Sanders Calls for Abolishing Department of Homeland Security as Part of New Immigration Plan

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security emblem. (Hyungwon Kang/Reuters)

Senator Bernie Sanders (D., Vt.) released on Thursday a far-reaching plan aimed at a complete overhaul of the current U.S. immigration system.

Sanders promises to break up the Department of Homeland Security, including the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agencies, distributing their respective responsibilities among the Justice, Treasury and State Departments. No other Democratic candidate has so far proposed abolishing ICE and CBP.

The Senator would decriminalize border crossings, and would also end detention for any illegal immigrant without a violent criminal conviction. Sanders writes he would instead provide “community-based alternatives to detention” that give illegal immigrants access to legal representation and health care.

In addition, Sanders writes he will expand two Obama-era programs, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, to allow 85 percent of illegal immigrants living in the U.S. for the past five years to remain in the country.

Sanders does not explain how he would complete background checks on illegal immigrants to find violent criminals after dismantling ICE and CBP.

The proposal presents a stark contrast to the Trump administration’s immigration policies, which strongly support ICE and seek to eliminate hindrances to the agency’s ability to arrest illegal immigrants.

On October 29, the Trump administration filed a petition with the Supreme Court challenging California’s “sanctuary” law, known as SB-54, which effectively prohibits local law-enforcement agencies from cooperating with ICE agents. Earlier in October, ICE official Timothy Robbins said in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that the Los Angeles sheriff’s department was releasing up to 100 illegal immigrants per day back into the streets due to the department’s refusal to notify ICE.

ICE agents in Massachusetts announced on Wednesday they had completed a four-day sting operation in which they arrested 19 illegal immigrants previously charged with or convicted of drug offenses. In some cases the detainees had been released by law enforcement agencies into local communities without informing ICE.

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