bernie sanders
Immigrant advocates question Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) history on immigration, pointing to a Senate vote in 2007 when he rejected Bush-era immigration reform and 2006 when he voted yes on an amendment that would symbolically support the Minuteman Project. Both votes have come back to haunt the candidate, who is courting the Latino vote ahead of the 2016 primaries. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Bernie Sanders has a few months to convince minority voters that he should be the Democratic nominee for president, and that they should vote and cacus for him in early primary states. Yet Sanders’ voting record as a Vermont Congressman and Senator is raising flags among black and Latino progressives, who have criticized him for votes on gun control an immigration. This morning, BuzzFeed reported on a 2006 “yea” vote in which Sanders supported an appropriations bill amendment drafted by Rep. Jack King (R-Ga.) in support of the Minutemen Project, which the progressive Southern Poverty Law Center had by 2005 identified as a “hate group.”

“[The] Minutemen Project, and the Minutemen Project is definitely not politically correct in Washington, D.C. However, they filled a void which the government was unable to fill,” King said in 2006, introducing his amendment . “[It] says that the U.S. Government cannot tip off the Mexican officials as to where these folks are located. Plain and simple, nothing fancy about it.”

King’s amendment was inspired by “conspiracy theories and fears that the Bush administration was undermining those trying to protect the border,” according to BuzzFeed’s Evan McMorris-Santoro’s sources. His reporting also suggests that the amendment was innocuous.

Sanders campaign strategist Michael Briggs told BuzzFeed that the amendment was meaningless, citing a message from Customs and Border Patrol.

“People put forward nuisance amendments all the time,” Briggs said.

Yet progressive websites have written about Sander’s 2006 vote since at least July when Spandan Chakrabarti wrote an article entitled “Bernie Sanders and the Minuteman [sic] Militia: Progressive Hero’ Voted to Protect Racist Vigilante Border Thugs.” The article, aimed at progressives participating in the Democratic primaries also takes Sander to task for voting down a measure that would have allowed.

This is the great hope of liberals? This is the man liberals think should be our answer to gun violence's devastating impact on America's communities of color and to the racist right wing militia movement in our country?” Chakrabarti wrote. “Bernie has a race problem. And it is even more clear how and why when one looks at his attitude and voting record on issues of violence directed at and affecting communities of color.”

The Latin Times has reached requested additional comments from the Sanders campaign. We’ll update this article if we get a response.

Sanders does have a race problem in the polls. He lags his main rival, Hillary Clinton, in favorability among Latinos and is about tied when it comes to African American support. Perhaps differences between Democrats positions on immigration are only a minor concern. The Senator would certainly prefer less attention to cultural wedge issues, ISIS, and more headlines about his positions on poverty reduction and campaign finance reform.

If his past votes on guns and immigration are a stain on his record for progressives, his present policy proposals on immigration, prison reform and banking regulation may help wash them out.

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