Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) immigration policy platform was recently released and it showcases his thinking around immigration reform, enforcement and his ideas for protecting workers. Entitled, A Fair and Humane Immigration Policy, the progressive, but clunky and imprecise platform, begins by setting him apart from those candidates calling for mass deportation.

“We cannot and we should not 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.”

Moving on to the specifics, he begins by discussing what pieces of legislation he would be willing to sign as President:

“Sign comprehensive immigration reform into law to bring over 11 million undocumented workers out of the shadows. We cannot continue to run an economy where millions are made so vulnerable because of their undocumented status.”

He also stated he would support the DREAM Act, which he voted for in December 2010:

“Sign the DREAM Act into law to offer the opportunity of permanent residency and eventual citizenship to young people who were brought to the United States as children. We must recognize the young men and women who comprise the DREAMers for who they are – American kids who deserve the right to legally be in the country they know as home.”

His promise rings truthful, as Sanders has voted in favor of immigration reform proposals in the past. However, it’s unclear why comprehensive reform wouldn’t already include the DREAM Act provisions, negating the need for both.

Sanders has also been consistent in his criticisms about guest worker programs and in 2007, voted against a comprehensive immigration reform bill due to his concerns around them. His platform demonstrates real concerns with the treatment of guest workers and their potential for exploitation.

He writes:

“Authorize and substantially increase funding for the Legal Services Corporation to provide legal representation to guest workers who have been abused by their employers. Further, employers should be required to reimburse guest workers for housing, transportation expenses and workers’ compensation.”

Additionally, Sanders states that he would require employers to pay higher wages to temporary guest workers:

“Substantially increase prevailing wages that employers are required to pay temporary guest workers. If there is a true labor shortage, employers should be offering higher, not lower wages.”

It’s true the nation’s laws must protect all workers; however he must also balance that with our economy’s need for workers in both high-skilled and service sector industries. Since 1986, the legal immigration system has not been in line with the business cycle, and, therefore, with the country’s labor needs . The rigid structure of the legal immigration system is unable to adjust the number and type of workers admitted either in periods of economic growth or in periods of economic recession. When there is a demand for workers, they will come, and if they are not properly protected they could be exploited.  Sanders platform does not address the real economic demand for workers and how he will balance workers’ rights with business demands.

Sanders also makes an important stand-out point  that reform cannot be tied to elusive goals of border security that change regularly and never seem to satisfy Congress’ insatiable desire for more.

Sanders states:

“Oppose tying immigration reform to the building of a border fence. Undocumented workers come to the United States to escape economic hardship and political persecution. Tying reform to unrealistic and unwise border patrol proposals renders the promise illusory for millions seeking legal status.”

Finally, he promises to use his presidential authority to expand DACA.  He writes:

“Expand President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to include the parents of citizens, parents of legal permanent residents, and the parents of DREAMERs. We need to pursue policies that unite families and does not tear them apart.”

There is not a lot of precision in this part. For example, DAPA is the program already announced by President Obama that could provide deferred action to parents of citizens and legal permanent resident’s—although it’s currently held up in court. Sanders would only be expanding it to include the parents of DREAMers. However, he doesn’t make that clear.

What is clear is that Sanders has a very progressive platform laid out, however it’s a little muddled and still has some details to be worked out if he makes it to the Oval office.

Photo by Gage Skidmore.

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