Sanders Advocates Path to Citizenship, Using Executive Orders 'If Congress Doesn't Do the Right Thing'

By Susan Jones | February 12, 2016 | 5:14am EST
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, takes the stage before a Democratic presidential primary debate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

( - Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) says he mostly agrees with President Obama, except when it comes to his deportation policies.

"And I would not support those," Sanders said at Thursday's Democratic debate in Milwaukee. "Bottom line is a path towards citizenship for 11 million undocumented people. If Congress doesn't do the right thing, we use the executive orders of the president."

Sanders was applauded for saying it.

Hillary Clinton said she "strongly" supports the president's executive actions. "I hope the Supreme Court upholds them," she said. "I think there is constitutional and legal authority for the president to have done what he did.

"I am against the raids. I'm against the kind of inhumane treatment that is now being visited upon families, waking them up in the middle of the night, rounding them up. We should be deporting criminals, not hardworking immigrant families who do the very best they can and often are keeping economies going in many places in our country.

"I'm a strong supporter of comprehensive immigration reform," Clinton continued. "Have been ever since I was in the Senate. I was one of the original sponsors of the DREAM Act. I voted for comprehensive immigration reform in 2007. Senator Sanders voted against it at that time.

"Because I think we have to get to comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. And as president I would expand enormous energy, literally call every member of Congress that I thought I could persuade.

"Hopefully after the 2016 election, some of the Republicans will come to their senses and realize we are not going to deport 11 or 12 million people in this country. And they will work with me to get comprehensive immigration reform."

Sanders said he also strongly supports comprehensive immigration reform. "I agree with President Obama who used executive orders to protect families, because the Congress, the House was unable or refused to act.

"And in fact I would go further. What would motivate me and what would be the guiding light for me in terms of immigration to bring families together, not divide them up."

Sanders said he disagrees with Clinton when it comes to the recent influx of children from Central America:

"If my memory is correct, I think when we saw children coming from these horrendous, horrendously violent areas of Honduras and neighboring countries, people who are fleeing drug violence and cartel violence, I thought it was a good idea to allow those children to stay in this country. That was not, as I understand it, the secretary's position."

Clinton said she "made it very clear that those children needed to be processed appropriately, but we also had to send a message to families and communities in Central America not to send their children on this dangerous journey in the hands of smugglers.

"I've also called for the end of family detention, for the end of privately-run detention centers, along with private prisons, which I think are really against the common good and the rule of law."

Sanders asked Clinton, "Who are you sending a message to? These are children who are leaving countries and neighborhoods where their lives are at stake. That was the fact. I don't think we use them to send a message. I think we welcome them into this country and do the best we can to help them get their lives together."

"Well, that just wasn't -- that just wasn't the fact, Senator. The fact is that there was a great effort made by the Obama administration and others to really send a clear message, because we knew that so many of these children were being abused, being treated terribly while they tried to get to our border.

"So we have a disagreement on this. I think now what I've called for is counsel for every child so that no child has to face any kind of process without someone who speaks and advocates for that child so that the right decision hopefully can be made."

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