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Updated June 1, 2015.
Here’s a primer on each potential 2016 Democratic candidate’s history on immigrants and immigration reform, which we will continue to update as we monitor their rhetoric and policies on this issue.
Lincoln Chafee has a long record of supporting comprehensive immigration reform.
As a Republican Senator from Rhode Island, Chafee voted for the 2006 Comprehensive Immigration reform bill in May of 2006, which passed by a wide bipartisan margin of 62 – 36. The bill did not become law as there was no House vote for reform. Importantly, later that year, Chafee was one of only 19 Senators to vote against the Secure Fence Act 2006, which was viewed seen as an anti-immigrant vote. That measure passed the Senate by a vote of 80-19.
Chafee was challenged from the right in the 2006 GOP primary by Steve Laffey, who made immigration a key issue:
In Rhode Island, Republican primary challenger Steve Laffey has singled out Chafee for being the only Republican to vote for an amendment to the immigration bill that would have allowed 12 million illegal immigrants to remain in the country and streamlined the legalization process.
He said Chafee’s votes on that amendment and against another amendment, which would have prevented legalized immigrants from collecting Social Security benefits for work they did as illegal immigrants, show just how far left Chafee has shifted.
Laffey spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik said Laffey would have voted against the overall bill.
Chafee spokesman Ian Lang countered by noting that Chafee’s stance on immigration is similar to President Bush’s and that the final bill makes the legalization process sufficiently difficult.
The National Republican Senatorial Campaign, working on behalf of Chafee, targeted Laffey with an ad viewed as anti-immigrant. Throughout the primary campaign, Chafee defended his immigration reform positions. He won the primary in September of 2006, but was defeated for reelection in 2006 by Sheldon Whitehouse.
Chafee ran for Governor of Rhode Island in 2010 as an independent – and won. Among his first acts as Governor in January of 2011, he took action on a pro-immigrant measure:
Less than 24 hours after his swearing-in as Rhode Island’s 58th Governor, Lincoln D. Chafee today fulfilled a fundamental promise of his campaign in signing a repeal of the so-called Executive Order on E-Verify, which former Governor Donald L. Carcieri signed into law in March 2008. Governor Chafee also directed the Rhode Island State Police (RISP) to withdraw from its memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), the federal immigration enforcement body. RISP Superintendent Col. Brendan P. Doherty has agreed to support and uphold the Governor’s directive.
“This repeal of all parts of the Executive Order on E-Verify will effectively turn the clock back to March 26, 2007, the day before then-Governor Carcieri signed it into law,” Chafee said. “This re-set will allow us to engage in a comprehensive dialogue with our immigrant communities, law enforcement agencies, and all interested parties. This is an opportunity to reach a consensus on how best to enforce the law.”
As Governor, Chafee also pushed for in-state tuition for DREAMers. After the legislature failed to enact the policy, Chafee convinced the Board of Governors for Higher Education to act in September of 2011:
Rhode Island next year will begin allowing illegal immigrants to pay lower in-state college tuition, the 13th state to allow some form of lower tuition for undocumented immigrants.
The Board of Governors for Higher Education approved the measure at a meeting late Monday after the state legislature failed to take action for six years.
Governor Lincoln Chafee, an Independent, had urged the board to adopt the measure, which takes effect in September 2012, said board spokesman Michael Trainor.
Chafee also switched to the Democratic Party during his tenure as Governor.
In summer of 2014, Chafee changed the state’s policy with regards to dealing with federal authorities at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE):
Governor Chafee Thursday expanded to additional law enforcement agencies his policy of not honoring federal immigration detainers without a court order.
Announced in July, the policy applied only to the Department of Corrections. Now it will apply to the state Department of Environmental Management and Department of Public Safety.
The policy states that agents of the executive branch shall not detain individuals for federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement unless ICE has obtained a judicial order of deportation or removal from the United States.
“With this update, Rhode Island is ensuring consistency across agencies, and embracing good and improved policy,” Chafee said in a news release, adding that the approach “better protects safety and people’s rights.”
The policy was prompted by federal court rulings in Rhode Island and elsewhere that allowed lawsuits to go forward against authorities if constitutional rights are found to have been violated by the detaining of individuals longer than necessary.
Civil liberties advocates and those promoting immigrant rights had criticized the detainer practice, saying it violated constitutional rights.
During his presidential campaign announcement, Chafee did call for a “path to citizenship” and touted his support for comprehensive immigration reform while a Senator.
For the most part, Hillary Clinton had a pro-immigration voting record while serving in the United States Senate. Yet, since her days in the Senate, the immigration debate has moved at a rapid pace from the “third rail” in American politics that politicians should avoid, to an issue that requires politicians to lean into immigration reform to earn the votes of the immigrant community. This rapid acceleration of immigration since 2008 had left Hillary Clinton rusty on the issue. However, there have been some early indications from Clinton’s 2016 campaign show that she may be leaning into the issue and recognizing that good immigration policy is also good politics. Most notably, Clinton’s bold pro-immigrant remarks in Las Vegas on May 5th, 2015 were a full-throated embrace of many immigrant activists’ priorities, as well as a strong signal that her candidacy will be run as an assertive immigration champion.
During the Senate immigration debates in 2006 and 2007, Hillary Clinton voted for comprehensive immigration reform. It is important to note that her political views on the issue were formed at a time when Democrats tended to fear the immigration issue, while occasionally joining legislation viewed as anti-immigrant.
For instance, Senator Clinton voted for the 2006 Comprehensive Immigration reform bill in May of 2006, which passed by a wide bipartisan margin of 62 – 36. The bill did not become law as there was no House vote for reform. However, later that year, she voted for the Secure Fence Act 2006, which was seen as an anti-immigrant vote. It passed the Senate by a vote of 80-19.
In June of 2007, on a key procedural vote, Senator Clinton voted to move forward on the 2007 version of Comprehensive Immigration Reform. That effort, however, failed to overcome a filibuster. After immigration reform failed in 2007, there was an effort to pass a version of the DREAM Act. Clinton to proceed to final passage, but there weren’t enough votes to overcome a GOP-led filibuster.
During the 2008 campaign, Hillary Clinton tripped up on the immigration issue during a debate when asked about then-Governor Eliot Spitzer’s proposal to allow drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants. During that debate, on October 30, 2007, Clinton appeared to give conflicting, equivocal answers, for which she was called out by other candidates. After being pressed by moderator Tim Russert, Clinton concluded:
You know, Tim, this is where everybody plays gotcha. It makes a lot of sense. What is the governor supposed to do? He is dealing with a serious problem. We have failed, and George Bush has failed.
Do I think this is the best thing for any governor to do? No. But do I understand the sense of real desperation, trying to get a handle on this? Remember, in New York we want to know who’s in New York. We want people to come out of the shadows. He’s making an honest effort to do it. We should have passed immigration reform.
This exchange was around the same time that long-time Clinton associate Rahm Emanuel called immigration “the third rail of American politics.” Clinton’s vote for the border fence was another example of Democratic politicians trying to navigate what they saw as a very complicated issue for them.
While serving as Secretary of State, Clinton was largely removed from the immigration debate and the rapidly changing politics of the immigration issue. The Obama administration, with Rahm Emanuel as White House Chief of Staff, mishandled the issue. They put an aggressive enforcement regime in place, designed to bring Republicans to the table to pass comprehensive reform. That didn’t work and caused major headaches for the Obama team. Ultimately, Obama initiated the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in June of 2012.
One of her first discussions of immigration after she left the Cabinet occurred during her book took in the summer of 2014. When she was asked about the refugee crisis on the U.S. southern border, her initial statement, in June of 2014, was that the minors fleeing violence “should be sent back””
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that unaccompanied minors who crossed the border illegally in a massive influx over recent months “should be sent back” to their native countries, but also that they should be reunited with their families — which sometimes requires them to stay in the United States.
“They should be sent back as soon as it can be determined who responsible adults in their families are, because there are concerns about whether all of them should be sent back,” the potential 2016 presidential candidate said in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “But I think all of them who can be should be reunited with their families.”
In July, Clinton walked back her “sent back’ comment a bit with during interview with Jorge Ramos when she indicated support for an in-country screening process:
Hillary Clinton supports creating a refugee screening process for Central American children in their home countries to allow more to come the U.S legally, and prevent them from undertaking the dangerous trek north.
“If we don’t have a procedure, it’s not going to stop, more kids are going to come,” Clinton told Fusion’s Jorge Ramos on Friday.
But, she also doubled down on sending children back:
Speaking with Ramos, Clinton also reiterated her conviction that not all children who come to the U.S. illegally should be allowed to stay, saying that “some of them should be sent back.”
“But, who would you deport?” Ramos asked.
“Whoever was in the category of where they don’t have legitimate claim for asylum, where they don’t have some kind of family connection, those children should be returned to their families and the families should be told that they should not be sending these young children on their own to face the dangers that exist on that travel,” she said.
Clinton acknowledged that, in some cases, a child’s deportation could bring them great harm. “There may be some kids who definitely would face terrible danger if they returned,” she said.
Clinton’s equivocation on the child refugee crisis played out against increasing demands from immigration advocates for executive action from President Obama. One of her comments was viewed as “more hard-line” than those from the White House:
In June, Mrs. Clinton told CNN that the Central American children “should be sent back as soon as it can be determined who responsible adults in their families are,” a statement that made some young Latinos question her commitment to their communities.
Not long after that, Jorge Ramos of Fusion asked Mrs. Clinton if she had a “Latino problem.” Mrs. Clinton replied, “I hope not!” and then said only those children who do not have a legitimate claim for asylum or a family connection in the United States should be sent back.
Her initial comments struck some immigration activists as even more hard-line than the statements out of Mr. Obama’s White House.
During the fall of 2014, Clinton took her first trip to Iowa since the 2008 campaign, to attend Senator Tom Harkin’s annual steak fry. This was several weeks after President Obama announced that he would delay promised executive action until the November elections. When Clinton was asked by Iowa DREAMers about her views on immigration executive action and the President’s delay she replied: “You know I think we need to elect more Democrats.“ That answer was not well-received by DREAMers.
America’s Voice noted in September of 2014 that these missteps made Clinton “ a target for DREAMers and activists who remain unsure about her stance on Obama’s delay, and what kind of president she would be on immigration, if elected.” Clinton was heckled by DREAMers at campaign events in the fall of 2014 for failing to weigh in on the need for executive action. In Clinton’s earlier campaigns, DREAMers were not the political force they have become now.
In recent months and as the 2016 campaign gears up, Hillary Clinton has been taking positive steps towards embracing the new politics of immigration and running as an assertively pro-immigrant candidate.
Following the November 20, 2014 announcement by the President, Clinton issued a statement of support;
I support the President’s decision to begin fixing our broken immigration system and focus finite resources on deporting felons rather than families. I was hopeful that the bipartisan bill passed by the Senate in 2013 would spur the House of Representatives to act, but they refused even to advance an alternative. Their abdication of responsibility paved the way for this executive action, which follows established precedent from Presidents of both parties going back many decades. But, only Congress can finish the job by passing permanent bipartisan reform that keeps families together, treats everyone with dignity and compassion, upholds the rule of law, protects our borders and national security, and brings millions of hard-working people out of the shadows and into the formal economy so they can pay taxes and contribute to our nation’s prosperity. Our disagreements on this important issue may grow heated at times, but I am confident that people of good will and good faith can yet find common ground. We should never forget that we’re not discussing abstract statistics – we’re talking about real families with real experiences. We’re talking about parents lying awake at night afraid of a knock on the door that could tear their families apart, people who love this country, work hard, and want nothing more than a chance to contribute to the community and build better lives for themselves and their children.
During the first official week of her 2016 campaign, Clinton addressed an issue that was controversial in 2007: driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. She announced her support:
As she makes her second bid for the presidency, Clinton’s position is far clearer and decidedly different. “Hillary supports state policies to provide driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants,” a campaign spokesperson told The Huffington Post.
On April 17, 2015, as the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in the appeal of the stay of the Texas lawsuit blocking implementation of expanded DACA and DAPA, Clinton tweeted support for those policies:
As court hears immigration case today, at stake are stronger families, communities, & economy. Parents & Dreamers shouldn’t live in fear. -H
On May 5, 2015, Clinton did a roundtable event with six immigrant activists in Las Vegas, Nevada, some of whom are undocumented recipients of DACA and others who have undocumented family members. She took questions from Astrid Silva, Blanca Gamez, Rafael Lopez, Juan Salazar, Erika Castro and Betsaida Frausto. Initial reports indicated that Clinton would announce support for a path to citizenship – a position she has held for several years. At the event, Clinton went much further. She promised to fight for immigration reform with a path to citizenship, to defend and expand on executive actions if Republicans continue to block a permanent legislative solution and to revisit the Obama Administration’s controversial family detention practices.
As America’s Voice Frank Sharry noted, Clinton “sat down with real people who told real stories and showed the human side of the immigration debate. Republican candidates never actually take the time to sit down and listen to actual immigrants, much less build a national platform for them to voice their concerns. The discussion touched numerous issues—from asylum and detention reform to the unlawful presence bars and the need to reunite families separated by deportation. Clinton did not shy away from the issues, but rather embraced them and the people who face complex, serious problems with our current immigration system and are simply seeking a reasonable solution.”
Fusion’s Ted Hesson outlined positions on legal representation and detention:
One of her more progressive positions came on legal representation for people in the federal immigration system. Clinton said she would like “everyone to have it” — right now, people in immigration court are not guaranteed the right to a lawyer — but indicated some groups take precedence.
“If we have to try to prioritize, I would like young people, I would like people from vulnerable populations who would otherwise not have the support that they need,” she said.
Clinton also articulated her position on immigration detention, taking a shot at private prisons, which she said have “a built-in incentive” to lock up immigrants. Her stance is a subtle attack on a potential rival; in the past, political action committees supporting Rubio have received campaign donations from GEO Group, one the largest of private-prison companies.
“I think we could do a better job if we kept detention to people who have a record of violence [or] illegal behavior and that we have a different approach to people who are not in that category,” she said. “And I don’t think we should put children and vulnerable people into big detention facilities, because I think they’re at risk. I think that their physical and mental health are at risk.”
The candidacy of former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley presents more of a credible competitor for pro-immigrant votes. O’Malley is a strong supporter of immigration reform. He earned praise from immigration advocates as one of the most sensible and pro-migrant voices weighing in during the child migrant refugee crisis of summer 2014.
Governor O’Malley had an evolution of the issue of driver’s licenses for undocumented residents of Maryland. During his first term,. in 2009, he initially supported legislation that would have blocked undocumented immigrants from obtaining driver’s licenses:
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley backed legislation yesterday that would require drivers to prove that they are in the country legally to get a license, setting up a major clash with immigrant advocates who are pushing to preserve the state’s policy of allowing undocumented immigrants to drive.
Fortunately, that version did not pass. Instead, O’Malley signed a bill into law that established a temporary system for undocumented residents of the state to obtain licenses. Then, in 2013, he signed legislation that continued the program:
A new law that will expand the ability of illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses in Maryland is set to take effect on Wednesday.
Under the measure, which Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) signed into law in May, the state is making permanent a two-tiered system for obtaining driver’s licenses that it adopted on a temporary basis in 2009 to comply with a federal law.
Going forward, illegal immigrants will be able to obtain a second-tier driver’s license if they meet certain requirements, including having filed tax returns for the past two years. The licenses will not be recognized by federal agencies, however, and therefore not valid for boarding an airplane or entering a federal building.
Immigration was a hot topic during O’Malley’s reelection campaign in 2010. During a debate with his GOP opponent, Robert Ehrlich in October of 2010, O’Malley referred to undocumented immigrants as “new Americans.” Ehrlich criticized O’Malley for using that term and for attending a ribbon-cutting at Casa de Maryland. O’Malley leaned into the issue — and won handily.
In his second-term, Governor O’Malley signed two laws that helped undocumented immigrants. Besides the driver’s license bill, he also signed Maryland’s version of the DREAM Act in May 2011:
“In Maryland, we believe in the dignity of every individual, and that there is no such thing as a spare Marylander,” O’Malley said in his blog.
“We have a constitutional obligation to provide a public education for every child in our state. But we should not allow our nation’s broken immigration system to serve as an excuse to escape our basic, moral obligation to expand opportunity for all Marylanders, provided they graduated from a Maryland high school, pay taxes in our state, and are on a path toward citizenship.”
The student can be eligible for in-state tuition at any four year university, once they graduate from community college and transfer to the four year school.
Maryland allows public votes to overturn legislation and a campaign was launched to repeal the DREAM Act on the November 2012 ballot. In May of 2012, O’Malley took an active role in and raised money for the campaign to prevent repeal
In an e-mail to supporters Tuesday, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley asked for contributions for a campaign to uphold a 2011 law allowing in-state college tuition rates for children of illegal immigrants….
…“The DREAM Act says that students can be eligible for in-state tuition, regardless of their parents’ immigration status, provided they pay state taxes, graduate from a Maryland high school and commit to legalizing their status as soon as they are eligible,” O’Malley says in the e-mail, sent out by his campaign. “This issue is about fairness and basic human dignity for all.”
On November 6, 2012 , the DREAM Act prevailed by a wide margin: 58% – 42%,
During the summer of 2014, O’Malley spoke out in support of unaccompanied minors who were fleeing violence in the home countries and seeking refuge in the United States. He asked attorneys to represent unaccompanied immigrant children
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) urged members of the Hispanic National Bar Association on Thursday to represent some of the thousands of immigrant children who arrived in the United States alone and now must navigate the legal system.
“I’m calling on all of you… to be a part of this effort,” O’Malley said during the association’s annual convention in D.C. on Thursday morning, “to help these refugee children, to help them navigate the legal process and make sure that their hopes and their dignity is properly represented in this, the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
United We Dream said that O’Malley was “providing a model for how to responsibly handle” the issue “in accordance with our moral responsibilities and best national traditions.”
O’Malley’s views on the unaccompanied minor issue caused a rift with the Obama White House:
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a stalwart ally of President Obama, has landed in an escalating fight with the White House over what to do about thousands of unaccompanied children streaming across the U.S. border.
It started Friday, when O’Malley declared that returning the children to their home countries, as Obama has suggested, would send them “back to certain death.” That prompted an angry response from White House officials and accusations of hypocrisy when O’Malley opposed locating a shelter for the children in a Maryland county.
Throughout the spring of 2015, O’Malley continued to lean into the immigration issue. In an interview with the Des Moines Register in March, O’Malley laid out his immigration agenda. He stated, “I favor giving a path to citizenship” He also stated, “We have delayed immigration reform for far too long. When people live in the full light of an open society, paying their taxes abiding by the rules, that makes our country not only safer and more secure, because people are not relegated to living in the shadows, you’re not creating underground economies.” He also said, “Not to do immigration reform makes us more insecure as a country.
On May 15, 2015, O’Malley spoke out strongly on this issue of detention:
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley criticized the Obama administration — albeit not by name — on Friday for continuing to detain undocumented women and children.
“We should not be in the business of building barbed wire detention camps. Detentions are cruel, costly & against our values-esp for families,” O’Malley, who is weighing a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, tweeted.
O’Malley also tweeted the link to a New York Times editorial published Friday calling for an end to the “immoral” practice of detaining families in deportation proceedings. “Let’s lead with our principles & end them,” he added in a second tweet.
As his campaign got underway, O’Malley continued to lean in to the immigration issue. During an appearance at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on June 3, O’Malley said he would work on immigration in his first 100 days:
At the event, he touted his achievements on immigration, vowed to push for reform in Congress within the first 100 days of his presidency and pledged that “deportations should be limited to the public safety imperative.”
At that same event, O’Malley touted his long record on the issue:
“I am the only one with 15 years of executive experience,” he told Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Javier Palomarez. “And one of the greatest indicators of a person’s future actions will be how they acted in the past when they had the power.”
On that same day, O’Malley expanded on his remarks in a pre-speech interview with Politico:
In the interview earlier in the day, O’Malley said his record speaks for itself and also says something about Clinton. He argued his leadership on immigration while he was Maryland governor was an example of challenging Washington orthodoxy — particularly in his fight against the White House and Clinton when he spoke out last summer against the fast-track deportation of the flood of Central American unaccompanied minors across the border.
Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has an advocate for immigration reform. But, he has been an outspoken critic of temporary guest worker programs, which are included in comprehensive immigration reform.
Sanders served in the House during the 2005-6 immigration debate. He voted against “The Border Protection, Anti-terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005,” which was also known as the Sensenbrenner bill, on December 16, 2005. That measure, which set off widespread protests, passed by a vote of 239 to 182.
By 2007, Sanders was in the Senate as the immigration debate unfolded. In June of 2007, he voted against moving forward on the 2007 version of Comprehensive Immigration Reform. The vote was 46 – 53. Sanders was one of 16 members of the Democrat caucus to vote against moving forward. At the time, he raised concerns about the issue of guest workers. After the cloture vote, Sanders stated:
“At a time when the middle class is shrinking, poverty is increasing and millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages it makes no sense to me to have an immigration bill which, over a period of years, would bring millions of ‘guest workers’ into this country who are prepared to work for lower wages than American workers. We need to increase wages in this country, not lower them,” Sanders said after senators voted 53-to-46 to set aside the legislation.
“We need an immigration policy which addresses the very serious problems of illegal immigration, continues our historic support of legal immigration, but protects the shrinking middle class.”
After immigration reform failed in 2007, there was an effort to pass a version of the DREAM Act. Sanders voted to proceed, but there weren’t enough votes to overcome a GOP filibuster. Sanders again voted for to proceed on the DREAM Act in December of 2010 when it came to the Senate floor. That measure failed to break the GOP’s filibuster as well.
In the summer of 2013, Sanders participated in an effort to prevent the deportation of Danilo Lopez
Danilo Lopez faces deportation from Vermont to Mexico on July 5. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the rest of the congressional delegation and Vermont’s governor have made the case to federal immigration authorizes that the Vermont farm worker should be allowed to stay. The 23-year-old Lopez is one of about 1,500 migrants who Vermont dairy farmers consider essential to their survival because they fill jobs milking cows that no one else will take. He came to the attention of immigration authorities in 2011 after a car he was riding in was pulled over by a state trooper who notified federal authorities. Since then, Lopez worked with a migrant worker advocacy group that persuaded the state to change its policy on traffic stops and to pass a law letting migrant workers get drivers’ licenses. “I respectfully request that you look into this matter at your earliest convenience,” Sanders said in a letter sent on Monday to John Morton, director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
After the “Gang of Eight” Senate Immigration bill passed out of Judiciary Committee, Sanders was supportive, but raised concerns about the impact of some provisions on workers:
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today congratulated the Senate Judiciary Committee for drafting an immigration reform bill that would provide a path to citizenship for 11 million immigrants in the United States and help their children become citizens.
He also supported provisions in the measure that would strengthen border enforcement, prevent unscrupulous employers from hiring illegal workers and give legal status to foreign workers needed to keep Vermont’s dairy farms and apple orchards in business.
Sanders, however, expressed strong concern that large American corporations in the midst of very high unemployment were using immigration reform to lower wages and benefits for American workers.
“This country was built by immigrants,” said Sanders, whose father came to the United States from Poland. “I want to see comprehensive immigration reform passed. But at a time when nearly 14 percent of Americans do not have a full-time job and when the middle class is working longer hours for lower wages, I oppose a massive increase in temporary guest worker programs that will allow large corporations to import hundreds of thousands of blue-collar and white-collar workers from overseas,” Sanders said in remarks prepared for a Senate floor speech.
On May 25, 2013, Sanders expanded on his immigration views during an interview with the Washington Post:
I’m a strong supporter of immigration reform, and of the need to provide a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. I very strongly support the DREAM Act, and will continue to strongly support it. I very strongly believe, as someone who knows what’s going on in the dairy industry in Vermont, that there’s no question we need to create a status for immigrant workers in agriculture, and I think the committee is making good progress there.
My concerns are in regards to where we stand in terms of guest workers programs, made worse by amendments offered by Senator Hatch. What I do not support is, under the guise of immigrant reform, a process pushed by large corporations which results in more unemployment and lower wages for American workers.
On June 27, 2013, Sanders voted for final passage of S. 744, the comprehensive immigration reform bill.
In September of 2014, after President Obama delayed implementation of executive action, Senator Sanders was in Iowa where he said that President Obama “should have acted” on executive action regardless of the political climate.
As Obama prepared to announce his immigration executive actions in November 2014, Sanders voiced support and blasted television networks for not covering this major announcement:
I’m a strong supporter of immigration reform and of the need to provide a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. I support President Obama’s action to help working families stay together. I think everyone agrees that the current immigration system is broken. The Senate passed an immigration reform bill more than a year ago but House Republicans refused to even consider it. They have left the president with little choice but to act on his own.
“It is incomprehensible that the major television networks have said they will not broadcast the president’s speech tonight. People can be for immigration reform or against it, but clearly we need an intelligent, informed debate. Unless the networks change their plans, they will be doing a disservice to the American people and failing in their obligation to serve the public good.”
Because of President Obama’s executive actions, in December, Congress only provided funding for the Department of Homeland Security through February 27, 2015. The House of Representatives passed DHS funding legislation, which included language to end DACA and the November 2014 executives actions. Democrats in the Senate blocked consideration of the House bill because of that anti-immigrant language.The Senate took four cloture votes to proceed to discussion of that bill. Sanders voted against moving forward with the House bill all four times.