Bernie Sanders gave a full-throated endorsement of immigration reform and the Black Lives Matter movement in an interview with Fusion’s Jorge Ramos today.
Sanders said he wants to bring “11 million undocumented people out of the shadows,” providing legal status for undocumented workers “as quickly as we can” and creating a path to citizenship.
“If we did not have undocumented workers today in America, do you know what would happen? Probably a large part of the agricultural sector of America would collapse, and other large parts of the economy would collapse,” Sanders said, talking about his advocacy for undocumented tomato workers in Florida.
Ramos pushed Sanders on his statements in a Vox interview opposing open borders, a proposal that—while not in the mainstream political conversation—is seen by economists as having the potential to boost livelihoods around the world. “Do I believe, does any member of Congress believe, does any Presidential candidate believe that you simply open the borders and you have millions of people who are unskilled coming into this country?” Sanders asked. “Open borders is not a good thing.”
He said open borders would lead to more unemployment, and that his stance was not anti-immigrant. “Immigration makes America stronger,” said Sanders, whose father was a Polish immigrant.
Sanders has been criticized for his reluctance at embracing the Black Lives Matter movement. But in the interview, he articulated a strong endorsement of the movement’s goals, mentioning by name several recent African-American victims.
“What we are seeing, every day now it appears, is unarmed black people getting shot in the head in a car, we just saw that with Samuel DuBose the other day, Sandra Bland being dragged out of her car, thrown into jail, dead three days later, for the crime of not signaling a right turn,” Sanders said.
He pushed back on Ramos’ suggestion that he had needed to “rectify” his position on the movement since he was booed and heckled by Black Lives Matter activists during appearance at the Netroots Nation conference earlier this month.
“This is a huge issue,” Sanders, a Senator from Vermont, said. “My position for 50 years has been a strong advocate for justice and civil rights.”
He specifically called for a reduction of black and latino unemployment and reform of prison and police policies. “In America, we have made progress over the years, but what we are seeing in terms of police departments, in terms of discrimination tells me we have a long, long way to go,” he said.
Sanders is currently trailing Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton in the polls, 55 percent to 17 percent, according to the latest polling. But he sounds optimistic about his chances. “One of the exciting aspects of the campaign is that we have been attracting a lot of young people, and that makes me feel very good,” Sanders said. “There’s a lot of energy in the campaign.”