Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is flummoxing many left-wing activists by expressing concern that open immigration would depress wages for many American workers. “It would make everybody in America poorer,” Sanders said in response to a question on an open borders policy from Vox, a hard left online opinion journal.
“You’re doing away with the concept of a nation state,” Sanders said, “and I don’t think there’s any country in the world that believes in that.”
Sanders even went on to say that an open borders immigration policy was a “right wing proposal” backed by the “Koch brothers.”
On Thursday, Sanders was grilled about the comments on MSNBC by anchor Alex Seitz-Wald. No doubt, Sanders views on the issue of immigration seemed off the current left-wing script, where the immediate acceptance of all hopeful immigrants to this nation is a matter of moral urgency.
Sanders’ interviewer for Vox even couched the issue as a moral responsibility we have to people all over the world. The fact that an open borders immigration policy would make foreigners better off economically was itself an argument for the policy.
Sanders responded, “I think from a moral responsibility we’ve got to work with the rest of the industrialized world to address the problems of international poverty, but you don’t do that by making people in this country even poorer.”
The exchange, and especially the shocked reaction to it, goes a long way to explain how out of step Sanders is with today’s left-wing activists. That a multi-decade democrat socialist activist finds himself on the conservative wing of his party on a major policy issue probably says more about the lurch of the party, though.
It was not that long ago that concern over foreign labor driving down wages of workers in this country was a major issue for organized labor and left-wing radicals. A large part of organized labor’s history, in fact, was to protect wages from competition from minority and immigrant labor.
A Rasmussen poll from 2013 found that 90 percent of union members think it is important to reduce illegal immigration. A slim majority of rank and file union members opposed Obama’s proposal to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants.
Sanders’ position on immigration isn’t new, but is getting new attention because of his strong recent performance in polls against frontrunner Hillary Clinton. Sanders opposed President Bush’s push for immigration reform in 2006, largely because of concerns about its “guest worker” program.
Sanders even outlined his views on immigration earlier this summer at a conference of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials. He supports immigration reform, but with clear limits.
Perhaps his most radical statement came elsewhere in the speech to NALEO. “It’s time to end the politics of division, playing one group against another group — white vs. black, male vs. female, straight vs. gay, or native-born vs. immigrant,” Sanders said.
Today’s left-wing has moved far past the aging hippie radical from Vermont.