VISTA, Calif. -- Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders concluded a two-day campaign swing through San Diego County Sunday by speaking at a rally at Rancho Buena Vista High School in Vista.
The stakes could not be higher in California for Sanders and he knows it. The latest poll shows Clinton still leads in the state by eight points. In a one-on-one interview with FOX 5 before the rally, Sanders said to win California will take a historic grassroots effort. Sunday marks his 8 millionth individual campaign contribution, more than any other in history.
“We are taking our message directly to the people that we can’t continue a situation in which the middle class continues to decline while all new income wealth goes to the top," he said.
Unlike New York state, California has an open primary allowing people regardless of party affiliation to vote. Because of that, Sanders feels confident he can take this delegate rich state.
"We have always done much better than Clinton with independents and it will play out right here in California," he said.
A major issue here in San Diego is immigration reform. Sanders wants to end the current deportation policies and said he would use executive power to pass that reform if he had to.
"Trump's views are prosperous . They’re hateful. The idea you’re going to throw 11 million people out of this country is absurd it’s not worth talking about," he added.
The 74-year-old Sanders also pledged that if elected he would "create an economy that works for all of us, not just wealthy contributors.''
"(America needs) a democracy that does not mean a campaign finance system in which billionaires buy elections,'' said Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist who would be the nation's first Jewish president.
Sanders also called on America to "invest in young people in jobs and an education, not in incarceration'' and to "make public colleges and universities tuition-free.''
Sanders also said he supports the right of states to legalize marijuana and would vote for an initiative likely to be on the California's November ballot to do so if he lived here.
Sanders also visited Friendship Park on the U.S.-Mexico border on Saturday and repeated past calls for "comprehensive immigration reform,'' after hearing the stories of families who can only see their loved ones on weekends.
"I would hope that the Republicans in Congress understand that we have a very, very broken immigration system and that it must be reformed and that they should in fact work with Democrats to pass comprehensive immigration reform,'' Sanders said.
"If not and if I am elected president of the United States, I will use the executive powers that the president has to do that the best that I can.''
Sanders' opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has called for comprehensive immigration reform to create a pathway to citizenship.
Businessman Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, has called for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to deter illegal immigration and deporting people without legal permission to be in the country. Trump is scheduled to hold a rally at the San Diego Convention Center on May 27.