Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday congratulated the Senate Judiciary Committee for drafting an immigration reform bill that would provide a path to citizenship for 11 million immigrants in the United States and help their children become citizens. He also supported provisions in the measure that would strengthen border enforcement, prevent unscrupulous employers from hiring illegal workers and give legal status to foreign workers needed to keep Vermont’s dairy farms and apple orchards in business. Sanders, however, expressed strong concern that large American corporations in the midst of very high unemployment were using immigration reform to lower wages and benefits for American workers.
“This country was built by immigrants,” said Sanders. “I want to see comprehensive immigration reform passed. But at a time when nearly 14 percent of Americans do not have a full-time job and when the middle class is working longer hours for lower wages, I oppose a massive increase in temporary guest worker programs that will allow large corporations to import hundreds of thousands of blue-collar and white-collar workers from overseas,” Sanders said in remarks prepared for a Senate floor speech.
There could be an eight-fold jump in the number of blue-collar foreign workers in the U.S. over the next five years and the number of skilled-workers granted visas could more than triple in three years under provisions that Sanders opposes in the immigration bill the Senate is expected to take up next week.
Instead of hiring young Americans looking for work as lifeguards or ski instructors, Sanders said too many businesses would rather pay less to foreigners. “At a time when the youth unemployment rate is more than 16 percent and the teen unemployment rate is over 25 percent, many of the jobs that used to be done by young Americans are now being performed by temporary guest workers,” Sanders said.
Sanders also opposes a provision that would greatly expand the number of foreign workers allowed to take jobs at high-tech companies in the U.S. at a time when the American middle class is disappearing and corporations are posting record profits. Sanders noted that half of all recent college graduates majoring in computer and information science in the United States did not receive jobs in the information technology sector. He agreed with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka that corporations should not be allowed to fire or pass over qualified American engineers and computer programmers in order to bring in temporary foreign workers at lower wages.