Bernie Sanders, one of the contenders for the Democratic nomination in the US presidential race, has a mixed record on the issue of immigration. He voted against the 2007 Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, and has voted against guest worker schemes, yet he voted for the 2013 Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, and claims to support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. In fact, the anti-immigration organisation NumbersUSA gives him an F– grade.
Nevertheless, some of his rhetoric on the subject of immigration is more reminiscent of a conservative Republican than a progressive Democrat. And indeed, it has earned him praise from no less an anti-immigration activist than Roy Beck––the founder of NumbersUSA––who said, "I think in his gut he believes his obligation as president would be to the workers of America, not to the workers of the world". Below are a selection of Bernie's statements on the effects of low-skilled immigration. (All quotes are taken from the linked articles.)
My concern about the bill that I voted against was that there was too much emphasis on bringing low-wage workers into this country.
There is a reason that Wall Street likes immigration reform. What I think they’re interested in is seeing a process by which we can bring low-wage labor into this county.
What they are talking about is completely opening up the border. That was the question, should we have a completely open border, so that anybody can come into the United States of America. If that were to happen, which I strongly disagree with, there is no question in my mind that that was substantially lower wages in this country.
When you have 36 percent of Hispanic kids in this country who can’t find jobs, and you bring a lot of unskilled workers into this country, what do you think happens to that 36 percent of kids who are today unemployed? Fifty-one percent of African-American kids? I don’t think there’s any presidential candidate, none, who thinks we should open up the borders.
If poverty is increasing and if wages are going down, I don’t know why we need millions of people to be coming into this country as guest workers who will work for lower wages than American workers and drive waged down even lower than they are now.
It does not make a lot of sense to me to bring hundreds of thousands of those workers into this country to work for minimum wage and compete with Americans kids.
Open borders? No, that’s a Koch brothers proposal. That’s a right-wing proposal that essentially says there is no United States.
It would make everybody in America poorer––you're doing away with the concept of a nation state, and I don't think there's any country in the world that believes in that. If you believe in a nation state or in a country called the United States or UK or Denmark or any other country, you have an obligation in my view to do everything we can to help poor people.
What right-wing people in this country would love is an open-border policy. Bring in all kinds of people, work for $2 or $3 an hour, that would be great for them. I don't believe in that. I think we have to raise wages in this country, I think we have to do everything we can to create millions of jobs.
You know what youth unemployment is in the United States of America today? If you're a white high school graduate, it's 33 percent, Hispanic 36 percent, African American 51 percent. You think we should open the borders and bring in a lot of low-wage workers, or do you think maybe we should try to get jobs for those kids?