Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has used his platform, from email lists to Twitter, to help immigrant families know their rights in advance of massive raids focused on deporting families — which the Trump administration is using to “send a message” to other potential immigrants.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has delayed the raids targeting families that had been planned for last weekend. Sanders tweeted the rights of immigrants dealing with ICE in both English and Spanish ahead of the original date for the raids.
If ICE agents show up at your door, know your rights.
Si agentes del ICE llegan a tu puerta, conoce tus derechos. pic.twitter.com/m3UlUjoR4B
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) June 21, 2019
Sanders also used his massive campaign mailing list to send out emails to the ten targeted cities and surrounding areas just hours before the raids were scheduled to begin. He wasn’t asking for money — he was advising supporters of their rights.
“Multiple news outlets are reporting that Immigration and Customs Enforcement is planning deportation raids against immigrant families in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York City, and San Francisco starting early Sunday morning,” read the email. “Whether or not you are an immigrant, please share this ‘Know Your Rights’ information widely to help those who might fall victim to the cruel and inhumane policies of the Trump administration.”
Normally, an email from a political campaign is an often absurd cash grab. Usually with a vaguely pessimistic overtone, filled with boldfaced and highlighted text and promising that just five dollars can make the difference, emails from political campaigns have been widely lampooned for their shamelessness. It became a running joke in the 2014 cycle culminating in an actual email where Democrats declared “It’s over. It’s done. We have no ideas left.”
So using campaign emails to empower supporters is a significant break with political norms. But this isn’t the only time Sanders has ignored that norm — he also used his Iowa campaign emails to help organize workers for a march in Southeast Iowa to protest the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (characterized as “NAFTA 2.0” by marchers). He similarly used his California campaign resources to help mobilize workers in May.
“It’s not strictly on point when it comes to building out a presidential campaign [to use campaign data] for the purpose other than running for president,” said Ruthie Epstein, deputy director of immigration policy at the American Civil Liberties Union.
But organizing is core to Bernie Sanders’ message for 2020. And using the resources of his campaign to help mobilize and inform the electorate is at least an interesting evolution from the approach of emails painstakingly crafted to terrify voters into donating money employed for years by political campaigns.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.