Thursday, May 30, 2019 | 9:13 p.m.
If he was to sit in the Oval Office come January 2021, Sen. Bernie Sanders would work to secure the U.S.-Mexico border while also overhauling the immigration system in a humane manner.
That’s what the Democratic nominee told an enthusiastic crowd of about 900 supporters in Las Vegas Thursday during a campaign stop at Roy Martin Middle School Thursday.
The Vermont senator said his campaign will roll out a “comprehensive immigration reform” plan in the coming weeks that will be “based on a principle of creating a humane policy that keeps families together and aligns with our values and our history as a nation.”
Sanders went on to attack President Donald Trump and his “Republican allies” for supporting policies he said were “racist” and “demagogic."
As it stands, Sanders said, the 1.8 million so-called Dreamers would “immediately” gain permanent legal status, and the rest of the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally would be able to “come out of the shadow,” he said. There would also be a “path to citizenship.”
He prefaced it by telling the story of his father, a Polish immigrant who came the United States with no money, little education and not knowing a lick of English, Sanders said.
“My father, like millions of other people in this country, built a life for himself and my mother and my brother and me through hard work and determination,” said Sanders, who wore a dark blue suit and tie, and drew applause in his impassioned 45-minute speech in which he often flung his arms forward. “Millions of immigrant families in the United States are working so hard in order to improve life for their kids, but it’s not just my story or your story, that is the story of America and a story we are proud of.”
Sanders said he would end family separations at the southern border that has seen record-breaking numbers of illegal crossings in the past months. “America must never be a nation in which babies are snatched from the arms of their mothers,” he said.
The more than 76,000 migrants that crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in February more than doubled the figure from a year prior, the Associated Press reported in March. Just Thursday, the AP reported that a group of 1,036 migrants had crossed illegally into El Paso, Texas, “the largest” number in a group border authorities have “ever encountered.”
Those caught crossing the border illegally would not face criminal violations, but civil ones, Sanders said. “Most of the people coming to this country are seeking asylum from violence … from desperate poverty.”
A heckler was swiftly removed as the crowd roared “Bernie! Bernie!”
Sanders also touched on healthcare, noting his administration would slash prescription medication costs in half. Discussing criminal justice reform, he said he would combat mass incarceration and the cash bail system.
His campaign is also calling on a $15-an-hour wage minimum, free tuition in higher education, and student loan debt relief, something Sanders has been advocating since he ran for the nomination in 2016.
Sanders’ policies are catching up nationally, he said. “If I can’t win on my ideas, then I don’t deserve to win.”
An hour before the event, hundreds who stood in a long line began to make their way inside the gym. Some donned Sanders apparel, and vendors sold more of it outside.
Susan Ruggeberg and her fiancé, Jose Bravo, spoke about the 2016 primary and why they still support Sanders’ bid to the White House. Ruggeberg, who is unemployed, said she pays $600 a month on health insurance, something she hopes a Sanders administration can alleviate.
“I really like Bernie,” she said. “I liked him in 2016. I think he would have been a better thing for our country than what we’re going through now,” adding that in that election, her philosophy was “anybody but Hillary (Clinton).”
“Boy, was I wrong,” Ruggeberg said.
Bravo is confident Sanders will go on to the general election, he said. “It’s about time, and people are starting to wake up …and put some real changes into this country and help the real people who are really supporting the country, as opposed to the wealthy.”
Also in the Las Vegas-area, Sanders met with senior citizens earlier in the day, and attended a community meeting this evening.