Biden-Sanders unity task forces release proposals to overhaul criminal justice, immigration

WASHINGTON – The proposed Democratic Party platform includes a series of police reforms including banning choke holds, ending racial profiling and allowing victims of abuse to pursue civil litigation, according to the document released Wednesday by the party's presumptive nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden.

The platform also committed Democrats to support legislation from Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, that would create a commission to develop proposals for reparations for slavery and discrimination since 1619.

"Our criminal justice system is failing to keep communities safe — and failing to deliver justice," the platform says. "Democrats are committed to a comprehensive agenda to achieve racial equity. That means improving economic mobility for people of color, including by addressing the racial wealth gap."

The 110-page Democratic document resulted from a half-dozen task forces appointed by Biden and his former rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, to unify the party’s moderate and progressive wings in the campaign against Trump.

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“While Joe Biden and I, and our supporters, have strong disagreements about some of the most important issues facing our country, we also understand that we must come together in order to defeat Donald Trump, the most dangerous president in modern American history,” Sanders said in a statement.

Law enforcement has become a flashpoint between Biden and President Donald Trump because of protests following the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. Biden became the presumptive nominee with support from Black voters in key states who are demanding police reforms. Trump has campaigned as the law-and-order president fighting chaos that erupted at some protests.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, left, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., right, greet one another by bumping elbows before they participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate at CNN Studios in Washington on March 15, 2020.

Biden said the platform could unify the party to win lasting change in the Nov. 3 election.

“For the millions of Americans facing hardship due to President Trump’s failed coronavirus response, this election offers the chance to usher in a stronger, fairer economy that works for our working families,” Biden said in a statement.

The platform covered provisions including:

  • Combating climate change. Goals include making energy-saving updates to 2 million low-income households within five years and reaching zero greenhouse-gas emissions from new buildings by 2030.
  • Reforming the criminal justice system. Priorities include investing in police training to prevent unnecessary deaths, establishing standards such as using deadly force only as a last resort to prevent imminent threat to life and requiring application of the standards in exchange for federal funding.
  • Building a stronger economy. The platform decried lower average wages for women and minorities, and proposed investments in infrastructure, care work and clean energy.
  • Improving education. Proposals include expanding Head Start for preschoolers, fully funding special education and ending federal funding to for-profit charter schools.
  • Updating immigration policies. In contrasts to Trump administration policies, Democrats would travel and immigration restrictions that largely affect Muslims, expand protections for the children of undocumented immigrants to remain in the country and reduce restrictions on refugees seeking entry.

The co-chair of the climate task force, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said she was pleased the platform moved Biden's goal to eliminate carbon emissions from power plants by 2035 – 15 years earlier than he had previously supported.

Varshini Prakash, co-founder of the Sunrise Movement and a member of the climate task force, praised the policies put forth by the groups and gave credit for the progress to the young voters and activists, saying that "the power of our generation is beginning to show."

"We now have a Democratic unity position that begins to reflect what young people have been shouting relentlessly – that the climate crisis is not some far off threat," Prakash said in a statement. "We’re no longer just setting far off goals for 30 years from now, but ready to take immediate action – and achieve drastic transformation in the next decade."

More:Young Black voters say they aren't enthusiastic about a Joe Biden presidency

Prakash noted, however, that young people are still going to make their voices heard "in the streets and at the ballot box, until we win a Green New Deal. 

"This movement is just getting started," she said.

Mijente director Marisa Franco, a member of the Biden campaign’s unity task force on immigration, said in a statement that she is "proud of the community demands we were able to bring to the table" and celebrate them as wins. She added that "a Biden presidency will stand in stark contrast to Trump’s policies."

Going into these task force negotiations, we knew we were going to have to push Biden past his comfort zone, both to reconcile with past offenses and to carve a new path forward," Franco said. "That is exactly what we did, unapologetically."