Sanders visits US-Mexico border, talks immigration reform

NOGALES, Ariz. (AP) -- Standing in front of the tall, steel fence that divides the United States and Mexico, presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders on Saturday vowed to keep immigrant families together during a visit to Arizona, which holds its primary next week.

Sanders was accompanied by Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada and U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva. He started the day walking along a small street next to the Nogales-Morley Gate Port of Entry, where he spoke with two young immigrants about their struggles to obtain legal status in the United States.

A small group of people who identified themselves as deported U.S. military veterans stood on the Mexican side of the border fence cheering for Sanders. A lone man protested Sanders and followed his group around to several locations.

Standing in front of the fence that divides the two countries, Sanders accused Republican front-runner Donald Trump, who was also campaigning in Arizona Saturday, of using harmful rhetoric.

"I would hope that all of us are rightly appalled by the divisive, bigoted and xenophobic comments of people like Donald Trump," Sanders said.

Sanders vowed to expand two programs spearheaded by President Barack Obama which aim to protect immigrants from deportation. One, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, benefits youths who were brought to the country illegally as children. The other, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, would benefit parents whose children are U.S. citizens. The latter has not taken effect and is being argued in court.

Sanders said he would fight to keep families together.

"I am shocked by the fear and shocked by the sadness that grips so many of them," Sanders said.

The Vermont senator has focused his campaign almost exclusively on Arizona in the past week as he looks to rebound from his resounding defeat last week to Clinton. He drew a crowd of about 7,000 people in Tucson and followed that up with a visit to the Navajo Nation in what marks a rare visit by a White House candidate to the nation's largest Indian reservation. His pursuit of the Native American vote included a visit by his wife to a sacred Apache site near the site of a proposed copper mine that Sanders and tribes strenuously oppose.

He has also sought the Latino vote, aggressively challenging Arizona's contentious Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has endorsed Trump, in a speech for his harsh immigration tactics.

"It's easy for bullies like Sheriff Arpaio to pick on people who have no power," Sanders said. "If I am elected president -- the president of the United States does have power. So watch out, Joe."

Clinton is making her own last-minute push to win Arizona. Former President Bill Clinton is campaigning for his wife in the state on Sunday, and the former first lady and secretary of state has a rally Monday. She is running ads showing former Rep. Gabby Giffords voice her support for the candidate. She also has the support of most of the Democratic political establishment.

Sanders was also scheduled to hold another campaign rally late Saturday in Phoenix.