Hillary Clinton is dead wrong about Bernie Sanders’ immigration record


Last week, Clinton slammed Sanders for voting against reform in 2007. But there was a very good reason he did

In last week’s battle over the meaning of the word “progressive,” Hillary Clinton charged that Bernie Sanders had fallen short in failing to back immigration reform in 2007.

“I don’t think it was progressive to vote against Ted Kennedy’s immigration reform,” Clinton said, after slamming Sanders for his past opposition to the Brady Bill. She repeated this line of attack last night.

The Washington Post’s Callum Borchers called this “a solid answer by Clinton.” If so, that’s largely because many don’t understand the substance or politics of guest worker programs. Many immigrant rights groups have long opposed guest worker programs, and for good reason. They are geared toward maximizing exploitation and minimizing protection of immigrant workers.

As Bill Chandler, Executive Director of the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance and a board member of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights put it in 2013, they are “another form of indentured servitude and a benefit for employers, not workers.”

Critically, guest workers are often bound to just one employer, denying them basic leverage against an exploitative or abusive boss: quitting. If a guest worker quits, they may lose their legal right to stay in the country. Bosses hold a “deportation card” over their head.

Sanders voted against the 2007 “comprehensive” immigration reform legislation precisely because it included an expansion of such programs. The legislation split the labor movement, with SEIU supporting it and the AFL-CIO opposed.

“You have people being terribly exploited and if they stood up for their rights, they would be thrown out of the country,” Sanders said recently. “I happen to believe we do have to move toward comprehensive immigration reform and a path toward citizenship.”

Frank Sharry, who in 2007 was executive director of the National Immigration Forum, has conceded that it was a failed strategy to offer provisions intended to curry favor with Republicans because many at the end of the day would not come around to legalizing undocumented immigrants.

“That’s why I don’t get all worked up like ‘Bernie Sanders screwed us,’” Sharry told Bloomberg. “Upon reflection, we really realized that we had made a mistake, a strategic mistake, in allowing progressives to get divided in hopes of getting Republican votes.”

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