(Host) Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders says the bipartisan immigration compromise in the Senate will hurt American workers.
VPR’s Benjamin Shaw reports from Capitol Hill.
(Shaw) Sanders joined labor union leaders at a podium just outside the Capitol Building.
Many lawmakers are hoping to tackle immigration reform later this week. But Sanders was here to denounce the current immigration agreement.
(Sanders) “I think we need legislation. But I think this legislation as I think you’ve heard, will probably do more harm than good.”
(Shaw) Some lawmakers object to the bill’s inclusion of a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Others feel it splits families. And border security hawks say it is weak on enforcement.
Sanders says his biggest concern is the guest worker program.
(Sanders) “Unfortunately the guest worker provisions in this bill will only make a bad situation even worse.”
(Shaw) He says it will drive down wages for both low-wage workers and highly skilled professionals.
The bill was delayed earlier this month when Senators from both sides of the aisle tried to attach unpopular amendments.
A vote to move the bill forward failed when it only got the support of 45 Senators – well short of the 60 needed.
Sanders voted no.
A bi-partisan group of Senators is still working to keep the bill alive. This coalition is hoping to attract more votes with a limited number of amendments.
Sanders’ amendment would bar high-tech companies that have laid-off domestic workers from hiring foreign ones.
(Sanders) “While high-tech companies like IBM, Motorola and Dell are telling Congress they need to import more high-skilled workers from overseas, these very same companies are right now laying off thousands of American workers.”
(Shaw) Sanders says he expects to get a vote on his Amendment – but he wouldn’t commit to supporting the bill even if his measure is added.
Supporters, such as Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania – are still optimistic it will make it through the Senate.
(Spector) “I think we now see a light at the end of the tunnel and I think we can succeed.”
(Shaw) House Members are talking about introducing individual pieces of immigration legislation regardless of what happens in the Senate.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Benjamin Shaw on Capitol Hill.