If you’ve been following the Democratic primary, you may have noticed that Bernie Sanders has positioned himself as a champion of the immigrant community. From the letter he sent to Barack Obama last week, to the work he, his campaign, and surrogates have done attacking other candidates’ positions, you would think that he has been a lifelong champion on issues that matter to Latinos and immigrants. But here’s the truth: Candidate Bernie Sanders, advocate for immigrants, is not the same as Senator Bernie Sanders.
Let’s start with the letter he sent to President Obama. Bernie, candidate, decried the deportation raids — which he should. But in 2006, Bernie, congressman, actually voted…to create and fund two of the programs he criticizes in the letter.
Furthermore, in 2006, he voted for a bill pushed by James Sensenbrenner, one of the most anti-immigrant members of Congress, that would have allowed undocumented immigrants to be detained indefinitely pending deportation. This bill was widely viewed as a desperate attempt by Republicans to boost their reelection prospects that year by cracking down on immigrants, and the ACLU called it “inhumane.” Bernie voted for it anyway. (You’ll note that he was running for Senate — as an independent.)
In fact, in 2011, Harry Reid, and other Senators sent a letter to President Obama urging him to end the deportation of DREAMers. You can probably guess who didn’t sign that letter.
If you go to Bernie’s website, you’ll note that the first thing comprehensive reform is one of the main policy points on his website. Well, that’s funny. In 2007, he voted against Senator Ted Kennedy’s immigration reform bill.
Heck, here’s how much of a johnny-come-lately he is. During this campaign, he defended the vote with the same talking points.
“What I think [Wall Street is] interested in is seeing a process by which we can bring low-wage labor of all levels into this country to depress wages in America, and I strongly disagree with that.” -7/30/15
Here’s the kicker.
Perhaps you’re familiar with the Minutemen. You know — the anti-immigrant militias who patrol the border trying to stop undocumented people from coming to do their jobs. You would think that such a self-appointed lifelong advocate for the community would vote against anti-immigrant vigilantes. You would be thinking wrong. Bernie voted to protect them — and provided a weak excuse as to why. This point is especially egregious. Anyone claiming to be an advocate for the community shouldn’t have voted for this. Period.
I like Bernie. He’s a nice guy. I have no doubt he means well. Latinos matter in this election, and he knows it. But my question for Bernie is, where the heck was he for the last 25 years? Where was he on immigration reform? On indefinite detentions? On vigilante justice against undocumented workers? He was nowhere. That’s where.
Perhaps he’s had a change of heart, in which case, great. But why is he speaking as though we, the advocates and community members working for years to keep families together and push for immigration reform, haven’t been trying to make any progress until now? Specifically, why is he pretending like Hillary Clinton hasn’t been on the right side of this while he was on the wrong side? She’s got the track record to prove that she was in the fight with our community, Ted Kennedy, and President Obama. Bernie certainly doesn’t.
To put a finer point on it: Hillary Clinton has realistic plans to pass comprehensive immigration reform and go farther than even President Obama has gone. Now that Bernie has shown up on the scene, I want to hear — and I think Latino voters deserve to hear — specifically how he plans to get his vast-and-various plans through to make the progress that immigrant families so urgently need. Because if one thing’s for sure, it’s that our communities can’t wait for empty promises that can’t be kept.
To Senator and Congressman Sanders’ credit, while he was wrong about immigration issues, he was never dishonest. You knew where he stood. But candidate Sanders? The lesson of his campaign has been that you can’t be sure where he stands or what he’ll do at all.