Sanders Says He ‘Might’ Be Open To Deportation Of Illegal Aliens Convicted Of A ‘Terrible, Terrible Crime’

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders said he “might” make an exception for his proposed deportation moratorium for those convicted of the most heinous crimes.

Speaking Monday at VICE News’s Brown and Black Democrat Forum, Sanders touched on a range of political issues, and made the case for his progressive bid for the White House. When asked about his stance on immigration enforcement, the Vermont independent senator proposed what is likely the most progressive directive on migrant repatriation to date.

“If someone has been convicted of a terrible, terrible crime, that might be an exception to the rule,” Sanders said at the forum, according to The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel. “A moratorium on 99% of deportations is nothing to sniff at, and I think the undocumented community would be very proud of that.”

This is not a necessarily new position by the self-described Democratic socialist. Sanders rolled out a comprehensive immigration platform in early November 2019, proposing a slate of progressive reforms for the U.S. immigration system. Such proposals included the dismantling of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); the reorganization of the Department of Homeland Security; a pathway to citizenship for the country’s illegal alien population; the decriminalization of illegal immigration; and a ban on deportations.

ICE officers carry out a raid as part of Operation Cross Check in Sherman Texas

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers carry out a raid as part of Operation Cross Check in Sherman, Texas, U.S., on June 20, 2019. Picture taken on June 20, 2019. Courtesy Charles Reed/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Handout via REUTERS

If Sanders were to be elected president and issued an executive order banning deportations except for the most “terrible, terrible” crimes, it would dramatically change how the U.S. government enforces immigration laws.

In fiscal year 2019, ICE removed a total of 267,258 illegal aliens, according to data provided by the agency. ICE already prioritizes removals of criminal aliens. The majority of those removed last fiscal year were either convicted of a crime or carried pending criminal charges. Changes to the deportation process largely depends on Sanders’s interpretation of “terrible, terrible.”

During the VICE News forum, the Vermont senator also said he was open to the idea of tearing down existing wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.


“It may be,” Sanders said when asked if it would be appropriate to tear down sections of the southern border wall. “But how much is it going to cost to tear it down? Should you do that — tear it down? Maybe the answer is yes.” (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: The Man Behind The Wall: DHS Chief Calls It Like He Sees It)

Sanders then agreed when asked by the host if it was something he was “willing to consider.”

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