From the Desk of Gil Cedillo: Why I Support Bernie Sanders

Friends,

As we leave the Nevada Caucus, it is important for me to reiterate my strong support for Bernie Sanders’ candidacy for the Democratic nomination. I believe he is most suited to represent the Latino community and its future as President.

In my forty years of advocacy and activism, I have been engaged in several causes and taken on many social justice fights. I have chosen those issues not because it was the popular thing to do, but because I believed it was the right thing to do.

Whether as a student, community activist, union organizer, or elected official, I have consistently advocated for laws that were fair and just to the immigrant community. I am proud of the role my union played in opposition to the draconian Proposition 187. I am proud to have been the author of the California Dream Act and honored to be identified as the leader of the movement to obtain licenses for immigrant motorist in California. Now, as a City Councilmember, I continue this work by partnering with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs to ensure that immigrants are fully integrated into the civic life of our uniquely immigrant city.

With my colleagues in the Council, I am also engaged in the fight to take people from living on the streets, to living in a home of their own and being treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve. The trajectory of our work has been led by the principle that everyone has a place in our society. When legislating, this must be our guiding principle. It is for this reason and those stated below that Bernie Sanders makes the best candidate for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States.

On the question of immigration, we are living in extremely dangerous times. On a daily basis, hour-by-hour, we are vilified by Republican candidates in every media outlet. Even Latino children at the border find it difficult to find safe haven in our nation and it has even been suggested by Secretary Clinton that they be sent back to their home country to send a message to future perspective refugees. Senator Sanders believes that children should not be sent back, but rather, they should be embraced. He has a very thorough and explicit plan on immigration, and will include the Latino community in every aspect of his agenda, especially when it comes to economic prosperity and healthcare coverage.

Much ado has been made by Secretary Clinton and her surrogates about a single vote Senator Sanders took in 2007. This legislation contained a guest worker program, akin to the Bracero program of the 1950s, something that we all should be offended by. The AFL-CIO, LULAC, Hermandad Mexicana, Southwest Voter Registration and Educational Program, and other Latino civil rights and pro-immigrant organizations also opposed this proposal. I thank him for his vote.

I also thank him for his opposition to the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, which denied hundreds of thousands of legal immigrants — including many who worked in the United States for decades and paid a considerable amount in Social Security and income taxes — from receiving disability, senior assistance and food stamps, and reduced food stamp assistance for millions of children in working families.

Senator Sanders also opposed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, which created a devastating 3 to 10 year ban on undocumented immigrants re-entering the country. This legislation tore apart families and sent people back to countries of which they had no memory. Little has been said by the Secretary or her surrogates about where she stands on these Acts.

Finally, while there has been much focus on Senator Sanders’ vote against the flawed immigration reform bill of 2007, nothing has been heard from Secretary Clinton or her surrogates about her opposition in 2007 to driver licenses for undocumented motorists. Fortunately, California moved forward, in spite of her state opposition and the opposition of many of her surrogates, and just last year awarded more than 600,000 licenses to undocumented motorists and we are on track to reach two and a half million.

There is a growing divide between wealth and poverty, and the Latino community is disproportionately over-represented in the lower strata of the economic scale. Senator Sanders’ plan to institute a nationwide $15/hour minimum wage has the potential to dramatically alter the circumstances for not only Latino families, but African American families and families led by women as well. He is also the only candidate that openly talks about taking on Wall Street and protecting working families. His notion of shared prosperity will unite communities everywhere.

From the beginning, Senator Sanders has spoken about the need to have free tuition for everyone interested in pursuing higher education. In California, we fought for the Dream Act because we know education is the great equalizer. I know this to be true, because it is my story and the story of so many members or our community. We should never deny a willing student the right to an education, regardless of income or immigration status. Not only is it the right thing to do, it is the only way we will be able to compete in our global economy. We must prepare the next generations of scientists, engineers, doctors and teachers, without punishing them with many thousands of dollars of student debt.

For all that can be said for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), an estimated 29 million Americans are still without health insurance and in its construction it explicitly excludes the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States from purchasing health care through the plan. Immigrants who can buy a home, auto insurance, and pay taxes can not participate in the ACA or ensure access to affordable health care coverage for themselves or their families. Senator Sanders believes that health care is a human right and his plan for a single payer system includes all Americans. It is more inclusive and less expensive than the current system, and will ensure that everyone can access the health care they need.

Senator Sanders is the only candidate that has the ability to operate and effectuate change in our current political climate. There is enthusiasm in having an anti-establishment candidate, one who is not afraid to take on the status quo, and speaks about it freely. On the other hand, whether fact-based or not, there is no doubt that the candidacy of Secretary Clinton is encumbered by a sense of mistrust amongst significant sectors of the electorate. Senator Sanders appeals to independent voters, who are not interested in seeing this nation continue as it has for decades, regardless of what party is in the White House. According to the polls, Senator Sanders is best positioned to defeat the Republicans in the fall. We must offer our strongest candidate when so much at stake.

Democrats have a lot to lose. Latinos have even more to lose. And the young people of our country have the most to lose. It is imperative that we stand behind the best candidate to represent our Democratic values, values that include all Americans and embrace the energy and optimism of our youth. I am voting for the future. I am voting for “El Veijito.” I encourage you to do the same. I encourage you to Feel the Bern!

Sincerely,

Gil Cedillo