The Democratic 2020 frontrunner, Sen. Bernie Sanders, says illegal immigrants are “entitled” to government benefits in the same way as American citizens, and will be included in his plans for free college and free health care.
Sanders, speaking at a rally in El Paso, Texas on Sunday, said that these types of benefits like subsidized housing and a “higher education” are a form of “basic human rights.”
Addressing income inequality in the United States, Sanders said: "Today, we got 500,000 people sleeping out on the streets of America, today we have 18 million families paying 50 percent of their limited incomes for housing. Today we have hundreds of thousands of bright young people who cannot afford to get a higher education. Today we have 45 million people paying a student debt that many of them cannot afford to pay.”
Sanders said under his administration, these inequalities would be addressed without consideration to citizenship status.
“So what our campaign is about and what our administration will be about is rethinking America; understanding that all of our people — when I say 'all,' I also mean the undocumented in this country — that all of our people are entitled to basic human rights," Sanders said.
Sanders has previously said illegal immigrants will be beneficiaries of his plans for free health care and education.
“And let me also say something of which I have gotten into trouble and people will criticize me for,” Sanders said during an immigration forum last September. “I am, as some of you know, supportive of a Medicare-for-all single-payer system. And that means that everybody in the country has health care, including the undocumented. Okay?”
“And mark my words, you’ll see 30-second ads attacking me for that,” he predicted. “And then you’ll see another set of 30-second ads because when I say I want to make public colleges and universities tuition-free, that also includes the undocumented. Now, I hope that as soon as possible the undocumented will not be undocumented. That’s the goal.”
Sanders has previously described certain government as “basic human rights.”
At the second Democratic debate, Sanders addressed whether illegal immigrants could receive free health care under his plan, and he connected the issue to human rights.
“I happen to believe that when I talk about health care as a human right, that applies to all people in this country and under a Medicare-for-All system, we could afford to do that,” he said.
And during a town hall event on Telemundo last June, Sanders was asked whether his Medicare-for-All plan would cover undocumented immigrants.
“Absolutely. Absolutely,” he replied. “When I talk about healthcare being a human right, last time I heard, undocumented people are human beings as well.”
Editor’s Note: This post, and headline, have been updated to more accurately report Sanders’ comments.