says he will “ensure that the roadmap to citizenship is inclusive… and does not contain arbitrary cut off eligibility dates and application periods.” He specifically states that “non-violent” criminal illegal alien offenders should be eligible for amnesty. Notably, Sanders supports an expedited path to citizenship, insisting that illegal aliens be able to obtain a green card and U.S. citizenship within five years with an even faster track for so-called DREAMers. In the absence of legislation, he would allow all illegal aliens who claim to have lived in the country unlawfully for at least five years (approximately 9 million according to Sanders) to qualify for the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) amnesty programs. Next, Sanders will expand the Obama administration’s use of parole-in-place (which has no statutory authority) for illegal alien “relatives” of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents and grant deferred action to “relatives” who overstayed their visas and remain in the country unlawfully. Finally, Sanders will use humanitarian parole to allow certain previously deported illegal aliens to return to the country.
Sanders supports increasing legal immigration. Although lacking specificity, the Sanders plan seems to allow working immigrants to bring his or her “family members” into the country. The plan also creates a new whistleblower visa with undeclared eligibility criteria. Notably, Sanders wants to make victims of domestic violence and all unaccompanied alien minors from Central America eligible for asylum even though these individuals do not meet the statutory criteria for that status. Lastly, Sanders wants to vastly expand both the criteria and numerical quotas for refugee admissions. Currently, the U.S. issues 1 million new green cards per year and admits hundreds of thousands of temporary guest workers annually. While the U.S. continues to admit record numbers of immigrants every year, the workforce participation rate is at a historically low level and wages have been stagnant for at least a decade.
Sanders supports ensuring that the Southern border is “modern and secure” but opposes increasing the number of Border Patrol agents. “Senator Sanders rejects the argument that the border must be further militarized before the implementation of a roadmap to citizenship,” the plan reads. Sanders calls for defunding “boondoggle walls” to “modernize” the border by using cameras, sensors, and other technology instead of fencing. Notably, unlike other amnesty plans, Sanders is upfront that border security is not a precursor to the mass legalization.
The Sanders proposal completely guts interior enforcement. “We cannot and should not sweep up millions of men, women, and children… and throw them out of the country unjustly,” the plan reads. Along those lines, Sanders would end State and local cooperation with the federal government on immigration enforcement, prohibit the detention of illegal alien family units, defund the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) and eliminate the congressionally mandated requirement of 34,000 detention beds. The Sanders plan also calls for repealing the 3- and 10-year bars to admission that Congress passed in 1996 as a deterrent to illegal immigration.
Taxpayer Benefits to Illegal Aliens
Sanders’s plan calls for making illegal aliens eligible to participate in the healthcare exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Even though excluding illegal aliens—including DACA beneficiaries—from Obamacare was a key provision in passing the law, Sanders “strongly believes that all immigrants, including undocumented workers and their families, must be able to purchase health insurance” through the exchanges. Additionally, Sanders supports making so-called DREAMers immediately eligible to serve in the military, receive in-state tuition, and financial aid.