National Public Radio presidential debate

We need to also recognize there are people at this very hour that are showing up at U.S. embassies all over the world who are seeking to come here through legal means, and we need to keep them in mind. If it looks as though they're fools to be doing what they're doing because we're creating virtually an amnesty program in this country, then you're going to have an awful problem around the world. So we need to understand that.

And thirdly, this point. Look, let's understand this. The Republicans, the extreme conservatives here, want this issue on the table. They don't want to talk about the war in Iraq. They don't want to talk about the failure of fiscal policies here at home. They don't want to talk about what's going on with health care in the country. So they're going to use this issue as a wedge issue here to inflame the passions, the fears and hatreds of too many Americans. We have seen it in the past in our country. It's dangerous politics, and we need to describe it for what it is.

MR. INSKEEP: I'm sorry that we're limited on time. We need to move on.

Our colleague Robert Siegel has a question for the candidates.

MR. SIEGEL: A question for Senator Edwards. If you're elected president, you'll hear competing claims about H1-B visas for highly skilled workers. People like Bill Gates will tell you we should have much, much more of them to bring in more highly skilled workers. Critics of that will say no, the United States is training other countries' engineers and in fact those workers are working for less than American-trained specialists and engineers would.

What would you do as president? Expand H1-B visas or scale them back?

MR. EDWARDS: Well — well, the first point is, why is America not educating and training American workers to do these jobs? I mean, that's the starting point —

MR. SIEGEL: Well, there are Americans who say that they are being trained for those jobs but that they can't compete with workers from India who will work for 10% less.

MR. EDWARDS: And that's the reason — if American workers are actually competent to do those jobs, American workers should be doing those jobs. The whole purpose of the H1-B visa program is to bring people from other places who have to do jobs that we don't have American workers to do.

Now, I think there are two pieces to this. One is, if there are American workers who can do the jobs, they should be doing them, as I just said. And they will when I'm president.

Second, if we don't have adequate American workers — and this is the other side of the equation, what Bill Gates and others would argue, and I've heard the same argument — then that means America's not doing its job of educating our young people —

MR. SIEGEL: But are you saying that for you, it's a matter of fact finding to see which way you would go on H1-B visas, or have you already made up your mind that they should be limited or they should be increased?

MR. EDWARDS: I believe that there are American workers who can do some of these jobs that people are being brought from other places to do. And I think those American workers, if they're there and available, should be doing the jobs.

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