In 2007, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) voted against amnesty for illegal aliens. Last Friday, in an interivew with the Washington Post, he expressed major concern with the Gang of Eight's bill after it was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Sanders was reacting specifcally to the last-minute deal made by the Gang of Eight and Republican Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) that would provide massive increases to the tech guest-worker program and weaken protections for American workers. But Sanders also expressed several other areas of concern within in the bill.
My concerns are in regards to where we stand in terms of guest workers programs, made worse by amendments offered by Senator Hatch. What I do not support is, under the guise of immigrant reform, a process pushed by large corporations which results in more unemployment and lower wages for American workers.
As you well know, we remain in the midst of a severe recession. Real unemployment, once you consider people who’ve given up looking for work, is close to 14 percent, and in some parts of the country is even higher. For minorities it’s very high, and we’ve got to address that. You have massively high unemployment for young people, yet we’re talking about expanding visas so that young people from abroad can serve as life guards, become ski instructors, become front desk people, when young people in this country desperately need jobs to pay for a college education.
I am aware that there may well be certain high-skilled jobs in specific areas in high skilled technical industries that American companies are finding it hard to fill. I find it hard to understand that, when nine million people in this country have degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, only about three million have jobs in these areas.
Furthermore, as someone who was led to believe that what economics was about was supply and demand, if you need workers in a certain area, you need to raise wages. I have a hard time understanding the notion that there’s a severe need for more workers from abroad when wages for these jobs rose only 4.5 percent between 2000 and 2011. You see stagnant wages for high skilled workers, when these companies tell you that they desperately need high skilled workers. Why not raise wages to attract those workers?
The bottom line is that I feel, very much, that a lot of the initiative behind these guest workers programs, a very large expansion of guest worker programs — H2B visas would go up to as many as 195,000, H1B to as many as 205,000 a year — is coming from large corporations who want cheap labor from abroad. Absolutely, there is a need for foreign labor. I recognize that in agriculture and certain areas in the high tech industry, you need foreign labor. But this is a massive effort to attract cheap labor, a great disservice to American workers.
-- Sen. Bernie Sanders
For more on Sen. Sanders interview, see the Washington Post.