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Ocasio-Cortez Cites NYC Street Vendors to Defend Low-Skill Immigration

Football fans stop at a street vendor for food in New York, April 26, 2008. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

New York Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defended increasing low-skill immigration during a Friday appearance on PBS’s Firing Line by suggesting that every immigrant is a “potential source of economic activity.”

Asked by host Margaret Hoover about fellow socialist Bernie Sanders’ suggestion that an open-borders policy is a “Koch brothers plot” that harms the poor, Ocasio-Cortez praised immigrants’ entrepreneurial spirit, pointing to the prevalence of street vendors in her neighborhood as evidence of their positive impact on the economy.

“When it comes to low-skill immigration, the problem with taking that approach is the assumption that people coming in are only weights or only have some kind of parasitic relationship to the economy. And that’s not true,” she said. “Every single person is a source of economic activity, I think. And what we see is that immigrants are one of the most entrepreneurial populations in the U.S. My district is 50 percent immigrant, you will not find more vendors in New York city than you will find here. This idea that something is low skill and its going to be a weight, I think that’s a false lens.”

Many low-skill immigrants rely on street vending for income when more secure forms of employment are unavailable. There are roughly 20,000 street vendors operating in New York City, nearly 80 percent of whom lack a permit.

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