Bernie Sanders on Latino Rights

Bernie wants to end discrimination against Latinos, ensure fair compensation for work, and address the root causes of income inequality and high unemployment in the Latino community. It’s long past time to create fair economic conditions, living conditions, and job opportunities for Latinos. Latinos are 18.1 percent of the total U.S. population (58.9 million people), yet they are underrepresented in the political system and lag behind in obtaining college degrees.

Bernie wants to address the disparities in education, youth employment, and the criminal justice system by increasing the minimum wage, closing the race wage gap, and making college tuition free. 

Additionally, we need comprehensive immigration reform and a path to U.S. citizenship for people coming to the country and for the undocumented people already here.

Addressing Racism: The majority of Hispanics are U.S.-born, yet they are often treated as if they are not full citizens. They are often discriminated against based on race and language. Latinos must be treated equally in every aspect of American society.

Education: Bernie has introduced College for All which will eliminate tuition at all four-year public colleges and universities so everyone who wants to can get the education they deserve.

Close The Race Wage Gap: Latino workers have a harder time finding jobs and they get paid less when they do. Bernie believes wage discrimination based on race is wrong and must end. Structural problems such as racism, mass incarceration, and lower access to education are also to blame, and Bernie has introduced and supported legislation to reform our criminal justice and education systems.

Youth Employment: High unemployment and underemployment for Latino youths needs to be addressed.  Bernie has proposed legislation that would help young people access the job opportunities and training they need to be successful 

Agricultural Labor: Farmworkers are an essential part of the economy, U.S. agriculture depends on them.  The treatment, conditions, and pay for these workers must be improved.

Reform the Criminal Justice System: Latinos are imprisoned at 1.4 times the rate of white Americans. Bernie wants to abolish private prisons, end cash bail and ban discrimination against people with criminal records.

Immigration: The United States is a nation of immigrants, we must reform our immigration system to invite greater innovation, diversity, and economic opportunity for both American-born citizens and immigrants who want to make this country their home.

Addressing Racism

The majority of Hispanics are U.S.-born not immigrants, yet they are asked where they are from and complimented on their ability to speak English. A racist myth persists that Latinos refuse to assimilate. However, that’s not true — most Latino immigrants are proficient at English by the third generation and Hispanics are more likely to marry outside their group than blacks or whites. Latino Americans are discriminated against, called derogatory names, and even punished for speaking Spanish, as evidenced by one incident taken up by the ACLU where two U.S.-born Latino women speaking Spanish were detained by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent.

How does racism affect Latinos?

Twenty percent of Hispanic Americans are living in poverty compared to 12% of white Americans.  Latino workers are paid less and there is a persistent racial wage gap. The dropout rate for Latino high school students has fallen, but it’s still at a relatively high 10 percent. The Stanford Center for Policy Analysis found an achievement gap for Hispanics students compared to white students even after accounting for socio-economic factors. In 2013, the wealth of white households was 10.3 times greater than the wealth of Latino households. Thirty-eight percent of Latinos say they have been discriminated against in the past year. 


What has Bernie said about discrimination against Latinos?

Bernie has spoken out against racism in all its forms, and is particularly keen on eradicating institutional racism.

Bernie wants to end the racial inequity of 32% of Hispanics struggling paying medical bills, compared to 24% of white Americans,

by guaranteeing health care to all through the Medicare-for-all, single-payer program. 

Bernie plans to end the racial wealth divide where Latino Americans currently have thirteen cents for every dollar white Americans have. He also wants to end the massive disparities and discrimination in financial services that has led to the 43% of Hispanic families not having banking services available compared to 18% of whites.

At a speech in July 2015 at the National Council of La Raza, Bernie directly addresses many of the issues and the ongoing economic discrimination that affects Latinos:

What has Bernie done to address discrimination against Latinos?

In 2007, Bernie voted against legislation that would have declared English the official language of the U.S. government. His vote helped defeat this legislation and allowed government materials in Spanish and other languages to remain available. Similarly, Bernie voted against a 2018 bill that would have removed support for people whose employers use lack of English proficiency as an excuse to fire them.


The Stanford Center for Policy Analysis found an achievement gap for Hispanics students compared to white students even after accounting for socio-economic factors. Although the dropout rate for Latino high school students has fallen, it’s still relatively high at 10 percent.


Data from 2017 shows Latino college enrollment and educational attainment is behind that of both whites and African Americans.


What is Bernie doing to make college more affordable?

“Today, we say to our young people that we want you to get the best education that you can, regardless of the income of your family. Good jobs require a good education. That is why we are going to make public colleges and universities tuition free, and substantially lower the outrageous level of student debt that currently exists.”

– Bernie Sanders, 2019

To increase access to higher education, Bernie has introduced his College for All Act in 2015 and 2017. This proposed legislation would eliminate tuition costs at all 4-year public colleges and universities. To qualify, states would have to foot 33 percent of the bill — the federal government would sponsor the rest — and take various steps to maintain or increase expenditure on improving opportunities for students and faculty. 

Here is what the College for All Act will do:

  • Make public colleges, universities, and trade schools tuition-free.
  • Fully fund Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
  • Cancel all student debt.
  • Significantly lower interest rates on student loans.
  • Fully paid for by imposing a Robin Hood Tax on Wall Street.

Watch Bernie explain the case for tuition free college.

Kids can’t get to college without quality education in early childhood. What has Bernie done to improve access to early childhood education?

Bernie realizes educational opportunities in early childhood are crucial to success later in life. He calls the lack of support for universal early education programs tantamount to “turn[ing] back on children” and “disgraceful.”

In February 2014, at a Vermont State House hearing on education, Bernie spoke about the importance of early childhood education. 

“There is perhaps no issue more important than how we educate our youth,” Sanders said.  “I am very concerned that, on many levels, we are failing our youth. We must do away with the archaic notion that education begins at 4 or 5 years old. For far too long, our society has undervalued the need for high-quality and widely accessible early childhood education.”

Bernie supports large investment in early childhood education, which includes universal Pre-K as well as educational support programs. This will give all children the opportunity to develop, learn, and reach their highest potential. As a former preschool educator, Bernie said, “in a society with our resources, it is unconscionable that we do not properly invest in our children from the very first stages of their lives.”

In 2011, Bernie introduced the Foundations for Success Act, which proposed a universal pre-kindergarten program. If it had passed, the bill would have awarded a grant to ten states that would allow them to create an Early Care and Education System. Some of the benefits included: providing an opportunity to enroll children, ages six weeks to kindergarten age, in a full-time early care and education program; helping children develop physical, social, and emotional skills; and, improving school readiness by contributing to the cognitive development, character skills, and physical development of each child.

Bernie has made enacting a universal pre-K program a key part of his 2020 platform. When asked at a CNN town hall whether or not he supports universal pre-kindergarten education, Bernie gave a succinct response: “Absolutely.”

Bernie wants to overhaul K-12 education

Bernie is proposing a complete overhaul of the education system.  He has introduced the Thurgood Marshall Education Plan for public education and wants to reinvest in public schools and teachers.  He is calling for rebuilding the nations infrastructure, especially crumbling and unsafe schools.

Bernie strongly opposes the No Child Left Behind Act. He is calling for a more holistic method of education — one that focuses on giving teachers more flexibility and provides more support to students. Bernie believes task-based assignments where students’ use information creatively to demonstrate their understanding of the curriculum is a better way to determine progress than evaluating students solely on how they perform on a standardized test.

Check out our other article to learn more about Bernie’s positions and plans for Education reform.

Close The Race Wage Gap

Do non-white workers really earn less?

Yes. There is a persistent racial wage gap. Blacks and Latinos in the U.S. earn less than their white counterparts.  Black and Latina women experience the biggest pay gaps. 

According to the 2018 Bureau of Labor and Statistics, median weekly earnings among Black men was $710 and $690 among Latino men. Median weekly earnings among Black women was $657 and $603 among Latina women. This compares to a median weekly earnings of $971 among white men and $795 among white women

The racial wage gap is probably worse than these numbers indicate. The BLS numbers are only for full time workers. 24% of women and 12% of men in the labor force work part time and their wages are not included in these statistics.

The BLS reports that 9.6 percent of working Latina women were among the working poor compared with 4.9 percent of working white women.

According to 2017 data from the BLS, for every $1 a white man makes:

  • a Black man earns 75 cents
  • a Black women earns 67 cents
  • a Latino man earns 71 cents
  • a Latina women 62 cents

This wage gap is unacceptable.

Is it harder to get an interview as a Latino person in the United States?

This appears to be the case. In a story that went viral in 2014, José Zamora described that his job search was going nowhere until he changed his name on his resume from José to Joe, editing nothing else.  After changing his name to a white sounding name, he started getting callbacks from the same jobs that had previously ignored him.

What else contributes to the racial wage gap?

The work people do has a large impact on wages earned.  Many more Black and Latino workers have service jobs that pay less than managerial jobs. As with the opportunity gap between women and men, there is an opportunity gap between white and non-white workers. 

Since Blacks and Latinos are incarcerated at a higher rate, this has a large effect on labor force participation and impacts wages by limiting job opportunities.  

Learn more about Bernie’s stance on mass incarceration on the Criminal Justice issue page.

How has Bernie worked to get rid of the racial wage gap?

Bernie is the primary sponsor of the Raise the Wage Act of 2019, which will raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. 

From the start in 2015, Bernie has been on the forefront of the Fight for $15.  He understands that raising the minimum wage will be a tremendous help for Latino workers and their families. Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would increase wages for 33% of Latino workers in the United States.

Bernie also has a plan to increase employment for the Latino community with his Jobs For All plan. He wants to employ millions of workers to rebuild our nation’s crumbling infrastructure while simultaneously moving us towards a 100% sustainable energy system.

Bernie understands that more education means improved economic opportunity and access to better paying jobs. Removing the cost barrier to higher education not only makes education accessible to lower income students, but also ensures students will not be burdened by crushing student debt when they graduate. This give graduates more employment options. That’s why Bernie has proposed a plan to make public colleges and universities tuition-free and cancel all student debt.

Bernie knows there’s a connection between economic inequality and racial inequality. He has long spoken out against institutional racism and over-incarceration of people of color, particularly as a result of the failed War on Drugs. Bernie believes funds currently being used for incarceration would be better spent on job training and education. Access to job training and job placement would help Latinos acquire the job skills that are needed to succeed.  

The Immigrant Wage Gap

In 2016, there were 27.0 million foreign-born persons in the U.S. labor force, 16.9 percent of total full time workers. Immigrant workers earn substantially less than U.S. born workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that foreign-born workers made 83.1 percent of the earnings of their native-born counterparts in 2016. 

A 2017 Bureau of Labor and Statistics report shows that foreign-born workers’ median weekly earnings were $715 compared to the median weekly earnings of $860 for their native-born counterparts. The median weekly earnings among foreign-born men was $751, while native-born men earned $951. Median weekly earnings among foreign-born women was $655, just 86 percent of the $762 in weekly earnings of their native-born counterparts. 


Economists found that in 1980, it took foreign-born men 16–20 years to earn as much as native-born men. By 2000, it took male immigrants over 30 years. In 1980, it took foreign-born women 11–15 years to earn as much as native-born women. By 2000, it took them 21-30 years.

As with the gender wage gap and the race wage gap, the immigrant wage gap is probably worse than these numbers indicate because the BLS statistics only represent full-time workers. 24% of women and 12% of men in the labor force work part-time, so their wages are not included in these statistics.

Youth Employment

Bernie recognizes the need to address youth unemployment and underemployment, which disproportionately affect people of color:

“We cannot continue to ignore the crisis of youth unemployment in America. We are talking about the future of an entire generation. We have got to make sure that young people…all over this country have the opportunity to earn a paycheck and to make it into the middle class.”

What is the state of Latino Youth unemployment?

Not encouraging. Among Latino youth in 2018, the unemployment rate was 15.1 percent. Latino youth underemployment was at 36.1 percent. These figures indicate that many high school graduates either want a job or have a job that doesn’t provide the hours they need. While broader Latino unemployment is not higher than average, data shows that 25 percent of Latino children were living in poverty in 2018, below $25,283 annual income for a family of four. 59 percent, or 10.5 million Latino children, live in low-income households.

What has Bernie done to invest in jobs and job training for young people?

In 2013, Bernie introduced the Youth Jobs Act. In support of the legislation, Bernie had this to say:

“At a time when real unemployment is close to 14 percent and even higher among young people and minorities, it is absolutely imperative that we create millions of decent-paying jobs in our country.  The establishment of a youth employment program for 400,000 young people is a good step forward but in the months to come we must do even more.”

In a 2015 speech, Bernie said: 

“The Economic Policy Institute recently told us that if you look at young people from 17 to 20 who are unemployed or working part-time, when they want to work full time, or given up looking for work, for white kids that number is 33 percent. For Hispanic kids the number is 36 percent. For African-American kids it is 51 percent.”

In 2015, Bernie introduced the Employ Young Americans Now Act, which would spend $4 billion to create one million jobs for young Americans ages 16–24. In addition, the bill allocates $1.5 billion for job training for low-income youth and disadvantaged young adults.

Here’s a video of Bernie introducing his 2015 legislation:


Bernie believes that much of the $74 billion spent on prisons each year could be invested in job training and education rather than incarceration. He has said, “So, let me be very clear: in my view it makes a lot more sense to invest in jobs, in job training, and in education than spending incredible amounts of money on jails and law enforcement.”

In 2018, Bernie wrote an editorial titled “Youth unemployment is epidemic in America. It’s time to give our young people a chance to succeed.”

He is proposing a proactive plan to address youth employment by providing $5.5 billion for substantial job training for America’s young men and women. This will give them the job skills they need so they can enter the workforce ready to succeed. 

What else has Bernie done to create jobs and improve job training for young people?

Bernie, along with Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), announced the Employ Young Americans Now Act.  This bill, which is nearly identical to his 2018 plan, includes $4 billion in grants to state and local governments to provide employment opportunities to low-income youths and assistance with child care and transportation. $1.5 billion is for grants to employers, community colleges, and local organizations, for apprenticeships and on-the-job training.

Bernie has announced his 2019 plan to guarantee every American a job. He announced a similar work guarantee plan in 2018.

Bernie has joined several other 2020 Democratic presidential campaigns in offering paid internships. Bernie has said, “Unpaid internships are fundamentally unfair to  the many bright young people who simply cannot afford to work for no wages. We must recognize that work is work and every worker must be paid a decent and living wage.” 

There’s a reason why America’s youth loves Bernie: he continues to fight for young Americans so they can have the opportunities they deserve. 


Learn more about how Bernie intends to address issues affecting working Americans.    

Agricultural Labor

Farm workers are one of the most economically disadvantaged groups in the United States. Bernie believes that farm workers should receive consistent and fair pay for their work, and not be subjected to hazardous or dangerous conditions and exploitation.

Farm workers play an essential role in U.S. agriculture. 83 percent of all farm workers identify as Latino or Hispanic.

Here are some statistics from the Department of Labor survey of agricultural workers NAWS released in January 2019:

  • 33 percent of farm worker families live below the poverty line
  • 44 percent used Medicaid
  • 47 percent have health insurance
  • 12 percent saw a dentist in the last two years
  • 28 percent lived in a home owned by themselves or a family member 
  • 33 percent lived in “crowded” dwellings (more than 1 person/room)
  • average level of formal education completed was eighth grade
  • 4 percent reported that they had no formal schooling 
  • 37 percent reported that they completed the sixth grade or lower
  • 71 percent reported speaking no english or very little

Fair enough. Are agricultural workers really subjected to terrible conditions?

Yes. Some progress has been made since Harvest of Shame shocked the public conscience in 1960, but there’s much more we can do. In addition to low wages, farm workers have no job security, no labor law protections, no overtime pay, no sick leave, and no maternity leave.

The non-profit, Farmworker Justice, lists seven of the most common abuses agricultural laborers are subjected to.

In 2007, tomato farmworkers in Immokalee, Fla. were found working in inhumane working conditions described as “agricultural slavery,” including being locked in a van at night and suffering repeated beatings. These laborers were being paid $0.45 for every thirty-two pounds of tomatoes they could harvest.

Following revelations about the slavery conditions in Florida, Bernie visited Immokalee to learn about the experiences of these farm workers first-hand. Bernie described his visit and expressed his deep concern in an aptly named editorial Harvest of Shame:

“In an era of globalization, the American people are becoming more and more concerned not only about the quality of goods they consume, but about the conditions facing those who produce those goods. In my view, the American consumer does not want the tomatoes they eat to be picked by workers who are grossly mistreated, underpaid, and in some case even kept in chains. This must not happen in the United States of America in 2008.”

In a Senate hearing that year, Bernie lamented that what he saw in Immokalee was the “bottom in the race to the bottom” of poverty. Here’s a video of a press conference he gave immediately after his visit to Immokalee:


Bernie supported wage increases for Immokalee laborers by pressuring the Tomato Growers Exchange and the brands they work with — such as Yum! Brands, McDonald’s and Burger King — to increase their wages. In large part due to Bernie’s intervention, Burger King agreed to double its employees’ wages. In 2010, Bernie celebrated the passage of a “historic agreement” that increased pay for farm workers in Florida’s tomato industry.

More recently, Bernie is a cosponsor of the Fairness for Farmworkers Act of 2018, which would provide increased labor law protections for farm workers.

Reform the Criminal Justice System

There are as many people in the U.S. with criminal records as there are with college degrees. 

Arrest and incarceration affects many things other than general employment.  A conviction creates barriers to certain jobs, or exclude people entirely. Drug convictions can affect the ability to secure financial aid for college. People with criminal convictions may be ineligible for public housing and Section 8 vouchers or may be screened out.

Does the criminal justice system discriminate against Latinos?

Yes, it does. Latinos are imprisoned at 1.4 times the rate of white Americans.

How does Bernie plan to address this discrimination?

Bernie supported the Secret Evidence Repeal Act of 2001, a bill that would have enforced better treatment of undocumented immigrants in court, including requiring that, in any immigration proceeding, defendants be given advance notice of any evidence being used against them.

Bernie wants to ban discrimination against people with criminal records. In 2002, Bernie said, “We do not do a good job of reintegrating those people into society. The result is an enormous amount of pain, human destruction, and a great deal of expense to the American taxpayer.”

Bernie wants to abolish private prisons and keep nonviolent offenders out of jail by ending cash bail. The cash bail system disproportionately affects poor people of color.

Check out the Criminal Justice page to learn more about how Bernie will reform our criminal justice system.


“This country was built by immigrants,” Bernie has said. As such, the United States must reform its immigration system to invite greater innovation, diversity, and economic opportunity for both American-born citizens and immigrants who want to make this country their home.

How many Latino immigrants are there in the country?

According to 2013 U.S. Census data, the largest immigrant group by far is comprised by Mexicans. That year, Mexicans comprised 28 percent of the estimated 41.3 million foreign-born in the United States. Four other Latin American countries — El Salvador, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Guatemala — were among the top ten countries of origin, which together make up 60 percent of America’s immigrant population.

How has Bernie been personally impacted by immigration?

Bernie’s father was a Polish immigrant who arrived in the United States at a young age: “[He arrived] at the age of 17 without a nickel in his pocket, without much of an education, without knowing the English language… like immigrants before and after he worked hard to give his family a better life here in the United States.”

What are Bernie’s views on immigration?

Bernie believes America’s current immigration system is broken and requires comprehensive reform, including creating a path to citizenship.

What has Bernie done about immigration reform?

While he believes that border security is important for the country, Bernie doesn’t believe that a fence is the way to achieve that security. 

Bernie has actively worked on immigration issues and immigration reform throughout his career, sponsoring or cosponsoring 81 bills relating to immigration. Bernie’s immigration reform program emphasizes the need to build a pathway to citizenship, expand DACA and DAPA, restructure ICE, end the policy and practice of family separation, and much more.

Learn more about Bernie’s record on and proposals regarding comprehensive immigration reform.