Bush's Guest Worker Program

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Bush's Guest Worker Program

From President Bush's nationally televised address last night:
"... to secure our border, we must create a temporary worker program. The reality is that there are many people on the other side of our border who will do anything to come to America to work and build a better life. .... This creates enormous pressure on our border that walls and patrols alone will not stop.

"... Therefore, I support a temporary worker program that would create a legal path for foreign workers to enter our country in an orderly way, for a limited period of time. This program would match willing foreign workers with willing American employers for jobs Americans are not doing."
Notice that Bush didn't say "for jobs Americans don't want to do." This smells. I think this is the president's way of bowing to business interests that want continued access to cheap labor.

It's laughable that Bush uses the term "willing American employers." As if it's going to be hard to find agricultural, construction and other U.S. companies that are willing to hire low-priced labor.
"Every worker who applies for the program would be required to pass criminal background checks. And temporary workers must return to their home country at the conclusion of their stay."
They "must return"? Easier said than done. Once they have reached the U.S., most of them are going to find a way to stay. Any way to stay.

I have seen various stats showing that a significant number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. initially entered the country legally. They simply overstayed visas or stuck around well after the term of their guest-worker program had ended. A new guest-worker program will increase the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S., and it's silly for Bush to pretend otherwise.

The same president who told us last night that it is not "realistic" to think we can "round up millions of people" and deport them wants us to believe that we can somehow force tens of thousands of guest-worker participants to return home when the term of their program ends.

I also agree with The New Republic's observations about guest-worker programs:

... there is little that is more antithetical to the American ideal than a guest worker.

... For generations, immigrants have come to the United States in search of a better life. In the process, they often remake themselves--as Americans. Even those who are here illegally, and whom we call illegal immigrants, can transcend that identity--or at least see their children who are born here transcend it.

But a guest worker and his family have no such opportunity for transcendence. They are slotted into a caste, with no real hope of ever rising above it. Indeed, Bush's guest-worker program would codify a large group of people in the United States as second-class citizens.

Although they would enjoy many of the same legal protections as American-born workers, they would never be viewed by Americans as equals. Instead, they would be seen as transient figures here only to make a buck. They would not be immigrants or future Americans. They would merely be janitors, construction workers, and housekeepers.

Wherever you stand on the immigation debate, it just seems ridiculous to say you want to reduce the number of illegal immigrants in America and simultaneously propose a new guest-worker program.

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