Sanders and Trump on Immigration

Presidential candidate Donald Trump stunned the H-1B visa watcher community today with his platform on immigration. which includes surprisingly detailed, helpful provisions regarding H-1B. Very interesting, coming on the heels of his outrageous comments on Mexican immigrants, which among other things inspired the creation of a Trump piñata.

Meanwhile, a Bernie Sanders piñata may well be next. Seems that Sanders isn’t ideologically pure enough on the immigration issue to satisfy the Latino activists, who accuse him of using — horror of horrors! — Republican tactics in his nuanced stance on immigration. You’re “either with us or agin’ us” with that crowd.

UPDATE, AUGUST 18: Trump tweeted comments today that totally negate the praise I had given him below regarding H-1B. See my new posting.

In this post, I’ll comment on both Trump’s and Sanders’ positions, relating both to an interesting recent essay which defended the latter but arguably applies to both candidates.  Let’s start with Trump.

Trump’s proposals for handling illegal immigration are vintage Trump, some sensible, some off-the-wall, but on H-1B, the man gets an A+. I’ve never seen any politician, even Tom Tancredo, put up such an effective platform as Trump has. He decries that most of the visas go to the bottom two (out of four) wage levels in the legal requirements for H-1B, recognizing that the unrealistic prevailing wage law is at the heart of the problem. He insists that employers be required to give hiring priority to Americans. Most important to me is that, at least as stated, these provisions would go a long way to stem the visa abuse by not only the “Infosyses” (rent–a-programmer firms) but also the Intels, who are just as culpable. One nice added touch: He refers to pro-H-1B Senator Rubio as “Mark Zuckerberg’s personal senator.” 🙂

Trump says in his platform what no other politician, including Sanders, is willing to say: Immigration is great in sensible quantities, but in its present form,  both legal and illegal, it’s hammering the lower and middle classes. Take for example the high black and Latino unemployment rates. The Democrats say the solution is education and the Republicans say the path is lower taxes and regulation, and though both may have points, Trump states the obvious — bringing in large numbers of low-skilled immigrants is going to harm the most vulnerable people in our society, our own low-skilled (including earlier immigrants). I detailed this years ago in an article in The Public Interest. Among other things, I quoted Antonia Hernandez, a very sharp and caring woman who was then head of the Latino activist organization MALDEF:

…migration, legal and undocumented, does have an impact on our economy…(in) competition within the Latino community…There is an issue of wage depression, as in the garment industry, which is predominantly immigrant, of keeping wages down because of the flow of traffic of people.

It’s even worse now. And yet the Latino activists don’t seem to care, nor do their allies in the Democratic Party care. I haven’t heard a peep out of Rep. Luis Gutierrez about the blight that the immigration-swelled labor market brings on the Latino community. Indeed, the Latino activists want to shut down talk of harm to American low-skilled workers. This “burn the village to save it” mentality is appalling. Trump may be an impetuous buffoon, but if those remarks in his platform are sincere, I say, “¡Arriba El Donald!”

I’m a longtime admirer of Bernie Sanders, and I’m also a big fan of EPI researcher Daniel Costa. So, Costa’s article defending Sanders on the immigration issue, titled “On Immigration, Bernie Sanders is Correct,” was a must-read for me.

As usual, Costa’s writing here is thoughtful and engaging. And yet, Sanders is walking a tight line on this issue, forcing Costa to do the same. As I noted above, the current high level of immigration is harming American workers, far beyond the distinctions between guestworker programs, legal immigration and unauthorized immigration. I’m sorry, but that hard, cold fact cannot be ignored or wordsmithed around.

Regarding H-1B, a guestworker program, some recent statements by Sanders, and Costa’s analysis of Sanders’ stance on immigration, suggest to me that Sanders has bought into the notion that the Intels use H-1B responsibly while the Infosyses are the main abusers. As I’ve explained, this notion is just plain wrong; the abuse pervades the entire industry, yes, including the big household names. And as to the focus on guestworker programs, the alternative, giving fast-track green cards to new foreign graduates of American universities, is just as harmful as H-1B, again as I’ve often explained.

I should add that Sanders did team up with Grassley to ban financial firms using TARP money from using H-1Bs. Good for Sanders, though he may not have realized that the legislation had an enormous loophole: Foreign workers who wished to transition to an H-1B visa from some other visa type were exempt, e.g. foreigners on the F-1 student visa.

It is painful for me to make such statements about Sanders, who as I mentioned is someone I admire. I was in Seattle for a research conference last week. Unknown to me, Sanders was supposed to speak at 1 pm August 8 in Westlake Park, just a block and a half from my hotel. My wife and I walked past the park at about 12:30, and though it was clear that a political rally would be held, there were no signs mentioning that Sanders was on the program. So, we paid no attention to it, and enjoyed a day walking around the city. But around 3 or so, I noticed a newspaper saying that Sanders would speak at 1, and I kicked myself for having missed him. Later I learned that he had been shouted down by a couple of African-American activists, who implied that even Sanders was part of the “racism in our society.” Sanders a racist? What a topsy turvy world we are living in!

I believe that most Americans welcome immigrants. But immigration policy must be a sensible one that is beneficial to those already here. We need a national dialog on the issue, not selfish posturing by politicians. Hopefully Trump’s platform will lead to a broader — and more honest! — dialog on this crucial topic.


26 thoughts on “Sanders and Trump on Immigration

  1. Kudos to Trump for this, and double kudos for him kicking Rubio as … waitaminute, is that right? I thought it was Cruz who sponsored that bill? Were there two bills? I thought Rubio was part of the gang of 8, right, and Cruz offered an amendment to increase H-1B.

    Bernie is a confused old coot who gets it right on a couple of issues.

    I’m not sure what it says about the state of democracy in the USA today that either of these guys is getting serious support, other than what it says about the weakness and corruption of the other alternatives.


    • I would say kudos for Trump to hook up with Senator Jeff Sessions to write his immigration position. Unfortunately, as Trump showed since that was published, he doesn’t believe in – in principle – the words about H1-Bs. And probably didn’t even know what they referred to. I don’t think he understood what an H1-B visa is. His words in the debate:
      Are you in favor of H1Bs? Are you opposed to them?

      TRUMP: I’m in favor of people coming into this country legally. And you know what? They can have it any way you want. You can call it visas; you can call it work permits; you can call it anything you want.
      make me feel that he may – if elected – actually fly in Air Force One over to India with Zuckerberg and a couple other CEOs to make it a foursome, and then fly back with a plane full of H1-Bs and land at Moffet Field so Zuckerberg can take them over to Facebook headquarters.

      Imagine a guy being elected president who can’t be bothererd to read or didn’t read and understand a short couple of pages giving a position on immigration.

      And that is the best we have to hope for.

      I don’t believe Sanders, for all his talk about wage disparity and job export and his feelings for the working class – will do anything to curb legal or illegal immigration. The only thing I can see in his position on his website with regard to slowing the infinite economic migration – is requiring higher wages for guest workers. That’s it. Other than that it’s an uber-amnesty with specific mention of no fence and no mention of penalties for employers who hire illegals. So Sanders is like Trump in that regard – complete protection for the donor class when they illegally hire illegals.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not a Trump supporter, but his position on H-1Bs, and illegals is certainly one that I agree with. I hope that his current prominence will force others who have taken the tainted Zuckerberg money to rethink. Having a front-runner saying these kinds of things can be a game changer.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think it is more correct to say “Senator Jeff Sessions’ position” which Trump was surprised to learn about the morning after the debate.

      Trump is so fluid in his beliefs (or very fluid in what he professes to believe) – he met with DREAMers and illegal immigration activists and:

      “Two years ago, Trump met with immigration activists who told them their stories and asked for his support on immigration. ‘You convinced me,’Trump said as the meeting ended.”

      I wouldn’t be surprised for this exchange in the first President Trump press conference:

      “When will you begin building the wall?”

      “I never said that. I never said that. I don’t know where you read that, maybe it’s something Jeb Bush said, but we are not going to build a wall.”


  3. “…but on H-1B, [Trump] gets an A+. I… He refers to pro-H-1B Senator Rubio as “Mark Zuckerberg’s personal senator.”

    What a great zinger; gave me a good laugh. Could probably add Zoe Lofgren and a few others being on retainer as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Trump missed several guest worker/student worker visa categories in the discussion.

    CPT and OPT for students and recent graduates provide a significant number of workers without any wage requirements.

    L-1s can pay home country wages and per diems which are less that federal standards for government travel; the employer and employee benefit from the tax advantages.

    J-1 visas also have no wage protections. At schools in my state STEM PhD holders often make less than $40K per year.


  5. Trump tweets today are not great. He tends to do this – When he announced his wall with Mexico he later said it would have a big door in it for the ‘good’ people to come in. We’ll have to stay tuned.

    Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump
    When foreigners attend our great colleges & want to stay in the U.S., they should not be thrown out of our country.
    [10:42am – 18 Aug]

    Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump
    I want talented people to come into this country—to work hard and to become citizens. Silicon Valley needs engineers, etc.


    • Trump’s door keeps getting bigger and bigger. He said this on 9/12/2015 in Iowa:

      “If you’re illegal, if you’re illegal, you gotta go back. You gotta go back. Now, if somebody’s great and they’ve been here for a long time, I don’t think we can, and I can’t live with doing anything other than… We can move it. We can move the process. You have people that have been here a long time. But they gotta go back. They got to. We gotta build a wall, and we gotta get rid of the bad ones. We got some real bad ones.”

      Particularly note:
      “Now, if somebody’s great and they’ve been here for a long time, I don’t think we can, and I can’t live with doing anything other than…”


  6. […] Another point that Frum neglected to develop is the impact of immigration on blacks and Latinos. Historically, the Democrats have been the champions for poor African-Americans, only to abandon them in favor of the Latinos, particular the Latinos that Jay Leno cleverly termed “undocumented Democrats.” Immigration does hit our most vulnerable people especially hard, the poor and less-educated. Yet there is only one major presidential candidate today who has said so. Is it Clinton?, you ask. Surely you’re joking. Sanders?  Sadly, no. It’s…yes, Donald Trump. […]


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