Binyamin Appelbaum: But you don’t think that that exploitation results in lower wages for domestic workers?
Sanders: Sure it does. Right now, we have people who are being exploited. If you’re undocumented, and you’re being paid five bucks an hour, why am I going to pay her $12 an hour? [The prevailing view of economists is that immigration increases economic growth, so it is not tethered to lower wages or less employment for American workers.]
BA: So, I’m confused about what has changed about your position.
Sanders: What did I just say again?
BA: You said that the exploitation of undocumented workers results in lower wages for domestic workers.
Sanders: Yeah, if you’re being paid $5 — If you’re being paid $5 an hour, now of course it’s going to lower wages. Why would I hire at a higher wage?
BA: But just a minute ago you said that was no longer your position. Is it your position that immigration, and exploitation ——
Sanders: I didn’t say “immigration.” I said that if you are paid, anybody is paid, exploited and illegally paid low wages, of course that’s going to lower wage standards in America.
BA: And that’s what’s happening right now?
Sanders: You said that. I didn’t say that. I don’t know how big a deal it is, but if people are being exploited by their employers, of course it lowers wages in America. Why do I — If I can get you for cheap labor, why do I pay her a living wage? Do you deny that? I mean, I don’t know. That’s ——
BA: I just wanted to understand your position. Thank you.
Sanders: Do you disagree with that?
BA: I think that there’s a lot of research suggesting that that’s not actually the case, yes. [Even George Borjas, the Harvard economist cited by the Trump administration in efforts to argue that immigration drives down wages, has said there is no economic justification for restricting skilled immigration.]
Sanders: That if I pay you five bucks an hour, it doesn’t have an impact on her wages.
BA: That immigration ——
Sanders: I didn’t say immigration.
BA: The immigration under current circumstances, which is substantially under ——
Sanders: Buh-buh-buh-buh-buh. Hold on. You’re misstating me. All I am saying is that if for whatever reason, I’m paying you $5 an hour, O.K.? You don’t think that’s going to lower the wages that she gets?
BA: There’s a lot of economic research suggesting that it does not.
Sanders: Not that I have seen.
Sanders: I mean I think that’s kind of common sense. It’s called a race to the bottom.