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Democrats Urged to Make Immigration a Priority in Party Platform

Rep. Raul Grijalva, who has campaigned on behalf of Bernie Sanders, urged Democrats to "take the moral high ground" and make immigration reform its priority and take on such things as the deportation of veterans.

Grijalva testified Tuesday at the Democratic Party platform forum being held through Thursday in Washington, D.C. to collect input and ideas for the platform.

"The Republican nominee has made race as his byline in terms of generating fear and with that fear converting that into support for his candidacy," said Grijalva, D-Ariz.

Democrats, he said, "have the opportunity to take the moral high ground on immigration reform by insisting this is the priority for this party, by adding specificity to the platform and not generalities and by doing so, consolidate the future strength of this party going forward."

Image: Immigration protest at White House
File photo of members of the Latino and immigration assistance organization "Casa de Maryland" and others rallying in front of the White House in Washington, DC, December 30, 2015. SHAWN THEW / EPA

The platform is essentially the party's guiding principles and agenda for the next four years. It is what the president generally is running on and a statement of what the party supports.

But this year it has taken on more prominence because of the strong challenge Bernie Sanders mounted against Clinton in the primaries and the support he has drawn for his campaign. The platform is being seen as instrumental in bringing together the party.

The platform drafting committee has 15 members. As a concession to Sanders, who complained in the primaries that the process for picking a nominee was rigged, he was allowed to choose five of the members. Six were chosen by Clinton and four by the Democratic party. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., who has championed immigration reform for years, is a committee member, chosen by Clinton.

Although Clinton is the party's presumptive nominee, Sanders has vowed to fight on to the party convention in Philadelphia July 25-28 where the platform will be discussed, possibly adjusted and approved.

The party is trying this year to make the platform more inclusive by holding the Washington hearing and three others in Phoenix, St. Louis and Orlando, Fla. where the public could testify. The party also is accepting wrtitten testimony submitted online or video testimony.

Trump: If I'm Elected, Obama's Immigration Executive Order 0:28

On Tuesday, those testifying discussed immigration reform, the state of African Americans, guns, anti-Muslim sentiment, the criminal justice system, Native Americans, hunger, poverty and more.

Some of the points Grijalva said the platform should include on immigration are:

– Address the criminalization of immigrants and end automatic deportation and detention.

- Address the definition of aggravated felonies in immigration laws and ensure due process of immigrants.

– Be "bold" about family unity and deal with the deportation of legal residents who are military veterans.

– Do away with a requirement that Immigration and Customs Enforcement detain 34,000 individuals daily in private detention facilities.

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