Bernie Sanders

Independent U.S. Senator from Vermont | Former 2020 Democratic Candidate for President

Though he ran for president as a Democrat, Bernie Sanders has had a 40-year political career as an independent and self-describes as a democratic socialist, making him arguably the most far-left figure ever to have made a serious run for the Democratic nomination. Indeed, Sanders was a top-tier candidate in 2020 and in 2016 came close to defeating Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president.

Regarding immigration, the Vermont senator outflanked his 2020 presidential primary opponents on the left with a campaign platform calling for a moratorium on all deportations and the abolition of ICE and CBP.

But Sanders has not always been out ahead of the Democratic caucus on the issue. In 2007, his opposition to an immigration reform bill, on the grounds that it would expand the number of guest workers in the U.S. and thereby depress wages and opportunity for American labor, won the progressive senator praise from the likes of Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King. Still, one of the first bills Sanders co-sponsored after joining the U.S. House of Representatives in 1991 was the Reasonable Detention of Aliens Act, which aimed to limit the Attorney General’s authority to detain undocumented mothers with dependent children two years of age or younger. And in his first year as a U.S. senator, he co-sponsored the DREAM Act of 2007, one of the first pieces of legislation designed to give lawful status to individuals brought to the U.S. as minors.

During Donald Trump’s presidency, Sanders co-sponsored a long list of bills written to overturn several of the former president’s executive actions on immigration, including family separations, barring asylum-seekers from entering the U.S., and denying visas to individuals from several Muslim-majority countries. One of the rallying themes of Sanders 2020 presidential campaign was “a fair economy that accommodates undocumented immigrants and American workers without discrimination and manipulation of wages.”

Sanders’s success in the 2020 primaries was significantly aided by Latinx voters, who helped the Vermont senator win the Nevada caucuses and California primary. And his full-throated endorsement of Joe Biden in the general election has secured him a voice in the Biden administration, where the senator is expected to continue fighting for labor rights and against income inequality, both central issues to the immigration debate.


Sanders’S IDEAS

  • Border Security

    Sanders supports the idea of securing the border but does not support an increase in funding.

  • Border Wall

    Sanders would immediately halt all construction of “Trump’s racist border wall” and reverse plans for additional barriers.

  • Detention

    Sanders proposes dismantling for-profit detention facilities and ending detention for families, children, and immigrants without a violent crime conviction. Sanders supports community-based alternatives to detention, which would connect immigrants with sponsors and support systems.

  • Immigration Courts

    Sanders proposes more funding for the overburdened immigration court system to “swiftly, fairly, and humanely process asylum claims.”

  • Undocumented Population

    Sanders wants a moratorium on deportations until the system can be reformed. He also supports legal residency or citizenship for “most” undocumented immigrants already in the country.

  • ICE

    Sanders voted against the creation of the agency. He wants to break it up and redistribute certain responsibilities to the “proper authorities.”

  • DACA

    Sanders is a co-sponsor of the DREAM Act. He supports a pathway to citizenship for DACA enrollees.

  • Asylum

    Sanders proposes expanding asylum eligibility and reversing Department of Justice guidance that denies asylum claims on the basis of fleeing domestic or gang violence, including those targeted for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

  • Central America Policy

    Sanders wants to restore and increase aid to the region and pursue new trade agreements that protect “workers in all countries.”

  • Visas

    Sanders wants to increase opportunities for holders of temporary work visas to become permanent residents.

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