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Will Bernie Sanders Please Explain Why Outsourcing Jobs is Bad, but Insourcing Workers is Good?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

A cornerstone of Bernie Sanders’ populist campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination is his steadfast opposition to international trade agreements that he, and many voters, fervently believe are undermining American workers. On this issue, he has drawn a sharp distinction between his positions and those of Hillary Clinton, who has supported and negotiated international trade pacts as First Lady, a U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State.


Commenting recently on the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, Sanders made it clear that this and other free trade policies come at great cost to American workers. “[TPP] follows failed trade deals with Mexico, China and other low-wage countries that have cost millions of jobs and shuttered tens of thousands of factories across the United States,” Sanders said.

Over his many years in public life, Sanders has consistently opposed trade deals that he believes result in the outsourcing of millions of American jobs to lower wage workers in other countries. It is fair to say that there are few more forceful advocates on behalf of American workers who lose their jobs because corporations outsource those jobs to other countries, especially if they are incentivized by international trade agreements.

However, if that exact same worker from another country shows up illegally in this country and fills the exact same job, displacing the exact same American worker, Sen. Sanders seemingly has no problem with that. In fact, he has promised that as president, he will do everything in his power (and a few things that might be beyond his constitutional authority) to protect that illegal immigrant.

Sanders’ campaign website promises that he will advocate for amnesty for virtually all illegal immigrants who are here, including an estimated 8 million who are currently filling American jobs. And, if Congress refuses to cooperate, Sanders promises to exceed President Obama’s use of executive authority (a constitutional issue to be decided by the Supreme Court in the coming weeks) and grant them all the right to remain and work in the United States.


But he doesn’t stop there. He would exercise (questionable) presidential power to allow illegal immigrants who, in his opinion, were “unjustly” deported from the United States to reenter. Sanders also pledges to vastly expand the admission of new legal immigrants (beyond current levels of about 1 million a year), all of whom will have to compete for what he has repeatedly asserted is an insufficient supply of jobs.

In all of the countless debates, media interviews, and town halls Sanders has conducted in every corner of this country since he announced his presidential bid, he has yet to be asked the most obvious question: Why is outsourcing American jobs bad, but insourcing foreign workers to do those jobs in this country good?

From the standpoint of the American worker who loses his job it makes little difference whether that jobs was outsourced to another country (abetted, or not, by free trade agreements), or whether that jobs was filled in this country by a worker who showed up here from another country. Moreover, for Sanders and many on the populist left, an American worker whose job was outsourced is someone to be championed as a victim of corporate greed. But an American worker who complains about losing his job to immigrant workers (legal or illegal) is someone to be disparaged as a xenophobe and a bigot.

The irony does not stop there. When an American job is outsourced to another country, American taxpayers must assume certain obligations toward the displaced American worker. They do not assume any (fiscal) obligations toward the worker who fills that job in another country. However, if that same foreign worker fills the job here, even if he does so illegally, Sanders and others on the populist left are adamant that we must provide for all the needs of that worker and his dependents, as well as those of the American worker he displaced.


Outsourcing jobs and insourcing workers are merely two sides of the same coin. From the perspective of the corporate interests that are engaged in undermining American workers both ways it amounts to the same ‘heads we win, tails you lose’ proposition that he rails against in every stump speech.

Can Sen. Sanders, or anyone who shares his seemingly contradictory views on trade and immigration, please explain why one practice is abhorrent, while the other must be fiercely defended, even though the impact on American workers is exactly the same?

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