Sanders strongly supports a path to citizenship for the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. However, he is wary of guest worker programs, which he fears would flood the market with unskilled, low-wage workers at a time when comparable Americans – especially young people – suffer from a significant unemployment rate and would benefit from the jobs that might instead go to immigrants.
RICHARD (last name unknown): “Senator, the last caller was asking your thoughts on immigration.”
BERNARD SANDERS: “Immigration in general, yeah. So let me divide it in two parts. Richard, number one, we have about eleven million undocumented workers, people, in this country. Some of them have been here for many, many years. It is my strong view that we need a path towards citizenship for those people. But I think the second part of your question asked about, I think, the guest worker program is what I think you were referring to and now you have programs like the H2A program, the H1B program, and I have historically had real concerns about those programs. We have heard from a lot of high tech workers, people involved in computer programming and so forth, who are saying “Y'know, this program, this guest worker program, is bringing in folks from Russia and other countries at lower wages than American workers in the high tech industry get”, and I have serious concerns about that and have offered amendments to deal with that issue. The second part of it is that there is in the immigration bill language that would bring in a lot of low-wage workers, unskilled workers, and that I have had a very difficult time understanding. When we have youth unemployment in this country, where if you're white and you're seventeen to twenty and you're a high school graduate or a dropout - it's thirty-three percent if you're Hispanic, it's thirty-six percent if you're black, it's fifty-one percent - these kids desperately need jobs, and they need jobs starting at the very bottom so that they could eventually get the experience and work their way up and I just don't know why we need to be bringing in a whole lot of other folks who are not skilled in low wage jobs. So that has been a concern of mine. What I got the last immigration bill past the Senate, which alleviated some of my concerns a little bit, was an amendment for a billion and a half dollars which would provide jobs and educational opportunities for young people. Right now it is Summer time, you got a lot of kids hanging out on street corners, they should be working, there's enough work to be done, we should provide them with jobs. So that's kind of my view on that issue, Richard.”