The Senate today passed an immigration reform bill that includes a youth jobs program proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 68-32.
The immigration bill includes a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants; the DREAM Act which offers conditional citizenship to those who were brought to the U.S. as children; and stronger security for our borders. This bill will also provide legal status for agricultural workers -- including those working on dairy farms in Vermont.
"Like any piece of complicated legislation there are aspects of this bill which I strongly support and others I disagree with," Sanders said. "One of the areas I have serious concerns about and want to see improved as the bill progresses is the huge increase in guest worker programs. At a time when unemployment remains extremely high, these programs bring hundreds of thousands of skilled and unskilled workers into our economy making it harder for U.S. citizens to find jobs. Addressing that concern, I'm proud I was able to include in this bill a significant employment program for young people."
The Sanders program would provide $1.5 billion over two years for states and local communities to help find jobs for more than 400,000 unemployed 16- to 24-year-olds. Currently, the official unemployment for that age group is 16.2 percent.
"This program will help hundreds of thousands of young Americans find jobs and earn the skills they need to build strong careers," Sanders said. "At a time when the unemployment rate for these young people is twice that of the rest of the country, it is absolutely imperative that Congress help them find jobs. The establishment of a youth employment program for 400,000 young people is a good step forward in addressing our unemployment crisis. Obviously more needs to be done in the months to come."
Sanders commended Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) for his leadership on this issue as well as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), chairman of the immigration subcommittee.