Bernie Sanders

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) holds a campaign rally at Salina Intermediate School
DEARBORN, MI - MARCH 07: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Amnesty International USA asked Bernie Sanders 13 questions about some of the most pressing human rights issues of our time.

Here is his response exactly as provided:

  • How should the U.S. respond to the growing number of asylum-seekers, including families and children, seeking protection at the U.S. southern border?

Bernie believes we must stand up for our values as a country of immigrants and accept refugees, asylum-seekers, and families who come to the United States in search of the American Dream. This is how America was built and it has made our country strong.

What we need in the United States is humane comprehensive immigration reform, which ends the barbaric treatment of immigrant families. The United States can not be about tearing babies from the arms of their mothers.

Bernie believes that when we look at our border today, we must remember that most of the people coming into the country are seeking asylum from violence, strife and poverty– in the same way his own father was seeking asylum.

Bernie supports an immigration system grounded in civil and human rights. We must not let corporate America pick and choose who they want to come into our country. He believes we must stand up for our values and accept refugees, asylum-seekers, and families who come to the United States in search of the American Dream. That means not holding asylum seekers in detention while their applications are processed. And that means ending the for-profit detention center and prison industrial complex. No one should profit from the incarceration of another person.

  • What can the U.S. do to address the causes of migration from the Northern Triangle of Central America?

Bernie believes we must provide aid to Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala and strength diplomatic ties. When he is in the White House, our trade policies will be written with the goal of lifting standards of living both in the United States and abroad, and must protect workers in all countries, not large multinational corporations. We must end the destabilizing foreign policy decisions and trade deals that helped contribute to the crises we see in Latin America today.

  • What role should U.S. refugee admissions play in our response to the global refugee crisis?

The United States under President Trump has not lived up to our values and ideals. Bernie believes we must strengthen and expand our support for refugees fleeing war and violence and do our part in the international community to provide relief. We must also pursue a foreign policy that does not contribute to the destabilization that often drives migration, and mount an aggressive response to climate change to ensure the root causes of global migration both now and in the future are addressed.

  • What kinds of support could the U.S. provide to countries and regions experiencing record levels of internal displacement induced by causes as wide-ranging as climate change and warfare?

Bernie has long opposed U.S. involvement in misguided foreign interventions, which leave countries in disastrous conditions and their people in humanitarian crises. We must end the destabilizing foreign policy decisions and trade deals that contributed to many of the international crises we see today.

We will work diplomatically with the international community and with others in the region who share a vision of shared prosperity, security and dignity for all people, to de-escalate the situation. We will provide humanitarian aid and economic reconstruction for those affected by the disastrous wars, and help facilitate the delivery of aid from international partners.

America has a responsibility to lead the global transition away from fossil fuels to green energy-efficient systems. Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement was an abdication of American leadership and an international disgrace. At this moment, when climate change is already causing devastating harm around the world, we have a moral imperative to do our part to preserve this planet for future generations.

We will:

    • Rejoin the international community in committing to make large changes in our country to ensure a better environment for future generations by signing and strengthening the Paris Climate Agreement.
    • Pass a Green New Deal to transform our energy system and our economy, creating millions of jobs, restoring communities adversely affected by climate change, and leading the world in the fight against climate change.
    • Fundamentally rewrite our international trade deals and policies to enact strong environmental standards and enforcement.
  • What policies should the U.S. implement to reduce and prevent gun violence?

Bernie believes we can and will end the epidemic of gun violence in this country. We must get money out of politics and take on the NRA to ensure that elected officials act on the desire of voters from both parties for common sense gun reform.

We need to enact universal instant background checks and end “straw purchases” and the gun show loophole. Assault weapons and high-capacity magazines have no place on our streets and must be banned. He supports legislation to ensure we keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and stalkers and “red flag” laws, such as the one in place in Vermont, which allow for temporary removal of firearms from those deemed by a state court a danger to themselves or others. He has also co-sponsored legislation for grants given to states to improve handgun licensing programs and to ban the 3-D printing of firearms and bump stocks.


  • How should the U.S. address police killings of civilians, including the lack of transparency and accountability?

Bernie believes that violence and brutality of any kind, particularly at the hands of the police meant to protect and serve our communities, is unacceptable and must not be tolerated. We need a societal transformation to make it clear that black lives matter and racism will not be accepted in a civilized country.  When we’re in the White House, we will:

    • Demilitarize police forces so they don’t look and act like invading armies.
    • Invest in community policing. Among other things, that means increasing civilian oversight of police departments.
    • Create a police culture that allows for good officers to report the actions of bad officers without fear of retaliation and allows for a department to follow through on such reports.
    • We need police forces that reflect the diversity of our communities, including in the training academies and leadership.
    • At the federal level, we will establish a new model police training program that reorients the way we do law enforcement in this country and ends the unaccountable use of excessive and lethal force. Police officers need to be trained to de-escalate confrontations and to humanely interact with people who have mental illnesses.
    • Provide federally fund and require body cameras for law enforcement officers to make it easier to hold them accountable.
    • Require police departments and states to collect data on all police shootings and deaths that take place while in police custody and make that data public.
    • Conduct a U.S. Attorney General’s investigation whenever someone is killed while in police custody.
  • How should the U.S. address human rights abuses suffered by religious and ethnic minorities at the hands of government and non-government actors worldwide?

Bernie believes that the United States, along with our peers in the international community, must firmly condemn and hold abusive governments accountable, which are persecuting, imprisoning, and in some cases killing their citizens for their religious beliefs or ethnicities. And we must ensure our trade agreements protect the human rights of those in our country as well as civilians abroad.

  • How should the U.S. protect LGBTI rights at home and abroad?

Bernie believes it should not be a radical idea to guarantee everyone – regardless of sexuality or gender identity – equal protection under the law and  that we must end discrimination in all forms. As President, he will:

    • Pass the Equality Act, which would expand the defined prohibited types of discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
    • Pass the Every Child Deserves a Family Act and other bills to prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ+ people.
    • Strongly oppose any legislation that falsely purports to “protect” religious liberty at the expense of others’ rights.
    • Ensure LGBTQ+ people have comprehensive health care without discrimination or discrimination from providers.
    • Protect the rights of LGBTQ+ people around the world by ensuring that written into the core text of all global trade agreements, are strong and binding human rights standards and strengthening the Special Envoy for LGBTQ+ Rights within the Dept. of the State.
    • Advance policies to ensure students can attend school without fear of bullying, and work to substantially reduce suicides.
    • Support police departments that adopt policies to ensure fairer interactions with transgender people, especially transgender women of color who are often targeted by police unfairly, and by instituting training programs to promote compliance with fair policies.
    • Fight against discrimination against LGBTQ+ people by creditors and banks so that people will not be unfairly denied mortgages, credit cards, or student loans.
    • Repeal the Trump Administration’s bigoted ban on transgender people from serving in the U.S. military.
    • Make it easier for LGBTQ+ workers to form a union.
  • How should the U.S. ensure that our foreign and domestic policies protect sexual and reproductive rights?

When we are in the White House, Bernie will fight back against the Republican assault on abortion rights across the country and defend a woman’s right to control her own body around the world.

Under his Medicare for All program, the Hyde Amendment is fully repealed, and reproductive health coverage is provided to all, free at the point of service. He will also oppose all efforts to undermine or overturn Roe v. Wade, and will appoint federal judges who will uphold women’s fundamental rights. Bernie also believes that we must oppose increasing attacks on women’s rights happening at the state and local level.

When Bernie is in the White House, he will:

      • Repeal the Trump Administration’s gag rule which is a disgraceful assault on women’s rights and an assault on millions of Americans’ ability to get the health care they need.
      • Renegotiate bad trade agreements, which allow the exploitation of workers, particularly women and people of color.
        • We will make sure that strong and binding labor, environmental, and human rights standards are written into the core text of all trade agreements.
      • Fully fund Planned Parenthood, Title X, and other initiatives that protect women’s health, access to contraception, and the availability of a safe and legal abortion.
      • Immediately reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.
      • Pass the Equal Rights Amendment.
      • Fight to end sexual harassment in workplaces, the military, and other institutions.
      • Protect women from harassment, discrimination, and violence in educational institutions by protecting and enforcing Title IX.
  • How should the U.S. address the targeting, harassment, and killing of human rights defenders and journalists around the world?

Bernie believes the United States must condemn governments which suppress free speech and ensure their is accountability for human rights violations.

Like in the atrocious case of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in which the CIA confirmed was an obvious order of the Saudi crown prince. The United States must thoroughly reevaluate our relationship with the brutal Saudi dictatorship, and start by ending support for the catastrophic war in Yemen.

  • How should the U.S. respond to the increasing use of political repression by authoritarian regimes?

Over the years, we have seen that the struggle for democracy is bound up with the struggle against authorianism, kleptocracy, and corruption. That is true here in the United States as well as abroad.

Bernie has long fought for the protection of human rights and the right of people to mobilize.

When he is in the White House, rather than openly supporting the overthrow of a foreign government, the United States will:

      • Work diplomatically with others in the region, who share a vision of shared prosperity, security and dignity for all people, to de-escalate the situation
      • Support the rule of law, fair elections and self-determination of natives
      • Provide humanitarian aid and economic reconstruction
      • Ensure human rights oversight by protecting international and local organizations
  • How can the U.S. ensure compliance with and accountability for its international human rights obligations in national security operations?

Bernie has said for years that the prison at Guantanamo Bay must be shut down as soon as possible. We must ensure that torture is never again part of America’s interrogation practices and that all detainees are treated under the rules of the Geneva Conventions. When Bernie is President, he will move to restore our country’s reputation around the world by closing the prison swiftly and ensuring that all detainees are treated humanely and in accordance with international human rights standards.

  • What can the U.S. do to ensure U.S. arms are not used to perpetuate human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law?

The Trump Administration’s withdrawal from the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty is dangerous and irresponsible. We must strengthen these treaties, not end them.

When Bernie is in the White House, we will work diplomatically with the international community to promote peace and uphold human rights.

Bernie is proud to have been one of the leading sponsors of the resolution to end U.S. support for Saudi Arabia in the war in Yemen. When we are in the White House, we will ensure the U.S. is not supporting foreign wars, which have done more to create a humanitarian crisis than to establish peace.

  • How should the U.S. government hold businesses accountable for human rights abuses?

Bernie believes that in order to create a government and economy that works for the many, we will have to take on powerful special interests that dominate our economic and political life. That means holding large corporations accountable for human rights violations and for contributing to the long history of systemic racism and exploitation of the poor. We will develop a movement that takes on the greed and ideology of the billionaire class and leads us to economic, social, and environmental justice. We will:

      • Ensure that strong and binding labor, environmental, and human rights standards and real enforcement mechanisms are written into the core text of all trade agreements.
      • End the scourge of environmental racism, in which low-income, communities of color are disproportionately exposed to the effects of climate change and suffer worse health outcomes. We will:
        • End exports of coal, natural gas, and crude oil.
        • Enact a Green New Deal not just to save the planet, but to protect our most negatively impacted communities, who have been collateral damage to the greed of big oil CEO for far too long.
      • We will stop the blatant profiteering of locking people up. We will end, once and for all, the destructive “war on drugs,” including legalizing marijuana, and eliminate private prisons and detention centers.
      • Pass the common sense gun safety legislation and take on the NRA and its corrupting effect on Washington. The NRA has become a partisan lobbying public-relations entity for gun manufacturers, and its influence must be stopped.