Senator Bernie Sanders was joined by AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard L. Trumka and other labor leaders at a Capitol Hill news conference to spell out how an immigration bill now under consideration by the Senate would hurt workers in the United States and other countries. "Current immigration policies are a mess and we need to make changes," Sanders said, "but we can do that in a way that does not further undermine the working families of our country who are already under severe economic duress."
"What we are trying to do here is make the case that for American workers this is a bad piece of legislation," Trumka said. The measure "creates a situation ripe for exploitation," he added. "It's no wonder corporate America has made an expanded guest worker program the cornerstone of its preferred brand of immigration reform. The bill before the Senate will give employers even greater control over the lives of temporary workers. It will add hundreds of thousands workers to existing seasonal categories and creates a new guest-worker visa that will allow employers to fill hundreds of thousands of permanent jobs throughout our economy with temporary workers."
Edward C. Sullivan, president of the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, and United Food and Commercial Workers President Joe Hansen also participated in the Capitol Hill press conference. Sullivan branded the bill a "dangerously flawed approach to comprehensive immigration reform," and he warned of "dire consequences for our industry, our unions and, most importantly, the millions of hard working men and women we represent."
The Senate passed a Sanders amendment to increase to $5,000 the fee employers are charged to bring high-skilled workers into the United States. The revenue would fund scholarships for American students in math, science and other fields. He also has offered an amendment that would bar companies that have had mass layoffs from hiring foreign high-tech workers.
"Almost all of that debate has centered on illegal immigration and has downplayed the very consequential provisions in this bill dealing with ‘guest workers.' We need legislation which will improve wages and income in America, lower the poverty rate and expand the middle class," Sanders added. "Unfortunately, the guest worker provisions in this bill will only make a bad situation worse."