After more than 100,000 people on Wednesday evening participated in over 3,500 organizational meetings to rally support and hear the message of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator today appeared before a Hispanic business association to talk about the thorny issues of immigration and race.
Sanders has drawn larger audiences than any of the other candidates in the presidential race, but some critics say he struggles when confronted with issues about race.
He took the opportunity to improve his image and clarify his views at a press conference hosted by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on Thursday. Sanders was interviewed by the organization’s CEO Javier Palomarez about the senator’s views on socialism, equal pay, trade, financial institutions, the environment, racism, and immigration.
Many argue that Sanders plans to combat racial inequality through economic inequality, which isn’t wrong. But being from Vermont, with a population that Bernie has stated is “97% white,” focusing on racism itself has not been the Senator’s main focus while in office.
When asked about racism in general, Sanders stated that he believes it is “alive and well in America” and anyone who doesn’t agree is “mistaken.”
Regarding the surge of media attention surrounding police brutality, Sanders stated that we need “severe policing reform,” more body cameras on officers, and have a Justice Department that is “vigorous” when dealing with instances of police brutality.
In addition, Sanders expressed his views on sentencing reform. Sanders believes too many people are in jail for “nonviolent offenses.”
Palomarez also asked him whether or not Sanders believes if some who are running for the presidency “are racist.” Sanders responded that the “statements Donald Trump has made are outrageous” and it “angers” him that “someone would stoop to that level.”
When asked about immigration, Sanders was clear that he supports reform and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already residing in the country. Sanders was also clear about the severe injustice that many illegal immigrants have to face.
“Many are concerned about illegal immigrants, but there are illegal employers as well,” said Sanders. He stated that many Republicans “ignore that reality.” Essentially, Sanders concluded that immigration is “an economic and moral issue.”
Sanders wrapped up the interview stating that he can do “very little” unless “there is a movement behind him.”
That movement is growing, and whether or not Sanders wins the primary, his following is attracting more and more people each day. While the candidate grapples the issues of racism and immigration more smoothly, perhaps his campaign will garner even more necessary votes.