By Simon Lewis
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders said on Thursday he would put a moratorium on deportations from the United States and end raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on his first day in office.
Sanders said in a statement he would overturn Republican President Donald Trump's border policies if elected and create a "humane, lawful process that protects families and respects human rights."
Trump has made cracking down on illegal immigration a centerpiece of his presidency and accuses Democrats of supporting "open borders." ICE has stepped up its activities, arresting more than 2,300 people in the 2018 fiscal year, compared with just over 300 the year before.
"We will end the ICE raids that are terrorizing our communities," said Sanders, "and on my first day as president, I will use my executive power to protect our immigrant communities and reverse every single horrific action implemented by Trump."
Other Democrats running for president have also proposed immigration reforms like raising the number of refugees the Unites States takes in. Some, including Sanders, have said they would repeal the law that criminalizes crossing the border and has been used to separate migrant children from their families.
The U.S. senator from Vermont is among the top three candidates in the crowded field of Democrats competing to take on Trump in the November 2020 election, but trails former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in most opinion polls.
Sanders suffered a heart attack last month but has bounced back with endorsements from high-profile progressives and rallies of supporters enthusiastic about his agenda of taxing corporations and the wealthy to pay for measures like government-run healthcare.
Sanders, 78, whose father was a Jewish immigrant from Poland, has spoken about immigration on campaign stops, but had not published a set of detailed proposals on immigration until Thursday.
Among his plans are a raft of executive actions he would take on day one of his presidency, like a moratorium on deportations until an audit of deportation policies and practices has taken place.
The proposals also included longer-term reforms, like passing legislation giving a pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million immigrants in the country illegally and breaking up ICE and the Customs and Border Protection agency to "begin treating immigration outside the context of national security."
(Reporting by Simon Lewis; Editing by Peter Cooney)