Reporter's Notebook

Early and Often

Bernie Sanders, among five presidential candidates to stump for votes in Pasadena, is out to win California

On May 31, Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Secretary Julián Castro and Gov. Jay Inslee participated in the first presidential forum focused on immigration at the Pasadena Hilton. Sanders also held a political rally Friday at the Pasadena Convention Center, drawing a crowd of about 2,000 people including Pasadena City Councilmembers Tyron Hampton and Steve Madison. And New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s event May 30 at the Women’s City Club of Pasadena was sponsored by Women in Leadership Vital Voices and Lena Kennedy, sister of Pasadena City Councilman John Kennedy.

Candidates are making sure to traverse California on their campaign trails because the state has moved its primary election date up from June to March 3, 2020. Conversely, during the 2016 campaign, when California’s June primary was one of the last, Sanders was the only presidential candidate to visit Pasadena.

“We are treating [California] like an early primary state,” Sanders’ campaign manager Faiz Shakir recently told NPR, “campaigning there early and often, and making a strong play to try and win that state.”

The primary election for the city of Pasadena will also be held March 3. The state essentially forced the city to hold its general election the same day as the presidential election on Nov. 3, 2020, in an effort to increase voter participation, which had fallen below 25 percent in Pasadena. The mayor and City Council districts 1, 2, 4 and 6 will be up for election. Several candidates have already declared their intention to run.

Feelin’ the Bern in Pasadena

Sanders’ visit to California followed his first trip to his home state of Vermont since he announced his candidacy, a series of ice cream socials in New Hampshire and a two-day swing through Nevada.

Sanders’ recently hired a fundraiser — a position that didn’t exist in his 2016 campaign — to oversee his new strategy of holding smaller, grassroots, in-person fundraising events for donors of all levels and the media.

Sanders was the first candidate to sign the grassroots, nonprofit Indivisible Project’s pledge calling on Democratic candidates to make the primary constructive, rally behind and immediately endorse the ultimate Democratic nominee no matter who it is and do everything in their power to make that nominee the next president.

Sanders’ wide-ranging speech at the Pasadena Convention Center touched on domestic policies such as income inequality, poverty, affordable housing, homelessness, jobs, voting rights, unions, legalized cannabis, women’s rights, abortion, education, child care, tuition-free college, criminal justice reform, immigration, health care, climate change and the Green New Deal. He also touched on foreign policy, including his opposition to war.

Sanders went after President Trump’s economic message, saying American workers have been ignored. And he pointed out that in 2016, the media and political establishment called his ideas too radical, but that a majority of Americans now support them.

“Four years ago, we began the political revolution; this campaign we finalize the political revolution,” he said.

Sanders said he is often asked by his critics how he plans to pay for all his proposals.

“Ten years ago, the American people bailed out the crooks on Wall Street to the tune of $1 trillion. Well, Wall Street can now help the working families of this country. We will impose a transaction tax on Wall Street speculation.”

Sanders condemned states like Georgia and Alabama for passing “draconian” anti-abortion legislation.

“A woman’s right to control her own body is a constitutional right and we will defend that right,” he said. “I will never nominate anyone to the Supreme Court who is not prepared to vigorously support Roe v. Wade. This is an issue for everyone. Men must stand with women.”

He called out National Security Advisor John Bolton for helping lead the United States into war in Iraq in 2003 and warned that Bolton is now leading the charge to drag the country into war with Iran.

“Iraq was a disaster,” he said. “War with Iran will be worse. It will lead to perpetual warfare. Our kids, our grandchildren: never ending war. We must do everything we can to stop international conflicts through diplomatic means, not war.”

He pledged to rally world leaders to cut military spending and use that money to combat climate change.

“Think about a world where instead of building more nuclear weapons, poison gas, tanks and guns,” he said, “China, Russia, India, Latin America, Africa and the United States are coming together to say, ‘We are going to save this planet for our children and our grandchildren.’”

Sanders attacked Trump and vowed to defeat the “most dangerous president in American history.”

A Focus on Immigration

After his Pasadena rally, Sanders and three other presidential candidates — Harris, Castro and Inslee — discussed their plans for immigration reform at the Unity + Freedom Forum at the Pasadena Hilton.

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti also spoke at the event, which was not open to the public, but more than 500 grassroots leaders and immigrant-rights advocates from across the nation were in attendance. About 7.1 million people watched Telemundo’s livestream of the event. Two moderators and several immigrants told their stories and asked questions of the candidates.

Harris claimed that there is bipartisan support for immigration reform on Capitol Hill and pledged to work on a bipartisan solution.

“Most Americans are acutely aware of the economic benefit to this country of having immigrants,” she said. “Farmers across the country, some of whom may have even voted for this president, understand that the strength of their farms and their continued success is in large part because of an immigrant workforce.”

Using executive orders, Harris said she would immediately reinstate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), restore Temporary Protected Status protections and enact a moratorium on migrant detention facilities, as well as undo the Trump administration’s other “backward, hate-drive policies.” She said the administration’s child separation policy is not border security but rather a human rights abuse committed by the US government.

“Every day that we don’t resolve this issue there are real consequences to real human beings,” she said. “We need a president who understands the complexity of this issue.”

Castro described specific policy proposals he would enact if elected and said immigration has to be a top priority for the next president.

“On April 2, I released my very comprehensive and progressive ‘People First’ immigration plan, which includes decriminalizing border crossings and treating them as a civil offense, ending family detention, reuniting families, improving the legal immigration system, reinstating DACA and implementing a pathway to citizenship for DACA parents, increasing refugee admissions, eliminating for-profit migrant detention facilities, stopping the border wall, adding the number of visas to harness talent from around the world and getting rid of 287(g).”

Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to deputize state and local law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration law.

Sanders called Trump a racist and pledged to establish a pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants currently in the United States.