Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions has a lifetime American Conservative Union rating of 94.63 out 100. Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders has a lifetime rating of 6.58 from that same organization. But both agree the immigration reform proposal before the Senate caters specifically to corporate interests by driving down wages.
On the Senate floor Wednesday, Sanders explained his theory by first laying out all the economic woes plaguing the U.S. labor force.
“Let us be clear that while we have made a good step forward in terms of improving our economy as to where it was in the midst of the financial crisis, we still have a long, long way to go,” Sanders said. “Real unemployment in America is not 7.5 percent. That’s official unemployment. Real unemployment is closer to 14 percent if you include those people who have given up looking for work in high unemployment areas and people who are working part-time and they want to work full time.”
“In other words, if you include unemployment among minorities in this country, if you include the unemployment rates among young people in this country, we continue to have a very, very serious unemployment problem in the United States of America,” he continued. “That’s an issue that we have got to deal with. I have a number of ideas that I have to deal with it, but one thing we sure as heck do not want to do is make a bad situation worse.”
Sanders said the immigration bill will lower middle-class wages, directly benefiting corporate America.
“So it seems to me that at a moment when our middle class continues to disappear, when millions of workers are working longer hours for lower wages, when median family income has gone down by $5,000 since 1999, it does not make a lot of sense to me that we have an immigration reform bill which includes a massive increase in temporary guest worker programs that will allow large multinational corporations to import hundreds of thousands of temporary blue-collar and white-collar guest workers into this country from overseas,” he said. “So one of my major concerns here is that I think corporate America is kind of using immigration reform as a means to continue their effort to lower wages in the United States of America, and we must not allow that to happen.”
That’s not much different than his conservative colleague’s stance on immigration. Sessions made similar complaints about the bill, pointing out the complicated language of the legislation and what he believed to be the root of that language.
“Somebody knows what that means because you had special interests on top of writing this big monstrosity,” Sessions said. “They were there. They wanted their deal. And I would say to my colleagues, when you say and those in the ‘Gang of Eight,’ I know they want to do the right thing and have worked hard, but they got off on the wrong track. The papers reported for weeks, ‘Well, the unions are here, and the Chamber of Commerce is here, and the ag workers and ag industry are here, and they want more workers for this. And this one is demanding more workers for that.’ And our senators are over here somehow letting them all hammer it out. And that’s how this writing comes up.”
“That’s how — it came from them,” he continued. “The senators didn’t write this. They knew exactly what they are doing. They are putting in numbers to get certain workers that businesses wanted so they can have more employees and they can keep wages down. That was what the scheme was — more workers, less competition for labor, loose labor market, less pay raises, less overtime, less benefits because the employer has options. And remember these are guest workers. These are people not on a citizenship path. They’re not here to form corporations and hire millions of people and cure cancer. These are workers that come in and work for existing corporations. And I just would emphasize that some thought needs to be given to that.”