Bernie Sanders, a foe of “open borders,” voted against the 2007 immigration reform bill. And he did so for purely political reasons. Fast forward to 2016, and suddenly Sanders favors immigration reform. Why? Because he wants to win Latino votes in tomorrow’s big California primary.
Hillary Clinton voted for immigration reform in 2007.
I’m not writing this to criticize Sanders, per se. I am writing this to show that Bernie Sanders is not ten feet tall. Sanders, like all politicians, sometimes makes decisions — even rather important decisions — based on the political winds of the moment, rather than the overall merits of the issue.
Vermont, the state Sanders represents in Congress, doesn’t have many Latinos. While at the same time, unions, which Sanders strongly supports, were not terribly keen on letting more foreigners into the US, lest it lower wages for native-born workers.
Then, in the lead up to the California primary, Sanders started changing his tune. In order to woo younger Latino voters. Sanders no longer complains about our “open border” with Mexico. And Sanders no longer talks about Mexican immigrants hurting American-born workers. Instead, Sanders is now claiming that he opposed immigration reform because it didn’t include enough protections for farmworkers.
More from the Washington Post:
To get votes, Sanders has changed his tune on the issue. He used to decry “open borders.” No more. Sanders has been heavily emphasizing his opposition to the Obama administration’s deportation of undocumented immigrants.
— In 2007, Sanders helped torpedo comprehensive immigration reform. Bernie hails from a state with very few Latinos. Throughout his career, when forced to choose, he has consistently put the interests of labor unions (who have historically wanted to minimize immigration in order to increase wages for native-born workers) ahead of Latinos. Now he claims he opposed the bill because it didn’t include enough protections for farmworkers, but the people who were closely involved in the effort remember it very differently.
And if you don’t believe the Washington Post, here’s independent fact-checker Politifact:
Sanders’ presidential campaign website says he would “sign comprehensive immigration reform into law to bring over 11 million undocumented workers out of the shadows.”
However, he wasn’t always on that side of the issue. In 2007, when George W. Bush was president, Sanders joined with some conservative Republicans in opposing a comprehensive immigration bill. The bipartisan bill, sponsored by the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., went down in defeat.
At the time, Sanders worried that an influx of legal immigrants would lower wages for workers. “Sanders was basically one of our only allies … especially for low-skilled workers” in 2007, Ana Avendano, a former top immigration official at the AFL-CIO, told Politico earlier this year. “He adamantly put his foot down and said these kinds of programs (allow) employers to bring in more and more vulnerable workers.”
“I wasn’t happy when he voted against the bill and I wasn’t happy we lost. It hurt,” immigration-reform advocate Frank Sharry told Politico.
Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Tom Harkin of Iowa joined Sanders in voting against the measure. Clinton, by contrast, voted for the immigration bill, as did then-Sens. Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
Bernie Sanders is a good guy with some exciting ideas. But he’s not the liberal purist that some try to make him out to be. On one of the core liberal issues, immigration reform, Sanders was on the wrong side, helping conservative Republicans kill legislation that was of critical importance to the Latino community. And now that Sanders desperately wants to win the California primary, he’s suddenly flip-flopping on his support for California’s Latinos.
I don’t think any of that makes Bernie Sanders a bad man. It does, however, make him a typical establishment politician who is willing to hurt working class people when it helps him politically.