MANCHESTER, N.H. – U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) made an appearance on Manchester’s West Side on Monday afternoon, participating in a roundtable of interfaith leaders at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.
Organized in coordination with the Granite State Organizing Project, Sanders took questions from the assembled local faith community leaders on a variety of topics.
Sanders pledged to meet with faith leaders if elected to the White House, and hoped to help re-ignite calls for social justice that he says Jesus Christ called for throughout the New Testament of the Bible.
“We need religious leaders to stand up and tell the world that their religion is about justice,” he said.
On immigration, Sanders refused to promise that he would abolish U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) if elected, but did pledge to reorganize ICE and pledged to end President Donald Trump’s ban impacting travelers from certain Muslim-majority countries.
In response to a question on economic justice, Sanders said that he would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, end the pay gap between men and women, and facilitate the creation of unions. He also endorsed expanding access to Medicare for all Americans, aiming to reform it into a system akin to that found in Canada, funded through a progressive tax system with Americans making less than $29,000 per year paying nothing for coverage.
Sanders also supported efforts to make college tuition-free and also transition the United States away from fossil fuels, stating that 20 million new jobs would be created through the “Green New Deal” proposed by Sanders, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and others.
Regarding affordable housing, Sanders hopes to create 10 million new housing units and advocating for rent control measures, saying that the five-year waiting list for public housing in Nashua was something all too common through his travels across the country, referring to the lack of affordable housing as a crisis.
He also referred to climate change as a crisis, as well as a moral issue, citing potential climate refugees that would be created if sea levels rise in upcoming decades.
“I have been called a climate change alarmist,” he said. “Let me confirm that I am alarmed.”
Sanders closed the event by stating that addressing America’s problems would not be easy, calling them unprecedented, but necessary to address.
“We can throw up our hands in despair and get depressed or fight back,” he said.