Opponents of the Gang of Eight immigration bill have spent the weekend looking for hard-to-find changes in a piece of legislation that was substantially re-written by the Hoeven-Corker amendment. But there’s one big change that’s right out in the open — impossible to miss, in fact.
The original Gang bill ended with a section designated Title IV, which was headlined REFORMS TO NON-IMMIGRANT VISA PROGRAMS. The Hoeven-Corker version of the bill added a Title V, with the headline JOBS FOR YOUTH. The measure would provide $1.5 billion in the next two years to provide jobs for Americans between the ages of 16 and 24. It was originally pushed by Democratic Sen. Bernard Sanders, who wanted to come to the aid of young workers who were “hard hit by the Wall Street-caused recession.” Now, Sanders says immigration reform will further damage youth job prospects.
In the few days of Senate debate over the Gang of Eight bill, Sanders delivered several floor speeches that were almost bitterly critical of the legislation’s economic effects. The bill will cost jobs and reduce the standard of living of millions of low-skilled Americans, Sanders argued. His was the most vocal and persistent criticism of the bill from the left.
So how to make him happy, or at least less unhappy, with the legislation? Allow him to put in a few features of his own. A press release from Sanders’ office put it this way: “Sanders had argued that helping unemployed American young people was the least Congress should do in a bill that allows college students from around the world to take jobs that young Americans would otherwise perform.”
According to Sanders, each state would receive a minimum of $7.5 million to run a summer jobs program for young people in 2014 and 2015. States with high youth unemployment would receive a lot more. Many of the bill’s provisions are based on President Obama’s American Jobs Act, which Congress never passed. Sanders claims it would be paid for by “imposing a temporary $10 fee on employers who hire guest workers and international workers who receive green cards.”
Sanders’ amendment is entirely consistent with positions he has taken over many years. The only odd thing is that his proposal would be included in an amendment offered by two Republicans, John Hoeven and Bob Corker. Do they endorse Sanders’ policy positions?
On the one hand, a critic could ask what business lawmakers have recycling provisions from the American Jobs Act as new additions to a sweeping new immigration reform bill. On the other hand, one could argue that the Sanders addition is an attempt to counter some of the economic damage the bill’s sponsors will not admit it will inflict. In any event, Sanders’ project is likely to be part of the massive bill that wins Senate approval by the end of the week.