Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled a proposal Thursday to overhaul the Department of Homeland Security, positioning himself to the far left on the issue of immigration enforcement.
The Vermont senator introduced a sweeping immigration plan that champions the largest overhaul of DHS since it was established in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks. The progressive lawmaker, among many items, called for the breakup of two DHS agencies, a halt on deportation, a halt to border wall construction and the embrace of tens of thousands of “climate migrants.”
“My father came to America as a refugee without a nickel in his pocket, to escape widespread anti-Semitism and find a better life,” Sanders tweeted Thursday. “Today I released my plan to reject Trump’s hate and live up to our ideals as a nation that welcomes immigrants and refugees.”
With the introduction of his plan, Sanders became the first Democratic candidate to call for the breakup of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the two agencies under DHS that are tasked with protecting the U.S. border and carrying out immigration enforcement.
The self-identified democratic socialist instead wants many of ICE’s current authorities to be transferred to the Department of Justice, such as deportation and other enforcement duties. Under his plan, the Treasury Department would take on many of the roles CBP currently performs, and the State Department would handle naturalization and citizenship authority.
“Immigration is not a threat to national security,” Sanders’s proposal read. “It is long past time we break up the Department of Homeland Security and refocus its mission on keeping our country safe and responding effectively to emergencies.”
Sanders pledged to put a moratorium on all deportations beginning on the first day of his administration until a “thorough audit of current and past practices and policies” is completed.
Another major tenet of Sanders’s proposal includes the decriminalization of illegal immigration. Under current law, unauthorized entry into the U.S. is a federal misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in prison. Repeated unauthorized entry can be punished by up to two years in prison. Under the senator’s plan, illegal border crossings would be a civil violation.