LOS ANGELES, California — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) spoke at a town hall meeting on immigration reform at the Casa del Mexicano on Saturday, where he was embraced by members of the local Hispanic community.
“Welcome to Oaxacafornia,” said a Oaxacan woman, referring to the impoverished region of Mexico from which many immigrants come.
Sanders began by speaking about Friendship Park on the Mexico-U.S. border in San Diego, calling it “a very sad fence. The fence and the screening is so tight that the only contact a husband and wife and mother and child can have is by sticking their fingers through the screen.” Sanders promised that if he becomes president, “we will end the current, ill-advised deportation politics in this country … The majority of the American people want comprehensive immigration reform.”
A little girl in the audience shouted out, “Bernie?” and he turned to her and said “yes, sweetheart.” He turned and pointed in her direction and told the audience that he wants to see the youth succeed.
The United Steel Workers Local 675 and the Nurses Union were also present to support Sanders. “Bernie is pro-labor and he’s better with immigrants, we feel,” Moises Hernandez, 25, told Breitbart News. Union members said their apprehension about a Donald Trump presidency stemmed from a fear that he would “want to take out the National Labor Relations Board.”
Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) was a special guest on the panel as well. He said the reason immigration reform had not occurred in President Barack Obama’s first 100 days in office as he had promised is “because it was lower on the priority list not only to our Congress, but also to our current administration.”
A Mexican woman named Betty also spoke on the panel. She told the crowd that she becomes hopeful when the conversation about immigration reform takes place. She noted that after 30 years, “I’ve been living in this country for more time than I lived in my home country. I deserve to be here… I’m scared. I don’t have nothing.”
She asked Sanders what he is going to do to stop the deportations. “Our immigration policy should be to unite families, not divide families,” Sanders told her. “Number 1, we will end the current deportation policies. Number 2, we will fight for comprehensive immigration reform.” He told her, “You have been in this country for 30 years, you are an American in every sense. And if my colleagues, the Republicans in the House, refuse to do the right thing, we will use all our legal options to install immigration rights using the executive powers,” he said.
Sanders also addressed prison reform. “I know many of you are concerned about our criminal justice system And you should be, it is a broken system. We have 2.2. million people, disproportionately African America, Latino and Native American” in prisons, Sanders noted.
“As a nation, we should invest in our young people in jobs and education, not jails and incarceration.” He latter said that he wanted to end corporate ownership of prisons because “if you’re a business that owns a jail, your job is to get more people into jail…. our job should be to keep people out of jail.”
He also repeated his pledge to make community college tuition free, taxing Wall Street speculation, or profits, in order to pay for it. “This is not a radical idea,” he said.
“You now who much it costs to go to college in Chile? Zero … Scandinavia? Zero,” Sanders told the crowd. “These countries are investing in their children and their future and we should do the same.”
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