We are a nation of immigrants. The story of immigrants is the story of America

Followers of Bernie Sanders. / Facebook Bernie Sanders
Followers of Bernie Sanders. / Facebook Bernie Sanders

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.

We are a nation of immigrants. The story of immigrants is the story of America

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.

Despite the central role immigrants play in our economy and in our daily lives, undocumented workers are reviled by some for political gain and shunted into the shadows. It is time for this disgraceful situation to end. This country faces enormous problems and they will not be solved unless we are united. It is time to end the politics of division in this country.

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.

In 2008, Sen. Sanders traveled to the tomato fields of southern Florida and met with migrant workers who were paid paltry wages for back-breaking work. After his visit, Sanders invited leaders of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to come to Washington and testify at a Senate committee hearing where they confronted growers on abusive labor practices. The result in Immokalee, Florida was better working conditions and increased pay.

But how many more Immokalees are out there? How many fields or factories are there where people – often without legal status – are used up and thrown away? We cannot continue to run an economy where millions are made so vulnerable because of their undocumented status.

Many in the business community have argued for a massive expansion of temporary guest worker programs as the answer to the immigration issue. That is not the answer. As the Southern Poverty Law Center has documented, guest workers are routinely cheated out of wages, held virtually captive by employers who seize their documents, forced to live in inhumane conditions and denied medical treatment for on-the-job injuries.

In addition, 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. It was appalling last year when so many voices were insisting that the large numbers of desperate, unaccompanied children who crossed our borders be turned away or simply shipped back to their country of origin like a package marked return to sender.

Unfortunately, American policy in Latin America has too often made difficult economic and political problems even worse. For example, supporters of NAFTA told us that this unfettered free trade agreement would increase the standard of living in Mexico and significantly reduce the flow of undocumented immigrants into this country as a result. The opposite was true.

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 farmers 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.

As president, Senator Bernie Sanders will:

  1. > 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.
  2. > 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.
  3. > 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.
  4. > 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 unites families and does not tear them apart.
  5. > 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.
  6. > 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.
  7. > Rewrite our trade policies to end the race to the bottom and lift the living standards of workers in this country and our trading partners. Not only have free trade agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA hurt U.S. workers, they have been a disaster for small farmers in Mexico and Central America.

 

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