Sanders Says He Held Hawkish Immigration Views ‘250 Years Ago’ (It Was 2015)

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) / Getty Images
• January 13, 2020 12:55 pm


Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders dismissed his past restrictionist stances on immigration as old news despite championing them as late as July 2015.

In an interview transcript released on Monday, New York Times editor Nick Fox asked Sanders if he still believed that foreign workers depress wages for Americans. "No," Sanders responded. "That's what I said on the Lou Dobbs show 250 years ago, right?"

Sanders made that argument in 2015 on at least two occasions. "What right-wing people in this country would love is an open-border policy," Sanders said in a Vox interview. "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."

Sanders reiterated his hawkish immigration views a few days later at a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce event, arguing that if "open borders" advocates got their way, it would "substantially lower wages in this country."

"There is a reason that Wall Street likes immigration reform," he said. "What I think they're interested in is seeing a process by which we can bring low-wage labor into this country."

The interview with then-CNN host Lou Dobbs that Sanders characterized as old news came as the Senate debated immigration reform in 2007. "I don't know why we need millions of people to be coming into this country as guest workers who will work for lower wages than American workers and drive wages down even lower than they are now," Sanders said.

Sanders also said in the Times interview he still believed exploitation of illegal immigrants results in lower wages for domestic workers. "If you're undocumented, and you're being paid five bucks an hour, why am I going to pay her $12 an hour?" Sanders said.

"What you said on the Lou Dobbs show was that exploitation lowers wages, and you just said that again," said Times lead writer Binyamin Appelbaum. "So, I'm confused about what has changed about your position."

Sanders and Appelbaum continued to spar over the candidate's insistence that the low wages of illegal immigrants result in lower wages for domestic workers as well. "There's a lot of economic research suggesting that it does not," Appelbaum argued.

"Not that I have seen," Sanders replied.