By Jason Hopkins
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders dodged questions Sunday when explicitly asked if he would call the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border a “crisis.”
CNN host Dana Bash asked Sanders on “State of the Union” about a tweet he sent Wednesday in which he called the situation at the border a “fake border ‘crisis.’” Bash, however, noted that U.S. Border Patrol agents encountered over 144,000 illegal migrants in May, the highest number in 13 years.
“Border facilities are dangerously overcrowded. Migrants are actually standing on toilets to get space to breathe. How is that not a crisis?” Bash asked the Vermont senator.
In response, Sanders accused President Donald Trump of wielding a political strategy that involves demonizing illegal immigrants and Muslims in order to divide the country. He then called for changes to asylum laws that bring in “a whole lot more legal staff and judges.”
Bash interjected, asking again if he would call the situation a crisis.
“It is a serious problem, but it is not the kind of crisis that requires demonization of desperate people who in some cases have walked a thousand miles with chair children,” Sanders said. “It is an issue we have to deal with. The issue of climate change, the issue of tens of millions of Americans not having any health insurance, the fact that half of our people are living paycheck to paycheck — those are more serious crises.”
The exchange follows an agreement reached Friday between the Trump administration and the Mexican government.
Mexico has pledged to send thousands of security forces to its border with Guatemala, bolstering a region where most Central American migrants cross in their northbound journey, and it has agreed to expand an asylum program that keeps more Central Americans outside of the U.S.
In return, the White House will shelve plans to slap a 5% tariff on all Mexican goods imported into the U.S.
Sanders criticized Trump’s tariff threats with Mexico earlier in the CNN segment. The self-described democratic socialist chastised the president for confronting U.S. allies “every other day” and embarking on “verbal wars.” Instead, he called for comprehensive immigration reform and more legal protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients.
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