Sanders vows to end Trump's policies as he unveils immigration proposal

Sanders vows to end Trump's policies as he unveils immigration proposal

Presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersKamala Harris receives new Iowa endorsements after debate performance Wasserman Schultz makes bid for House Appropriations Committee gavel Overnight Health Care: Crunch time for Congress on surprise medical bills | CDC confirms 47 vaping-related deaths | Massachusetts passes flavored tobacco, vaping products ban MORE (I-Vt.) pledged to undo all of President TrumpDonald John TrumpWatergate prosecutor says that Sondland testimony was 'tipping point' for Trump In private moment with Trump, Justice Kennedy pushed for Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination: book Obama: 'Everybody needs to chill out' about differences between 2020 candidates MORE's executive actions on immigration on day one of his presidency, as part of his detailed immigration policy plan released Thursday.

Sanders, currently polling among the top three candidates vying for the Democratic nomination, vowed to move quickly on changes that don't require congressional action, starting with a moratorium on all deportations until an audit of U.S. immigration enforcement policies is conducted.

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Sanders also pledged to reverse key controversial Trump administration immigration programs like the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) — also known as "Remain in Mexico" — which forces asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico as they await a review of their claims. 

The 2020 presidential candidate also vowed to end Trump actions like zero tolerance immigration policy, limiting the number of asylum-seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border in a process known as "metering," and the so-called public charge rule, which restricts immigration from those deemed to have to rely on federal benefits.

A handful of Trump's immigration proposals have come under legal challenge.

"The Trump administration’s treatment of immigration exclusively as a criminal and national security matter is inhumane, impractical, and must end," reads the proposal.

"As president, Bernie Sanders would make undocumented immigration a civil matter, and fundamentally reform the government agencies tasked with enforcing immigration law in a way that views immigration as a historically valued process that’s woven into our country’s fabric," it also notes.

Sanders's proposal would represent a sharp progressive turn, even compared to immigration policies before the Trump era, by also repealing some of the 1996 Clinton-era immigration laws that solidified the current enforcement-centric U.S. immigration system.

For instance, the Sanders plan would place immigration courts under the judiciary system, rather than under the executive branch. That change could grant a broader series of rights, including to legal representation, to people brought before immigration judges.

The proposal would also break up the functions from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), sending immigration enforcement to the Department of Justice, customs to Treasury, and nationality issues to State. 

That would leave DHS with its core national security mission.

"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," the proposal notes.

Sanders's immigration proposal is also a far cry from proposals by Democratic presidential contenders in previous cycles, whose proposals often took a punitive approach to regularizing undocumented immigrants.

For instance, former President Obama and 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocratic strategist laments 'low bar' for Biden debate performance Wasserman Schultz makes bid for House Appropriations Committee gavel Trump to hold campaign rally in Pennsylvania next month MORE both followed a more traditional route of pairing tougher enforcement with difficult paths to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. 

The Sanders proposal would immediately grant legal status to people eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and expand pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, including those with "old or low-level contacts with the criminal justice system."

The proposal showcases how progressive baselines on immigration have become more widely adopted by Democrats, including by Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenKamala Harris receives new Iowa endorsements after debate performance Warren speech in Georgia interrupted by pro-charter school protesters Hillicon Valley: Senators ask Trump to halt Huawei licenses | Warren criticizes Zuckerberg over secret dinner with Trump | Senior DHS cyber official to leave | Dems offer bill on Libra oversight MORE (D-Mass.) and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, two other progressives competing for the nomination.

But that has left Democrats vulnerable to attacks, including when all 10 candidates onstage during a Democratic primary debate in July raised their hands when asked if they would provide health care to undocumented immigrants.

Meanwhile, prominent Democrats like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezPoll: Biden and Sanders tied nationally, followed by Warren More than 100 Democrats sign letter calling for Stephen Miller to resign Steyer, Biden clash over climate credentials MORE (D-N.Y.) have called for the abolishment of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

The Sanders proposal, however, differs in its focus on labor rights — a long-standing core issue for the Vermont senator — and their interaction with migrant rights.

"We currently spend more than eleven times as much enforcing immigration as we do enforcing labor standards," reads the proposal.

Among the labor protections Sanders proposes is to shift the focus on immigration-related enforcement from workers to employers, with measures like a whistleblower visa for whistleblower workers who speak up about abuses.

And Sanders builds on his long-standing claim that migration from Mexico was mainly driven by the North American Free Trade Agreement, a claim refuted by many regional experts but accepted among some voters.

Sanders proposes regional trade agreements "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."

His proposal was put together through the help of a committee of Hispanic advisers with diverse grassroots and policy backgrounds.

Senior Sanders adviser Chuck Rocha told The Hill that Sanders built that team early on, in part spurred by lessons learned from his 2016 campaign, when Sanders found a loyal base of support among Latino millennials.

The policy was ultimately pulled together by Alex Jacquez, a former Obama White House adviser whose task was to compile into a coherent package the policy suggestions collected by the committee.

Jacquez, formally a policy adviser to the campaign, is the son of the late Albert Jacquez, one of the first Hispanics ever hired as chief of staff in the House of Representatives, who died earlier this year.