Will Guest Workers Remain Long-Term Guests?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Will Guest Workers Remain Long-Term Guests?

This Washington Post article strengthens the argument that Bush's proposed "guest worker" program would simply add more illegal immigrants to the U.S.'s underground economy:
Tens of thousands of Honduran and Nicaraguan immigrants nationwide risk losing their legal status in the United States today because they have not renewed their temporary work permits under a program to help victims of natural disasters ....

With the deadline approaching by the end of today, about half the eligible applicants have yet to apply for renewal. They could lose their jobs and face deportation, jeopardizing the livelihoods of thousands of relatives here and in their homelands who depend on their salaries.
But let's get real. Many of these workers are betting wisely that they can slide into the underground economy, find other jobs and just keep working without legal status.

These workers recognize that the odds are on their side. After all, the U.S. government isn't making any serious effort to find illegal workers and force them to leave the country. Wherever you stand in the immigration debate, that's fairly obvious.

As the article explains, even if they renewed their temporary work permits, these Central American workers would only extend their legal status for 12 months. Then what?

I'm willing to believe that some of these workers either aren't aware of the renewal requirements or have simply procrastinated. But it seems logical to believe that a significant number of these workers have decided to duck into the underground economy. No doubt, they have come in contact with many other foreign workers who are working here illegally -- and have been doing so for many years.

It's one thing to support a guest worker program with the understanding that many of the workers it attracts will not return to their home countries when the program's term ends. But it's another to pretend, as Bush does, that such a program will not be a vehicle for foreign workers to enter the country and then try to disappear into the underground economy.

On May 15, President Bush either lied to himself or the American people. That evening, he delivered a speech in which he insisted that under his guest worker program
... temporary workers must return to their home country at the conclusion of their stay.
They "must return"? Says who?

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