Bernie Sanders' campaign walks back vow of total deportation freeze

Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign appears to be walking back a key plank of its radical immigration policy -- a total moratorium on all deportations -- by promising that “violent criminals” could still be removed from the country.

Sanders’ campaign, in its immigration proposal, promises a “moratorium on deportations until a thorough audit of past practices and policies is complete.” The document does not specify how long that freeze would last, but it does also envision breaking up both Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and handing deportation power back to the Department of Justice.

COURT HANDS TRUMP WIN IN SANCTUARY CITY FIGHT, SAYS ADMINISTRATION CAN DENY GRANT MONEY

While such a freeze has delighted radical immigration activists, it is far from clear how that would play with a broader, less extreme electorate.

But campaign manager Faiz Shakir was asked by BuzzFeed News reporter Hamed Aleaziz last week if a President Sanders would deport violent criminals -- noting that ICE had recently deportated people convicted of double murder.

“We're talking about violent criminals sit in jail or prison right now, upon the end of whatever sentence they may currently have, they would be deported,” Shakir said, quickly followed by saying that was a “tiny number of people on a case-by-case basis that would be outside the moratorium.”

But, depending on how broad the definition of “violent criminals” is, it is not a small number at all.

SANDERS IMMIGRATION PLAN: HALT DEPORTATIONS, ABOLISH ICE, WELCOME 50K CLIMATE MIGRANTS, GIVE WELFARE TO ALL

According to ICE’s numbers, 267,000 illegal immigrants were removed in Fiscal Year 2019 and 143,000 were arrested. More than 86 percent of those arrested had either criminal convictions or pending charges.

Additionally, among those arrested, those individuals had racked up:

  • More than 1,900 convictions and charges for homicide;  
  • More than 1,800 convictions and charges for kidnapping;  
  • Over 12,000 sex offenses, with more than 5,000 convictions and charges for sexual assault;  
  • More than 45,000 convictions and charges for assault;  
  • More than 67,000 convictions and charges for drug-related crimes;  
  • More than 10,000 convictions and charges for weapons offenses; and  
  • More than 74,000 convictions and charges for Driving Under the Influence.

It is then unclear where a President Sanders would draw the line. While it appears that a homicide or kidnapping conviction would be a deportable offense, would an assault charge or a gun conviction? It is also not clear whether sexual offenses would be included.

The Sanders campaign did not immediately respond to a Fox News request for comment. But, in his remarks to Buzzfeed, Shakir repeated it was something that would be considered on a “case-by-case" basis.

“No, it starts with a broad moratorium. Yeah. It starts with a broad wholescale full sweep moratorium, acknowledging that there's going to be case-by-cases that may need to be dealt with differently,” Shakir said.

Sanders himself had teased limited exceptions in the past. According to The Washington Post, he had said in January there might be an exception made “if someone has been convicted of a terrible, terrible crime.”

The Sanders camp isn't the only campaign struggling between agreeing to a full moratorium demanded by radical pro-illegal immigration groups and allowing exceptions for criminal illegals as many voters would want.

Former Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday at a CNN debate said he would institute a moratorium on deportations for 100 days “until we get through the point that we find out the only rationale for deportation will be whether or not, whether or not you've committed a felony while in the country.”

A Biden adviser reportedly told Buzzfeed that saying he supported a moratorium was “inaccurate” -- only to release a joint statement with the Latino Victory Fund to the outlet hours later committing to such a moratorium.

"Vice President Biden is absolutely committed to a 100-day moratorium on any deportations of people already in the United States," the Biden campaign and the Latino Victory Fund said in the joint statement. "The campaign and Latino Victory Fund stand fully together in this and in the mission to support immigrant communities and center all the issues important to Latinos at the heart of this movement as we work to send Donald Trump and his unmitigated assault on our national values packing."