Bernie Sanders campaigned in Iowa over the weekend, and during a press conference, he received a question about the GOP’s favorite bogeyman, open borders. His answer? Not so great.
The question began by asking about the impact on social services should the U.S. open its borders. Sanders, whom the questioner apparently assumed was in favor of open borders, quickly corrected him. “No, I’m not,” he said, when he was told he was an “activist for opening the borders.”
“I think what we need is comprehensive immigration reform,” Sanders said. “If you open the borders, my God, there’s a lot of poverty in this world, and you’re going to have people from all over the world. And I don’t think that’s something we can do at this point. Can’t do it.”
First, it should be pointed out that no Democratic presidential candidate has endorsed an open borders policy, a position which gained some notoriety in the last year both as a smear by President Donald Trump against anyone who doesn’t want to make it legal to shoot immigrants on sight, and as an outgrowth of the movement to abolish ICE. The idea has been around for quite a long time, however; during the 2016 campaign, Sanders described it as a “Koch brothers proposal.”
But while Sanders’ position on open borders doesn’t particularly make him stand out from the rest of the pack, his given reason for opposing open borders (too many poor people will come here and use our social services) is unequivocally bad. Aside from the fact that it gives this country a free pass—why should we be able to refuse refugees from physically or economically violent situations that American capitalism and imperialism helped create?—Sanders also just sounds a lot like the guy he’s running to replace. Here’s Trump, from Friday:
America is not full, and yes, we can take more poor people. As Sanders is often fond of saying himself, America is the richest country in the history of the world. And it’s high time we share that wealth with the working class, no matter what country you were born in or what your citizenship status is.
We’ve reached out to Sanders’ campaign to ask what he means by “comprehensive immigration reform,” and, if elected, if he plans to dismantle the deportation machine built and expanded by Presidents Obama and Trump. We’ll update with any response we receive.