Sanders calls for decriminalizing illegal border crossings

Eighteen of the 24 declared Democratic hopefuls will take the stage Sunday for their strictly-enforced five-minute speeches to hundreds of party leaders at the Iowa Democratic Party's annual summer fundraiser. (Source: Gage Skidmore/ MGN)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Bernie Sanders is calling for decriminalizing illegal border crossings, backing an idea that further exposes the Democratic presidential primary's deep ideological divides.

The Vermont senator released an immigration proposal Thursday, writing, "Unauthorized presence in the United States is a civil, not a criminal, offense."

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren also has called for repealing the criminal prohibition against crossing the border illegally.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (BOO'-tuh-juhj) says he'd support making illegal border crossings civil offenses but not in cases in which "fraud is involved." Former Vice President Joe Biden hasn't fully backed decriminalization of illegal border crossings, either.

Although there's no consensus, decriminalization could be a tough general election sell for Democrats. Some voters may disagree with President Donald Trump's hard-line policies but worry about being too lenient.