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Immigration Reform News: Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders Promises to Expand Deportation Protections for Immigrants

First Posted: Jun 21, 2015 04:40 PM EDT

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders delivered a speech before Latino policymakers on Friday, promising to expand current "Dreamer" deportation protections to the parents of undocumented children.

While speaking at the National Conference of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in Las Vegas, the Vermont senator called for an overhaul to the immigration system that would keep families together.

Sanders said that as President, he would expand President Barack Obama's "deferred action" policy, which grants deportation protection for undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children, commonly refered to as "dreamers."

However, in addition to protecting "dreamers," Sanders called for an end to deportations of their parents, also undocumented immigrants who still face the threat of deportation under current deferred action policy.

"We cannot and we should not be talking about sweeping up millions of men, women and children, many of whom have been in this country for years," Sanders said to applause, according to Time

Despite the perception and likelihood of Sanders' campaign being a long shot -- he trails Clinton in fundraising, name recognition, and political capital -- his speech, the day after Clinton's address in the same venue, still filled the Las Vegas ballroom.

"It makes common sense to me, and I think all people of good will, that we should be pursuing policies that unite families, not tear them apart," said the 73-year-old Independent and self-asserted socialist running for the Democratic nomination, reported USA Today.

Sanders has a lot of ground to cover, especially with Latino and minority voters in comparison with Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. According to the L.A. Times, in the most recent poll conducted by CNN, Sanders garnered strong support from only five percent of nonwhite Democrat voters. Clinton, on the other hand, was supported by 65 percent in the survey.

Both are running with strong, progressive messaging about immigration reform. But speaking to the Latino lawmakers association, Sanders -- normally a data-driven economic policy wonk -- combined his economic argument on immigration with a more personal, compassionate touch. 

"American kids who deserve the right to be in the country they know as home," said Sanders, who happens to be the son of a Polish immigrant. "We are a nation of immigrants. That is, in fact, the strength of America." 

"It is not acceptable to me," added Sanders, "and I think a growing majority of the American people, that millions of folks in this country are working extremely hard, but they are living in the shadows, and this has got to end." 

Beyond immigration, Sanders also touched on his goal to empower minority communities by addressing a laundry list of policies he sees in need of reform, including raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, addressing youth unemployment, reforming prison term length, granting citizens with a right to healt, and offering tuition-free education at American colleges and universities. Some of his proposals were met with standing ovations from the crowd. 

"Brothers and sisters, there is a lot of work to be done," Sanders said. "But when we stand up to those people on top whose greed has done so much damage to this country... There is no limit to what this great country can accomplish."

The speech marked the first time that Sanders' delivered significant statements on his plans for immigration policy, should he be elected.

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