The Senate is expected to begin floor debate on a bipartisan bill from the Gang of Eight next week. S. 744 would create a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the country, toughen border security, create a guest worker program and boost high-skilled immigration.
Sanders said one part of the bill, which cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on a bipartisan vote last month, reforms the J-1 visa program. He said the change would allow younger foreigners to work lower wage jobs that young Americans are struggling to find.
“I fear very much that this J-1 program is being exploited by corporations such as Hershey’s and McDonald's,” Sanders said. “What people are saying is that American young people are too lazy to work these jobs. ... I think that is a slap in the face to our young people.”
Sanders added that when underemployment is considered, the real unemployment numbers are closer to 14 percent than 7 percent. He said young Americans need those low-skill jobs to help them pay for college.
Despite having bipartisan support, some Republicans have complained that the legislation would provide amnesty for illegal residents before strengthening border enforcement.
Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Jeff Flake (R- Ariz.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Michael Bennet (D-Co.) comprise the Gang of Eight.