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  • Article: Bernie Sanders' Anti-Immigration Crankery. By Daniel Bier

    Bernie Sanders' Anti-Immigration Crankery

    by


    Ezra Klein has a revealing interview with Senator Bernie Sanders today at Vox. Sanders’ views on immigration jumped out as a particularly baffling eruption of economic illiteracy, political tribalism, xenophobic nationalism, and general silliness:

    Ezra Klein
    You said being a democratic socialist means a more international view. I think if you take global poverty that seriously, it leads you to conclusions that in the US are considered out of political bounds. Things like sharply raising the level of immigration we permit, even up to a level of open borders. About sharply increasing ...

    Bernie Sanders
    Open borders? No, that’s a Koch brothers proposal.

    Ezra Klein
    Really?

    Bernie Sanders
    Of course. That’s a right-wing proposal, which says essentially there is no United States. ...

    Ezra Klein
    But it would make ...

    Bernie Sanders
    Excuse me ...

    Ezra Klein
    It would make a lot of global poor richer, wouldn’t it?

    Bernie Sanders
    It would make everybody in America poorer — you're doing away with the concept of a nation state.…

    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?

    Every word of this nonsense should make it clear that Sanders is not a serious thinker or credible candidate.

    That’s a Koch brothers proposal.” 

    Oh, well if the Kochs want something, ipso facto it must be stopped. I assume Sanders must also oppose gay marriage, ending the war on drugs, ending the wars overseas, NSA reform, criminal justice reform, and other nefarious Koch proposals.

    That’s a right-wing proposal.

    I’m surprised he was able to get this line out with a straight face, but it does highlight an inconvenient fact for moderate liberals like Klein: the far left really agrees with the far right about keeping out foreigners.

    The right has traditionally feared immigrants using welfare, and the left fears the same thing — conservatives because they want less welfare, and leftists because they want more. The right thinks immigrants will take your taxes, and the left that they’ll take your welfare. (They’re both wrong, for what it’s worth, but it still drives their politics.)

    It would make everybody in America poorer.” 

    This is patently untrue, but it also ignores Klein’s question: “It would make a lot of global poor richer, wouldn’t it?” 

    The answer to that is absolutely yes. Because the United States has better capital, infrastructure, and institutions than most other countries, labor is enormously more productive here. As a result, identical workers can earn 280% more here than in Mexico; workers from Yemen and Nigeria, 1300% more; Haitians, 2200% more.

    If Sanders really cared about global poverty and taking a more “international view,” he ought to support allowing poor people to improve their lives by moving to where they have the best opportunities.

    You're doing away with the concept of a nation state.”

    Presumably, then, he thinks that the United States didn’t really exist until the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act started arbitrarily excluding mass categories of people from coming here.

    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.

    That’s too bad, Bernie, because if those workers are earning $2 or $3 a day in their home countries, it would be great for them, and great for us.

    Of course, the minimum wage prohibits people from working for less than $7.25 an hour, even if they want to. Speaking of which...

    I think we have to raise wages in this country, I think we have to do everything we can to create millions of jobs.

    It speaks volumes about his economic literacy that the senator doesn’t recognize that these goals are in conflict: Government should make jobs more expensive (but also create millions more of them); we need to do everything we can to create more jobs (except allowing people to negotiate their own pay, or hire people from other countries).

    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.

    First, this is just false. Unemployment for teens is about 16% for whites, 21% for Hispanics, and 32% for African Americans. For ages 16-24, it's 12% for whites, 15% for Hispanics, and 23% for African Americans. 

    That's still not good, so let's ignore the fact he's making stuff up and take his point at face value. You know what would help reduce youth unemployment? Abolishing the minimum wage that prices unskilled young workers out of labor market. Or reforming a corrupt, failing public school system that leaves disadvantaged young people in dropout factories: out of school, out of work, and out of luck.

    But no, Sanders wants to blame immigrants for the problem of youth unemployment that is being caused by the policies he is pursuing.

    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?

    Finally, the senator falls for the zero-sum fallacy. There’s not a fixed number of jobs out there. The economy is a dynamic, organic system that creates jobs in response to supply and demand.

    The dramatic increase in women’s participation in the labor force over the last 60 years did not drive men out of the job market; the economy adapted to the increased supply by creating jobs. Women didn’t take men’s jobs, and immigrants don’t take Americans’ jobs. Immigration creates jobs that wouldn’t otherwise exist.

    What Sanders doesn’t recognize is that workers don’t need him to “get them jobs.” They need him to get out of their way, so they can find and create jobs for themselves. 

    Bernie wants to scapegoat immigrants for the failures of wage controls and the welfare state so that people won’t see through his lame socialist agenda. But no warmed over nationalist socialism can replace the creative power of free people. 

    This post originally appeared on Foundation for Economic Education. Reprinted with permission.


    About The Author

    Daniel BierDaniel Bier is the editor of Anything Peaceful. He writes on issues relating to science, civil liberties, and economic freedom.


    The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Retired INS's Avatar
      Retired INS -
      It sounds like Bernie Sanders is concerned about union votes. I also get the impression that immigration attorneys need some kind of reform to give them more clients. I believe in reform, but not what I hear in the news. We need legal farm workers. We need the Dream Act. We don't need open borders. We don't need siblings of citizens because the waiting period is so long for the 65,000 available visas that most immigrants in this category are too old to work when their number becomes available. I am not a huge fan of parents of citizens because very few such immigrants relate to anchor babies. Most are senior citizens being petitioned for by a son or daughter who immigrated and want their parents to be with them in their old age. In a few years they will qualify for some type of assistance (as soon as they naturalize, which makes the affidavit of support a moot issue). I spent 39 years with immigration and reviewed tens of thousands of files, and approved the naturalization of 300,000 new citizens. I also signed many thousands of arrest warrants and have chased illegal aliens through apple orchards and building sights. I even arrested one alien within sight of the White House.
    1. Stephen Blower's Avatar
      Stephen Blower -
      Note: This reply was posted elsewhere in ilw.com

      In the August 6 edition of ILW, a comment titled "anti-immigration Democrat" referenced recent comments of Bernie Sanders from an article published by Daniel Bier in response to an Ezra Klein interview with Sanders about immigration issues as they pertain to employment and wages. To play devil's advocate, I believe it is important to temper the comments with perhaps some misunderstandings or lack of context. The history of Labor (in the political sense) advocacy in the United States has a checkered history, sometimes taking a general poorly articulated anti-immigration stance, such as the AFL held in the early twentieth century shaping the continued opposition to Chinese labor and even wanting to expand it to Japanese and Korean immigrants. These exclusionary policies seem to have been borne from an argument from organized and union labor that immigrants were acting as 'scabs' and willing to work for extremely low wages and that only a law restricting their employment (albeit through the drastic measure of excluding their permanent arrival entirely, but then immigration and employment have always been inextricably linked), would give the unions the leverage to demand higher wages. In fact, something akin to that situation tends to prevail today. But the solution obviously is not creating new "exclusionary acts," and I certainly don't believe Sanders intends to advocate that position. In fact, the AFL-CIO policy platform articulates a fair and comprehensive system of reform that would protect all employee's interests, both citizen and non-citizens alike. See http://www.aflcio.org/Issues/Immigration.


      To put Sanders' comments into a broader context, I think that given his history on the position of the role of a minimum wage it is fair to say that "legalizing" a $2-$3 wage is untenable. Consider this exchange from 2013, where Sanders presses the issue with a Republican who likewise believes in abolishing the minimum wage: http://www.politicususa.com/2013/06/...imum-wage.html


      So what could Sanders be referencing? "Open Borders" may be his (not entirely obvious) way of saying, the policy of allowing free movement of labor without restriction or minimum wages, working conditions, standards, such that would entail by abolishing the minimum wage etc. But I admit that by garbling that position with the issue of sovereignty ("nation-state" etc.,) I believe again he is most likely referring to a free and unregulated movement of labor. That is what is likely meant by "bring in a lot of low-wage workers," in other words, legalizing the marketplace to determine how low wages could fall given a glut of persons willing to do the work for a little money as possible. It's obvious that without the minimum wage, many more low income jobs would be yet lower income. Fast-food restaurants are not incentivized to offer higher wages when there are many more willing to do the work for minimum than not. That is a cornerstone of basic capitalist economics: If I have 100 applicants for one job, I'll hire whoever is willing to do it, at a minimum threshold of competency, for as little as possible. Without the minimum wage or its protections there is no doubt this would be the case, given the early history of industrial labor and the role of unions in curtailing abuses.

      This in no way reflects that Sanders' take on the issue is perfect, or close to it. In fact, his view tend to echo those of early labor's concerns of the limited pie concept--there's only so many pieces, and we have to save slices for our own. But compare these comments he has shared in Congress on immigrant job programs etc:

      "Now, there are several reasons why a temporary worker program, within certain constraints, is a good idea. The first reason is because it will help to relieve the magnet for illegal immigration. The reason most of the people are crossing our border illegally is to get employment. There are jobs available for them. Some people say this is work Americans will not do. That is actually not true. But there are not enough American citizens to do all of the work that needs to be done. So naturally the law of supply and demand sets in here. People come across the border illegally, and they take that work. What we want to do is both close the border, but also eliminate the magnet for illegal employment here, because the reality is desperate people will always try to find some way to get into the country."

      I believe it of course has been shown, at least through plentiful anecdotal evidence, that Americans are in fact not willing to work in the jobs available--at least not at what the undocumented are being paid in in those conditions, such as farm laborers.

      Regarding building a fence on the Mexican border: "This bill also ignores real enforcement measures, like hiring more Border Patrol personnel, and instead builds a Berlin Wall on our southern border. So long as employers need workers in this country, and while our immigration systems impede rather than facilitate timely access of willing workers to those opportunities, undocumented immigration will never be controlled.

      Walls, barriers, and military patrols will only force those immigrants to utilize ever more dangerous routes and increase the number of people who die in search of an opportunity to feed and clothe their families."

      While everyone knows that making perfect (as in 100% enforcement of the border) the enemy of the good (comprehensive immigration reform), and Sanders sounds that typical note, he also recognizes the reality of our broken system, and that employers' exploitation of the undocumented is an economic reality.

      And finally, the rabidly anti-immigrant group FAIR gives Sanders a 0% rating, obviously the lowest possible. So he isn't squarely aligned with the typical agenda of anti-immigration policies, at least not in the eyes of other groups who think that providing ratings about Congresspersons about their own pet issues will influence the voting public or other elected officials.

      So, I think the reality of his position, which may not be fully formed, is more nuanced. And in fact seems to be evolving, although not expounded on in sufficient context. Sanders is no isolationist. Sanders' view and his arguments are far from perfect, but I believe they stem from a long legacy of traditional labor's arguments that "deregulating" labor legislation tends to harm the employee and enrich the corporate entities.

      Quotes drawn from http://www.ontheissues.org/Internati...mmigration.htm

      And just three weeks ago, in comments to a crowd in Kansas City responding to DSonald Trump's racist comments about Mexicans, consider the following as reported by CNN: "Immigration reform was one of the key points in his speech to the Kansas City crowd on Monday where he [Sanders] called the issue "one critical piece that must be talked about" when talking about the Latino community. "Without these folks it is likely that out agricultural system would collapse," Sanders said.

      Undocumented workers, he said, do the difficult work of "harvesting our crops, cooking our meals and caring for our children." Sanders called for "a responsible path to citizenship," for undocumented workers and reiterated his support for the DREAM Act and the children of undocumented immigrants who he described as "American kids who deserve the right to legally be in the country they know as home."

      On a final note, although Sanders' position is often self described as Socialist Democrat (or, Independent caucusing with the Democrats: consider the immigration platform described on http://socialistparty-usa.net/platform.html

      "The Socialist Party works to build a world in which everyone will be able to freely move across borders, to visit and to live wherever they choose. We recognize the central role global capitalism plays in forcing the immigration of people from the less developed to the more industrialized countries, often leading to further economic and social injustice.
      • We support secular democratic states, assuring equal rights to every citizen and resident in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
      • We oppose the militarization of the United States/Mexican border, and an increase in the service budget instead of the "military" budget of the INS.
      • We defend the rights of all immigrants to education, health care, and full civil and legal rights and call for an unconditional amnesty program for all undocumented people. We oppose the imposition of any fees on those receiving amnesty.
      • We call for an end to the use of "secret evidence" in deportation hearings, a ban on all immigration detentions and military tribunals, and full due process and habeus [sic] corpus rights in U.S. courts for all non-citizens on U.S. territory or in U.S. custody. We demand an end to police raids in areas where immigrants congregate.
      • We oppose "guest worker" programs.
      We call for full citizenship rights upon demonstrating residency for six months."

      Bernie Sanders could not possibly be fully ignorant of these "radical" platform positions, so I'm sure to secure his support in the pro-Labor left he has tempered it greatly. At the same time we do not hear him crying out for massive deportation round-ups, criminalization of the undocumented workers, etc.

      Therefore, Sanders' recent comments should not be misconstrued as the final word, or even the accurate word, on Sanders' immigration platform.

      Stephen T. Blower, Esq.
    1. Stephen Blower's Avatar
      Stephen Blower -
      I believe it is important to temper the comments with perhaps some misunderstandings or lack of context. The history of Labor (in the political sense) advocacy in the United States has a checkered history, sometimes taking a general poorly articulated anti-immigration stance, such as the AFL held in the early twentieth century shaping the continued opposition to Chinese labor and even wanting to expand it to Japanese and Korean immigrants. These exclusionary policies seem to have been borne from an argument from organized and union labor that immigrants were acting as 'scabs' and willing to work for extremely low wages and that only a law restricting their employment (albeit through the drastic measure of excluding their permanent arrival entirely, but then immigration and employment have always been inextricably linked), would give the unions the leverage to demand higher wages. In fact, something akin to that situation tends to prevail today. But the solution obviously is not creating new "exclusionary acts," and I certainly don't believe Sanders intends to advocate that position. In fact, the AFL-CIO policy platform articulates a fair and comprehensive system of reform that would protect all employee's interests, both citizen and non-citizens alike. See http://www.aflcio.org/Issues/Immigration.


      To put Sanders' comments into a broader context, I think that given his history on the position of the role of a minimum wage it is fair to say that "legalizing" a $2-$3 wage is untenable. Consider this exchange from 2013, where Sanders presses the issue with a Republican who likewise believes in abolishing the minimum wage: http://www.politicususa.com/2013/06/27/bernie-sanders-republican-leader-admit-abolish-minimum-wage.html


      So what could Sanders be referencing? "Open Borders" may be his (not entirely obvious) way of saying, the policy of allowing free movement of labor without restriction or minimum wages, working conditions, standards, such that would entail by abolishing the minimum wage etc. But I admit that by garbling that position with the issue of sovereignty ("nation-state" etc.,) I believe again he is most likely referring to a free and unregulated movement of labor. That is what is likely meant by "bring in a lot of low-wage workers," in other words, legalizing the marketplace to determine how low wages could fall given a glut of persons willing to do the work for a little money as possible. It's obvious that without the minimum wage, many more low income jobs would be yet lower income. Fast-food restaurants are not incentivized to offer higher wages when there are many more willing to do the work for minimum than not. That is a cornerstone of basic capitalist economics: If I have 100 applicants for one job, I'll hire whoever is willing to do it, at a minimum threshold of competency, for as little as possible. Without the minimum wage or its protections there is no doubt this would be the case, given the early history of industrial labor and the role of unions in curtailing abuses.

      This in no way reflects that Sanders' take on the issue is perfect, or close to it. In fact, his view tend to echo those of early labor's concerns of the limited pie concept--there's only so many pieces, and we have to save slices for our own. But compare these comments he has shared in Congress on immigrant job programs etc:

      "Now, there are several reasons why a temporary worker program, within certain constraints, is a good idea. The first reason is because it will help to relieve the magnet for illegal immigration. The reason most of the people are crossing our border illegally is to get employment. There are jobs available for them. Some people say this is work Americans will not do. That is actually not true. But there are not enough American citizens to do all of the work that needs to be done. So naturally the law of supply and demand sets in here. People come across the border illegally, and they take that work. What we want to do is both close the border, but also eliminate the magnet for illegal employment here, because the reality is desperate people will always try to find some way to get into the country."

      I believe it of course has been shown, at least through plentiful anecdotal evidence, that Americans are in fact not willing to work in the jobs available--at least not at what the undocumented are being paid in in those conditions, such as farm laborers.

      Regarding building a fence on the Mexican border: "This bill also ignores real enforcement measures, like hiring more Border Patrol personnel, and instead builds a Berlin Wall on our southern border. So long as employers need workers in this country, and while our immigration systems impede rather than facilitate timely access of willing workers to those opportunities, undocumented immigration will never be controlled.

      Walls, barriers, and military patrols will only force those immigrants to utilize ever more dangerous routes and increase the number of people who die in search of an opportunity to feed and clothe their families."

      While everyone knows that making perfect (as in 100% enforcement of the border) the enemy of the good (comprehensive immigration reform), and Sanders sounds that typical note, he also recognizes the reality of our broken system, and that employers' exploitation of the undocumented is an economic reality.

      And finally, the rabidly anti-immigrant group FAIR gives Sanders a 0% rating, obviously the lowest possible. So he isn't squarely aligned with the typical agenda of anti-immigration policies, at least not in the eyes of other groups who think that providing ratings about Congresspersons about their own pet issues will influence the voting public or other elected officials.

      So, I think the reality of his position, which may not be fully formed, is more nuanced. And in fact seems to be evolving, although not expounded on in sufficient context. Sanders is no isolationist. Sanders' view and his arguments are far from perfect, but I believe they stem from a long legacy of traditional labor's arguments that "deregulating" labor legislation tends to harm the employee and enrich the corporate entities.

      Quotes drawn from http://www.ontheissues.org/International/Bernie_Sanders_Immigration.htm

      And just three weeks ago, in comments to a crowd in Kansas City responding to DSonald Trump's racist comments about Mexicans, consider the following as reported by CNN: "Immigration reform was one of the key points in his speech to the Kansas City crowd on Monday where he [Sanders] called the issue "one critical piece that must be talked about" when talking about the Latino community. "Without these folks it is likely that out agricultural system would collapse," Sanders said.

      Undocumented workers, he said, do the difficult work of "harvesting our crops, cooking our meals and caring for our children." Sanders called for "a responsible path to citizenship," for undocumented workers and reiterated his support for the DREAM Act and the children of undocumented immigrants who he described as "American kids who deserve the right to legally be in the country they know as home."

      On a final note, although Sanders' position is often self described as Socialist Democrat (or, Independent caucusing with the Democrats: consider the immigration platform described on http://socialistparty-usa.net/platform.html

      "The Socialist Party works to build a world in which everyone will be able to freely move across borders, to visit and to live wherever they choose. We recognize the central role global capitalism plays in forcing the immigration of people from the less developed to the more industrialized countries, often leading to further economic and social injustice.
      • We support secular democratic states, assuring equal rights to every citizen and resident in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
      • We oppose the militarization of the United States/Mexican border, and an increase in the service budget instead of the "military" budget of the INS.
      • We defend the rights of all immigrants to education, health care, and full civil and legal rights and call for an unconditional amnesty program for all undocumented people. We oppose the imposition of any fees on those receiving amnesty.
      • We call for an end to the use of "secret evidence" in deportation hearings, a ban on all immigration detentions and military tribunals, and full due process and habeus [sic] corpus rights in U.S. courts for all non-citizens on U.S. territory or in U.S. custody. We demand an end to police raids in areas where immigrants congregate.
      • We oppose "guest worker" programs.
      We call for full citizenship rights upon demonstrating residency for six months."

      Bernie Sanders could not possibly be fully ignorant of these "radical" platform positions, so I'm sure to secure his support in the pro-Labor left he has tempered it greatly. At the same time we do not hear him crying out for massive deportation round-ups, criminalization of the undocumented workers, etc.

      Therefore, Sanders' recent comments should not be misconstrued as the final word, or even the accurate word, on Sanders' immigration platform.

      Stephen T. Blower, Esq.
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