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Debate: Guest workers in the United States

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Is a guest worker immigration reform program a good idea for the United States?...

Background and context

Rep. Jim Kolbe, Sen. John McCain, and Rep. Jeff Flake introduced a guest-worker bill in 2003. - "The bill would create two categories of visa — one for foreigners who want to enter the United States to work, and the other for illegal immigrants already holding jobs here. The new foreign workers would have to be matched with an employer and would have a chance to earn permanent residence at the end of a three-year work period. Meanwhile, those already here illegally would have to pay a fine and work for two three-year periods before applying for legal residency." - Washington Times '03 President Bush came out in January, 2004 in support of this legislation, although he "has been vocal since 2001 on the need for a guest worker program." - CNN.com 9/6/06.

Later, John McCain and Ted Kennedy's Senate 2611 bill that aimed to create a special guest worker program for an estimated 1.5 million immigrant farm workers, as well as provide 200,000 new temporary guest-worker visas a year.[1]

Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) made a similar proposal calling for a guest worker program in which workers would be issued a temporary work visa for two years and be required to go back home for one year. Workers could participate up to three times.[2]

The guest worker program has largely been framed within the wider debate between the comprehensive immigration reform packages of Senate bill 2611 and H.R. 4437, which widely diverge in philosophy. The guest worker provision and "path to citizenship" in S. 2611 is the legislation's primary distinguishing feature as more tolerant and inclusive of illegal immigrants. H.R. 4437 has no such provision, and makes many motions to the opposite effect, such as increasing to a felony the base level charge for residing in the US without documentation. Therefore, the guest worker debate is a pivotal question within with wider philosophical divide present on immigration reform going into the 110th Congress.

Read and include hearing conclusions

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Is a guest worker program sound in principal?

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Yes

Argument that the Guest Worker program, as envisioned in S. 2611, is not "amnesty" because the illegals that would register for the program would have to pay a fine for having broken US law: Arlene Specter said in March, 2006 that the Guest Worker program "is not an amnesty." In an amnesty, he told the Los Angeles Times in March, 2006, "lawbreakers do not have to pay for their transgressions."[3]

  • Ted Kennedy (D-MA) - "There is no free ticket...This is not amnesty."[4]
  • President Bush argues that the program is not amnesty 1/7/04 - "Some temporary workers will make the decision to pursue American citizenship. Those who make this choice will be allowed to apply in the normal way. They will not be given unfair advantage over people who have followed legal procedures from the start. I oppose amnesty, placing undocumented workers on the automatic path to citizenship. Granting amnesty encourages the violation of our laws, and perpetuates illegal immigration. America is a welcoming country, but citizenship must not be the automatic reward for violating the laws of America."
  • Asa Hutchinson, Undersectretary for Border and Transportation Security in a 2004 Senate hearing on Bush's guest worker proposal - "The President’s proposal is not amnesty. Now, let us define amnesty. The last time that amnesty was dealt with in this fashion was during President Reagan’s term, and it allowed for these type of illegal immigrants to get on the track towards citizenship and certainly permanent residency. This is exactly not that. This puts the individual in a temporary worker program, and it does not lead to permanent residency or, of course, to citizenship. Nothing prevents the individual from trying to get on that track through normal, legal means and, of course, putting them at the back of the line. So I think we are talking about apples and oranges here, and amnesty is not what the President is proposing."


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No

The basic argument that a guest worker program is "amnesty": FAIR - "A program that will allow an undetermined number of illegal aliens to gain legal residence - either immediately, or three years hence - is an amnesty."

  • Americans for Immigration Control '06 - "Webster's defines amnesty as "a general pardon of offenses against a government." By this definition, any way you slice it, legal status for illegals is a pardon of offenses. The definition says nothing about the duration of the pardon."

Arguments that a guest worker program is still "amnesty" even if a fine is paid by illegal immigrants for having broken the law: Americans for Immigration Control '06 - "Claim: It won't be amnesty if it's 'earned legalization,' that is the person receiving it will have to prove good character while continuing to work and perhaps pay a fine of $1,000, or so. Correction: People who have broken our laws have already proven their character, and letting them continue doing what they're already doing is hardly a penalty. A fine of $1,000 is a meaningless slap on the wrist, a price much less than illegals often pay smugglers to enter our country in the first place. This piddling sum would show the world how little we value our laws, our country and our citizenship. Yes, citizenship-because many or most of the guest workers would remain and eventually become citizens."

Key players that term a guest worker program "amnesty":

  • Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) - "I disagree with [guest-worker proposals] not just as a matter of principle, but because granting amnesty now will only encourage future and further disrespect for the law."[5]
  • Rep J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ) - "Undoubtedly, guest worker equals amnesty equals surrender."[6]
  • Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said that anybody who supports a guest worker program should be "branded with a scarlet letter A," for "amnesty."[7]

"The [guest worker] bill gives these temporary workers some preferential rights that American citizen workers do not have." Phyllis Schlafly 6/14/06 (a prominent conservative thinker and founder of Eagle Forum - See Wikipedia article) - "These new temporary workers can't be fired from their jobs except for "just cause," they must be paid the prevailing wage, and they can't be arrested for other civil immigration offenses if they are stopped for traffic violations. The bill assures the preference of in-state college tuition (something that is denied to U.S. citizens in 49 other states), and certain types of college financial assistance will be available to illegals at the state's option. As minorities, they may even get affirmative action preferences in jobs, government contracts, and college admissions."

"Amnesty/guest-worker is unjust to the millions of people who complied with our immigration laws, stood in line, and patiently waited their turn to win legal residence in the United States." - Phyllis Schlafly 1/06

Washington Post Op-Ed 3/26/06, Tamar Jacoby, Senior Fellow of the Manhattan Institute - "If [guest workers] worked hard, put down roots and invested in their communities, wouldn't we want to encourage them to stay? Don't we want immigrants to assimilate? Don't we want to attract the kind of hard-working, committed folks who plan for the future and invest? The answer is, of course, that we do. This isn't just the American way, it's also the antidote to many of our worst fears about immigration: Sojourners with no stake in the future are going to be much less likely to learn English or buy their own homes or make an effort to move up on the job."

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Guest workers: Would a guest worker program be fair to guest workers?

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Yes

A White House principle behind a guest worker program - The White House 1/7/04- "Promoting Compassion: The program should grant currently working undocumented aliens a temporary worker status to prevent exploitation. Participants would be issued a temporary worker card that will allow them to travel back and forth between their home and the U.S. without fear of being denied re-entry into America."

"For the workers, [the Guest Worker program] would provide temporary legal status and some civil rights protections that an illegal worker would not have." - An argument presented in About.com

  • Congressional Research Service Report 4/6/06 - "Some observers maintain that a large guest worker program limited to new workers could leave unauthorized aliens in the United States particularly vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous employers."

Guest worker program offers benefit of freedom of travel: President Bush 1/7/04 - "All participants will be issued a temporary worker card that will allow them to travel back and forth between their home and the United States without fear of being denied re-entry into our country."

View that it would bring good-intentioned illegals out of the shadows and discourage further illegal behaviour: White House 1/7/04 - "This new [guest worker] program would allow workers who currently hold jobs to come out of hiding and participate legally in America's economy while not encouraging further illegal behavior."

  • Washington Post 3/24/06 - "The Wall Street Journal notes that failing to provide a mechanism for illegal immigrants to get legal status means that 'millions of otherwise well-behaved people who have become integral parts of thousands of U.S. communities would have every incentive to stay in the shadows lest they be deported.'"
  • John Cornyn said in a 2004 senate hearing on guest worker legislation that it would "encourage undocumented immigrants to come out of the shadows, get on the tax rolls and to work within the law and then return to their homes and families with the pay and skills that they acquire as guest workers in the United States."

Guest worker program offers financial benefits for returning home after the period of stay expires: President Bush 1/7/04 - "This program expects temporary workers to return permanently to their home countries after their period of work in the United States has expired. And there should be financial incentives for them to do so. I will work with foreign governments on a plan to give temporary workers credit, when they enter their own nation's retirement system, for the time they have worked in America. I also support making it easier for temporary workers to contribute a portion of their earnings to tax-preferred savings accounts, money they can collect as they return to their native countries. After all, in many of those countries, a small nest egg is what is necessary to start their own business, or buy some land for their family."

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No

Argument that a guest worker program will immorally create a second-class citizenry: The Phyllis Schlafly Report 1/06 - "Inviting foreigners to come to America as guest workers is equivalent to sending the message: You people are only fit to do menial jobs that Americans think they are too good to do. We will let you come into our country for a few years to work low-paid jobs, but you have no hope of rising up the economic and social ladder."

"Many union and advocacy groups are complaining a guest worker policy will contribute to further exploitation and poorer working conditions for illegal immigrants." - Occupational Hazards 4/05/06 - "Peg Seminario, director of safety and health at the AFL-CIO, told OccupationalHazrds.com: "Many workers are scared to report abuses as they feel threatened by their employers they may lose their job." That problem would be exacerbated if the guest worker program was adopted, she said. According to Seminario, guest worker programs are not a good idea because they cast workers into a second-class citizen status and put their fate into their employers' hands, creating an opportunity to exploit them. It also encourages employers to turn full-time jobs into temporary ones at reduced wages and diminished working conditions, she added." View the continuation of this article and its argument.

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Economics: Would a guest worker program be economical and fiscally sound?

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Yes

President Bush 1/7/04 - In proposing the guest worker program, he said, "New immigration laws should serve the economic needs of our country. If an American employer is offering a job that American citizens are not willing to take, we ought to welcome into our country a person who will fill that job...I propose a new temporary worker program that will match willing foreign workers with willing American employers, when no Americans can be found to fill the jobs."

"CBO (Congressional Budget Office) Analysis (8/18/06) finds increased revenues would offset increased entitlement costs under Senate Immigration Bill (S. 2611)" - Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (progressive) 9/15/06 - "The analysis shows that the increases in entitlement (mandatory) costs and the increases in tax revenues would roughly balance each other out. Entitlement costs would rise $48 billion over ten years, while tax revenues would rise $44 billion over the same period....CBO found that over the next ten years, the net effect of the bill’s impact on entitlement costs and revenues would be a small negative effect on the budget, with the new expenditures exceeding the new revenues by $4.8 billion. Over the longer term, however, the bill’s fiscal effects in the entitlement-and-tax area likely would be positive. The effects would be positive (i.e., they would reduce deficits) if the new revenues resulting from the bill rose faster than the new entitlement costs. According to CBO’s analysis, that is precisely what would occur over the next ten years. In fact, over the second half of the ten-year period covered by the cost estimate (2012-2016), the estimated increase in revenues exceeds the estimated increase in entitlement costs by $6.3 billion. In 2016, the tenth year, CBO estimates that revenues would be $11.1 billion higher as a result of the bill while entitlement costs would be $8.5 billion higher — resulting in a net gain for the federal government of $2.6 billion, exclusive of any increases in discretionary spending costs. The new CBO analyses do not extend beyond the ten-year window, but the pattern at the end of the ten-year period suggests that federal revenue gains over the long term may equal or exceed the increases in entitlement expenditures."

Contention that entitlement costs would be low initially and would be "modest" in the long-run because those that would qualify for the guest worker program and any potential path to citizenship are more "self-supporting": - Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (Progressive) 9/15/06 - "As the CBO estimate indicates, the bill’s impact on entitlement costs would be small in the initial years, because few immigrants would qualify in those years for benefits such as Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid. Over time, more immigrants who are legalizing would qualify for assistance. The number of legalized immigrants who would receive means-tested assistance, however, would remain relatively modest. Under the Senate bill, to qualify for guest-worker status and eventually to earn citizenship, immigrants would have to meet a number of qualifications, including steady employment, payment of back-owed taxes, knowledge of English, and payment of substantial penalties and fees. The immigrants able to meet all of these criteria are likely primarily to be those who are self-supporting and do not need or qualify for most means-tested benefits."

"Positive Effects on the Economy and Social Security Solvency:" - Center on Budget and Policy Priorities 9/15/06 - "The Senate immigration bill almost certainly would increase economic growth in the United States. This is because the rate of economic growth essentially reflects the rate of growth in the U.S. labor force, the rate of growth in investment, and the rate of growth in productivity. The Senate bill would increase the size of labor force and would do so at a time when CBO, OMB, the GAO, the Social Security actuaries, and virtually all other experts forecast that labor-force growth will begin to slow down dramatically, as a result of the aging of the U.S. population, and will bring with it a slowdown in economic growth. CBO estimates that the increase in the size of the labor force that would result from the Senate immigration bill would help to address this problem and would lead to an increase in economic growth. In an earlier analysis of the Senate bill as introduced, CBO projected that the legislation ultimately would increase the size of the U.S. economy by between 0.8 percent and 1.3 percent (...This suggests that the nation’s economy could be roughly $170 billion to $270 billion larger in 2016 than without the bill’s enactment...) — amounts that are higher than the Administration’s recently released optimistic estimate of the impact of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts on the economy if the tax cuts are made permanent. (Due to amendments adopted on the Senate floor to reduce the size of the guest worker program, the final Senate bill would likely generate a somewhat smaller increase in growth than the original bill would.) The Joint Committee on Taxation’s estimate of the higher tax revenues that would result from the Senate bill (which is the basis for CBO’s official cost estimate for the bill [above]) only partially reflects the increase in economic growth that CBO projects would occur as result of the bill. In an addendum to its analysis of the bill as introduced in the Senate, CBO estimated that the economic factors not accounted for in the JCT estimate would improve the budgetary impact of the bill by $80 billion to $160 billion over the next 10 years, depending on the assumptions used about the effects of the increase in the labor force. The bill that the Senate subsequently passed would have a somewhat smaller impact since it would not increase the labor force by as much as the introduced bill.[9] If the economic impact of the Senate-passed legislation is fully accounted for, however, the net effect of the legislation on the budget almost certainly is positive.

"The immigration bill passed by the Senate (S. 2611 - w/ guest worker provision) also would contribute to strengthening Social Security finances, according to the Social Security actuaries." - Center on Budget and Policy Priorities 9/15/06 - "The actuaries have reported to Congress that by increasing the number of workers paying into the Social Security program, the Senate immigration bill would extend the solvency of the Social Security Trust Fund by two years (to 2042) and would reduce the Trust Fund’s projected long-term deficit."

"CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation also project that legalization (through a guest worker program proposed in S. 2611) would...reduce the likelihood that immigrants are paid “under the table,” thereby leading to increases in federal income and payroll tax collections." - Center on Budget and Policy Priorities 9/15/06

"The bill would establish other fees and penalties, as well, which immigrants seeking to legalize would be required to pay [and which would add to government revenues]." - Center on Budget and Policy Priorities 9/15/06

S. 2611's Guest Worker "prevailing wage" provision is designed to protect against wage deflation resulting from employers offering low wages to foreign workers: Charles H. Kuck, Vice President, American Immigration Lawyers Association.] - "The prevailing wage provision in the McCain-Kennedy bill, like similar provisions in earlier guest worker laws, is designed to prevent employers from recruiting guest workers willing to work for a wage that will adversely affect the living standards and wages of American workers. It does this by requiring that employers offer jobs to US citizens first, before turning to Guest Workers, ensuring that Guest Workers are only employed in times of labor shortages when wages are climbing anyway."

Evidence that 2005's increased border security measures have decreased important immigrant labor that farm industries depend on (particularly in California), which has caused much greater support for a Guest Worker program among farmers: Washington Post 10/04/06 - "Farms up and down California and across the nation, does not have enough workers to process its fruit. 'We're short by 50 to 75 people,' said Pat Ricchiuti, 59, the third-generation owner of P-R Farms. 'For the last three weeks, we're running at 50 percent capacity. We saw this coming a couple years ago, but last year and this year has really been terrible.' Farmers of all types of specialty crops, from almonds to roses, have seen the immigrant labor supply they depend on dry up over the past year. Increased border security and competition from other industries are driving migrant laborers out of the fields, farmers say...The problem is now reaching crisis proportions...As much as 30 percent of the year's pear crop was lost in Northern California...More than one-third of Florida's Valencia orange crop went unharvested, Regelbrugge said. In New York, apples are rotting on the trees, because workers who once picked the fruit have fled frequent raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents....Michael Keegan, a spokesman for the federal agency, said he could not confirm any specific targets for raids. But he said it now takes a more proactive approach to work-site enforcement, seeking to build criminal cases against employers instead of issuing fines."

Key players that argue that the economic impact would be favorable:

  • Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska): Before a hearing on immigration reform in 2004, Hagel argued for his bill S. 2010 and its guest worker provision on the grounds of "Economic stability: to provide foreign workers for jobs that would otherwise go unfilled, our bill admits a limited number of workers through a willing worker program."
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No

"Low-skilled labor is not compatible with America’s 21st century economic objectives." - FAIR's Reason #4 for Opposing a Guest Worker Program - "Everyone acknowledges that we need to improve our job skills level as a nation if we are to maintain a competitive edge in the global 21st century economy. The guest worker proposals favored by the Bush administration and others would vastly increase our pool of low-skill workers."

  • "A guest worker amnesty program will perpetuate noncompetitive business practices." - FAIR 02/06 - "Because of the ready availability of low-wage foreign workers, many businesses have lacked the incentive to modernize and make capital investments that would make them more competitive in a global economy."
  • Philip Martin of UC Davis and Michael Teitelbaum, “The Mirage of Mexican Guest Workers,” Nov/Dec 2001 Foreign Affairs. - "History has shown that in agriculture (where many Mexican guest workers would be employed), a pool of cheap workers gives farm owners strong incentives to expand the planting of labor-intensive crops rather than invest in labor-saving equipment and the crops suitable for it. Thus, although the labor supply is supposed to be available only temporarily, farmers adapt in ways that ensure their continued need for workers willing to accept such low wages."

…[P]olitical leaders have often belatedly discovered that admitting temporary low-wage workers unnaturally sustains industries with low productivity and wages, such as garment manufacturing, labor-intensive agriculture, and domestic services. In consequence, the economy’s overall productivity and growth suffer.”

Arguments that a guest worker program would deprive Americans of jobs that they are willing to do:

  • "There is no labor shortage, rather a shortage of employers who feel they should have to pay decent wages." - FAIR's Reason # for opposing a Guest Worker program - Most of the jobs that supposedly Americans will not do were, until recently, done by Americans, albeit at higher wages. Without a constant influx of lower wage foreign workers, millions of unemployed, marginally employed, and occasionally employed Americans could once again become fully employed at decent living wages."
  • "There are no jobs Americans won’t do." - FAIR's Reason # for opposing a Guest Worker program - "American workers are willing to do just about any job that needs to be done. The recent West Virginia mining tragedy reminds us that millions of Americans go to work every day doing difficult, even dangerous jobs so that they can provide for themselves and their families."

Argument that a guest worker program would depress American wages: Philip Martin of UC Davis and Michael Teitelbaum, “The Mirage of Mexican Guest Workers,” Nov/Dec 2001 Foreign Affairs. - "The rise in farm workers’ wages following the bracero program’s termination also showed how much it had depressed wages. In 1966, César Chávez and his fledgling United Farm Workers union won a 40 percent wage increase from table grape growers in the San Joaquin Valley of California who could no longer use braceros to counter the union’s strike. [But:] These economic gains were later lost as the size of the unauthorized farm worker population soared."

Argument that we don't need more foreign workers, and that the low unemployment rate in the US through 2006 was misleading because so many weren't even looking for work: Americans for Immigration Control '06 - "Claim: We desperately need foreign workers. Correction: Why do we need them when we have an unemployment rate significantly higher that the official rate of 5.5 percent when you add in people who have quit looking for work and the under-employed? Despite talk of economic recovery in recent years, we have lost a net total of more than one million private sector jobs since 2001. Even in agriculture - which allegedly requires illegal aliens - we have too many workers looking for work. In California, between two and three workers now compete for each of the state's 400,000 to 500,000 seasonal farm jobs. Given these realities, it seems incredible that the Bush administration and others now only want to give amnesty to resident illegal aliens, but also invite more guest workers from abroad on top of that!"

An assessment of the economic, tax burden, and welfare system costs of the immigrant influx that would result from a guest worker and "path to citizenship" program: Phyllis Schlafly 6/14/06 - "After the so-called temporary workers and their spouses become citizens, they can bring in their parents as permanent residents on the path to citizenship. Although the parents have never paid into Social Security, they will be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, and in 46 states they will be eligible for full Medicaid benefits after five years. Siblings and adult children (and their families) will be given preference in future admissions. The demographics of the so-called temporary workers are expected to be similar to those of the illegal aliens already in our country. Over half will be high school dropouts, they will work low-paid jobs that require payment of little or no income tax, they are 50 percent more likely to receive taxpayer-funded government benefits than natural-born households, and they have a 42 percent rate of out-of-wedlock births (all of whom, of course, will be granted automatic U.S. citizenship). Estimates of the cost to the taxpayers of this gargantuan expansion of the welfare state are at least $50 billion a year over the long term. U.S. taxpayers will pay for entitlements to these tens of millions of low-income families, including Medicaid, Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, Earned Income Tax Credit (cash handouts of up to $4,400 a year to low-wage households), public schooling and lunches, the WIC program, food stamps, public housing, and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families."

  • Philip Martin of UC Davis and Michael Teitelbaum, “The Mirage of Mexican Guest Workers,” Nov/Dec 2001 Foreign Affairs. - "For the host country, the permanent settlement of guest workers also tends to require greater spending on social services than the government initially anticipated. Many workers find ways to bring their families to join them, creating a large pool of poorly paid and often undereducated people. They, along with any children born in the host country, require government-financed services such as public education and health care. In the United States specifically, the settlement of millions of Mexicans would increase the numbers of U.S. residents who lack health insurance and rely on publicly financed clinics and other safety nets."
  • Center for Immigration Studies study concluded that "The total net cost of the 1986 IRCA amnesty (direct and indirect costs of services and benefits to the former illegal aliens, less their tax contributions) amounted to over $78 billion in the ten years following the amnesty," according to the Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform (CAIR)

"Cheap labor isn’t cheap; it’s subsidized." FAIR's Reason #9 for Opposing a Guest Worker Program - "Neither President Bush, nor guest worker proponents in Congress have produced a plan to pay for the billions of dollars in social costs that will be required to fund education, health care, housing and other human needs for a vast new influx of guest workers."

"The benefit for a guest worker program goes to big business; the cost is borne by society at large" - FAIR.

Argument that a Guest Worker program would be unfair to low-income US workers because it would provide guest workers with higher wages in some cases: Its prevailing wage provision "would guarantee wages to some foreign workers that could be higher than those paid to American workers at the same worksite" - a frequent Republican argument cited by Charles H. Kuck, Vice President, American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Argument that the Guest Worker program gives too much favor to bringing in low-skilled immigrants: Senator Jeff Sessions argues this point, and that more favor should be given to high-skilled immigrant workers.[8]

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Feasibility: Is a guest worker program feasible and practical?

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Yes

The existing foreign worker programs are "too complex" and "not usable", according to some sources who argue that the new guest worker program would be more practical: According to the Washington Post article "Border Security, Job Market Leave Farms Short of Workers", 10/4/06, Farmers contend that the existing guest-worker program is not usable. While some industries, such as Maryland crab pickers, rely on the H-2B program to provide foreign labor, farmers contend that the equivalent program for agriculture - H-2A - is too complex and has unreasonable requirements, such as offering housing for workers. One farmer said, "We explored [H-2A], and it was so cumbersome, it just would not meet our needs. It's so specific; you agree to hire so many people at this time. What if the season is two weeks late? I have to have work for them. Or pay them to do nothing." Nationwide, only 2% of agricultural workers use H-2A visas.[9]

A White House "Principle of Immigration Reform": "Providing Incentives for Return to Home Country", which is intended to make implementation of the guest worker program more feasible: White House 1/7/04 - "The program will require the return of temporary workers to their home country after their period of work has concluded. The legal status granted by this program would last three years, be renewable, and would have an end. During the temporary work period, it should allow movement across the U.S. borders so the worker can maintain roots in their home country."

Argument that many illegals want the opportunity to return to their home-lands, making the enforcement of the end of the temporary worker period more feasible: [source?] - "To assume that all of them want to stay in this country is certainly a fallacy. I recognize that some will. But I think there is a significant percent of that universe that has no interest in staying here. They came here for economic reasons, not for any other reason. And I think they would very much welcome the opportunity to go back to their homes with a little capital in their pockets and the opportunity to stay amongst their family and the land that they know and love of their birth."

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No

Argument that a guest worker program would increase illegal immigration flows, rather than decrease them: Philip Martin of UC Davis and Michael Teitelbaum, “The Mirage of Mexican Guest Workers,” Nov/Dec 2001 Foreign Affairs. - "Far from mitigating illegal immigration, the two countries’ last major temporary worker program actually initiated and accelerated its flow. During the so-called bracero (“strong-armed one”) program from 1942 to 1964, the number of unauthorized Mexicans slipping across the border actually expanded in parallel with the number of authorized temporary workers; the illegal flows then continued to accelerate after the program’s termination."

"The government can’t even manage the current immigration work load." FAIR's Reason #7 for opposing a Guest Worker program - "By all accounts, current guest worker programs are riddled with fraud perpetrated by both the employers and the workers themselves. Does anyone seriously believe that the government will be able to verify business claims of worker shortages, or do adequate background checks on millions of new guest workers?

  • Cristian Science Monitor 1/27/04 - "Another concern: No matter what procedures are put in place, the system is likely to be overwhelmed by bureaucracy. 'The people I talk to in government burst into laughter when they hear of another plan requiring technology and other tracking mechanism be put in place,' says Scott Wright, an immigration lawyer with Faegre & Benson in Minneapolis. 'Law enforcement all over the US is still waiting for money and machines for extra surveillance after 9/11.'"

"There's nothing as permanent as a temporary worker." - Center for Immigration Studies 3/24/06 - "Once they’ve worked here for a while and learned the ropes, all the incentives and gimmicks in the world aren't going to prevent large numbers of foreign workers from settling down. The Bracero program, for instance, dramatically increased the number of Mexicans living permanently in the United States. During the 22 years the program lasted (1942-1964), annual Mexican immigration -- permanent immigration, leading to citizenship -- grew from little more than 2,000 to as high as 61,000, for total permanent settlement of more than a half-million Mexicans. This compares with a total of only a million or so Mexican men who actually participated in the Bracero program. Germany had the same experience with its post-war guest-worker program for Turkish and other workers. When it was ended after the 1973 Oil Shock, the government thought that the "temporary" workers would leave, because of assurances that there was "circular" movement of such people, going back and forth between Germany and Turkey (the same story that today's guest worker boosters are telling about Mexicans). Instead, the "temporary" workers not only stayed, they brought their families, too, causing Germany's foreign population to nearly double over the next 25 years."

  • Philip Martin of UC Davis and Michael Teitelbaum, “The Mirage of Mexican Guest Workers,” Nov/Dec 2001 Foreign Affairs. - "Bush’s proposal ignores the fact that virtually no low-wage 'temporary worker' program in a high-wage liberal democracy has ever turned out to be truly temporary. On the contrary, most initially small (and often 'emergency') temporary worker programs have grown much larger, and lasted far longer, than originally promised...[P]articipants and their families grow accustomed to the increased income; they therefore have no incentive to return home unless rapid economic and job growth there creates commensurate opportunities. As the workers’ “temporary” sojourns extend over time, the odds of their ever returning to their homeland diminish, and young people in the home country come to regard employment abroad as normal."
  • "France and Germany have already demonstrated the folly of a guest-worker economy. They admitted foreigners to do low-paid jobs, and now both countries have thousands of foreign residents who do not assimilate, who burden the social welfare system, and who become more disgruntled and dangerous every year." - Phyllis Schlafly 1/06
  • Cristian Science Monitor 1/27/04, analysis of historical difficulties in getting guest workers to leave a country - "Since World War II, 'the Swiss tried it with the Italians and Spanish, the Germans tried it with the Turks, and the French with the Algerians,' says Paul Heise, professor of economics at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pa. 'Everywhere, it has been a disaster for both the welfare of the workers and the moral character of the employing country.' The biggest problem of all, some say, is that once workers and their families become established in a new country, they do not want to leave. 'The main lesson of previous guest-worker programs in the US and across Europe is that there is nothing more permanent than a temporary worker,' says Rosemary Jenks, of Numbers USA, which works to limit immigration. 'History has yet to find an effective and humane way to make them go home.'"
  • America for Immigration Control '06 - "Claim: We will let legalized aliens stay as guest workers and fill jobs for fixed terms, then they will have to go home. Correction: The assurance amnestied guest workers will go home is totally unfounded. One reason is that when the time comes for them to return, immigration advocates will say they have become part of their communities, it would be "inhumane" to make them return. This often has happened in the past when the time came for foreigners given temporary residence to go back. Further complicating matters is the misinterpretation of the 14th Amendment which gives citizenship to anyone born on your soil. Guest worker parents of citizen children born here, would claim the right to remain with their children."
  • Washington Post Op-Ed, Tamar Jacoby 3/26/06, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute - "The adage is true: There is nothing more permanent than a temporary worker. Many of those who come to the United States for short stints will want to stay on when their visas expire, perpetuating the underground economy that the program is supposed to eliminate. This isn't just speculation -- look at the reality today. True enough, many young foreign workers initially come to the United States for what they think will be a short visit, and many do go home after a few years. But unlike past such workers, an increasing number are now staying on. This is partly a result of U.S. policy: Our efforts to fortify the border have made it harder for people to travel back and forth. But other, deeper forces are at work. The traditional flow of migrant farm-workers -- truly seasonal laborers, usually single men -- is giving way to a more diverse stream: both men and women, often with families, less rooted at home and more open to the lure of life in America. Meanwhile, growing immigrant communities have made settling here a more attractive choice. Of some 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, only 2.4 million are single men, while nearly half are couples and many have children. Legal migrants are even more rooted."

Contention that a guest worker program has existed in the U.S. for some time in H2-A visas, but that very few signed up: CNN.com 9/6/06 - "By law, guest worker programs already exist in the U.S. For example, an unlimited number of people can qualify for H2-A visas, intended for seasonal agricultural workers. Yet of the millions of undocumented field workers in the U.S. only 7,011 such visas were recorded as admissions by the Department of Homeland Security in 2005. So few are issued because the vast majority of the millions of non-immigrant workers in that category can find work without the hassle of proper documentation. 'The temporary visa laws never worked to begin with,' said Dan Kowalski, immigration lawyer and editor of Bender's Immigration Bulletin. Once the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 became law, Kowalski explains, thousands of employers realized there was no category for their employees."

"Opponents on both sides of the general immigration debate say that guest-worker programs are destined to fail." - Washington Times '03 - "According to a 2000 report for the Center for Immigration Studies, guest-worker programs implemented in the middle of the last century were accompanied by illegal immigration — usually from family and friends following the guest workers. 'The only way a guest-worker program could function and get a lot of people to sign up is if you had several years of vigorous enforcement in place first, and then say, 'Here's the alternative. You've got to sign up, said Steven A. Camarota, director of research at the center."

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Demographics: Would a guest worker program be a good demographic measure?

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Yes

Incentivizing illegals to leave after the program could help solve the illegal immigration problem and demographic problems too: Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) in a 2004 senate hearing on guest worker legislation - "We must provide incentives for risk takers to return to their home country with the capital and the skills they have acquired as temporary workers in the United States if we are going to begin to address the root causes of illegal immigration in the first place."

"Such a program would lower the inflow of illegal immigrants by expanding the channel for legal entry." - Cato Institute 10/30/06 - "In the 1950s, the U.S. government dramatically expanded the number of temporary visas available through the Bracero program for Mexican agricultural workers. The result was an equally dramatic fall in illegal entries to the United States. When Congress ended the program in 1964, illegal immigration began to climb again and has not stopped since."

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No

Summary of demographic concerns by Phyllis Schlafly 6/14/06 - "The Congressional Budget Office estimates that this bill would import 7.8 million new immigrants, and convert another 11 million current immigrants, legal and illegal, into U .S. citizens over the next decade. The Heritage Foundation estimates that 66 million new citizens will be added to the current population over the next 20 years. The number would accelerate as the racket called family chain migration allows more new residents to bring in more and more relatives."

Estimates of a substantial population increase resulting from a Guest Worker program: - According to Michelle Malkin, S. 2611 would create a new (H-2C) visa category for “temporary guest workers” (low skilled workers) with an annual “cap” of 325,000 that would increase up to 20 percent each year the cap is met. She concludes that this would allow at least 6.5 million and up to 60.7 million new guest workers to come to the United States over the next 20 years. Malkin argues that there is nothing "temporary" about these workers, because employers could file a green card application on their behalf. By creating a new visa category (H-4) for the immediate family members of the future low-skilled workers (H-2C), and allowing them to also receive green cards, Malkin contends that the bill might allow at least 7.8 million and up to 72.8 million immediate family members of low-skilled workers to come to the United States over the next 20 years.[10]

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National security: Would it benefit national security?

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Yes

Argument that a guest worker program will bring illegals out of the shadows, where they pose a hazard to US security:

Cato Institute 4/1/04 - "Legalizing and regularizing the movement of workers across the U.S.-Mexican border could enhance our national security by bringing much of the underground labor market into the open, encouraging newly documented workers to cooperate fully with law enforcement officials, and freeing resources for border security and the war on terrorism."

"It would reduce the demand for fraudulent documents, which in turn would reduce the supply available for terrorists trying to operate surreptitiously inside the United States." - Cato Institute 4/1/04 - "It would eliminate most of the human smuggling operations overnight. The vast majority of Mexican workers who enter the United States have no criminal record or intentions. They would obviously prefer to enter the country in a safe, orderly, legal process through an official port of entry, rather than put their lives in the hands of unscrupulous smugglers. By entering legally through a temporary worker program, they could travel freely across the border for multiple visits home rather than incurring the risk and expense of re-crossing the border illegally. As a consequence, legalization would drain the underground channels through which terrorists might try to enter the country."

A Guest Worker program "would free up enforcement and border-control resources to focus on protecting the American homeland from terrorist attack." - Cato Institute 4/1/04 - "Our Department of Homeland Security should concentrate its limited resources and personnel on tracking and hunting down terrorists instead of raiding chicken processing plants and busting janitors at discount stores."

"Immigration makes security stronger, not weaker: 'immigrants provide a bridge to world understanding, helping to counter anti-American sentiment.'" - Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights


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No

Claim that a Guest worker program would (and has) led to the legalization of terrorists: Letter from the 9/11 Families for a Secure America - The "main reason for opposing any amnesty or guest worker amendment is one of national security. Our government lacks the resources to safely conduct an amnesty for the millions of illegal aliens, who would be eligible for such consideration. In 1986, Congress passed the immigration Reform and control act amnesty. That amnesty, because of the lack of proper funding for the agency responsible for checking the legitimacy of the applicants enabled a Middle Eastern Terrorist Mahmud Abouhalima, who was working as a New York City cabdriver to be legalized as a seasonal agricultural worker. This allowed him to travel abroad, including several trips to Afghanistan where he received terrorist training. He was a leader in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Having illegal aliens or terrorists in your country is bad, having one with legal status, even as a temporary worker, is far worse."

  • Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform CAIR - "By granting amnesties, Congress has set a dangerous precedent that threatens homeland security. Our normal immigration process involves screening to block potential criminals and terrorists from entering the United States. Yet millions of illegal aliens have avoided this screening and an amnesty would allow them to permanently bypass such screening."
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American public: Where does the American public stand and its various groups stand?

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Yes

According to a March, 2006 Time poll of American opinion, "79% say they favor a guest worker program that would allow illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. for a fixed period of time."


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No

Polls indicating American rejection of Guest Worker program:

Voice (and protests) of the Immigrant American working class: Socialist Worker - "There is a third side to the debate, and though it isn’t recognized as an 'official' voice, it is now shifting the terms of the debate. That side is the U.S. working class, led by millions of immigrant workers, their children and their supporters."

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US government: Where does the US government stand?

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Yes

73% of Republican and 77% of Democratic congressmen and senators said they would support guest-worker legislation, according to a 2006 National Journal survey of Congress.[13]

Senators co-sponsoring Guest Worker legislation:

  • Rep. Jim Kolbe, Sen. John McCain, Rep. Jeff Flake introduced a guest-worker bill in 2003. -
  • Senator Chuck Hagel and Tom Daschle's Senate Immigration Reform Act (S. 2010) of 2004.[14]
  • John McCain (R. - Ariz) and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass) jointly drafted a Guest Worker bill that Arlen Specter then made central in the legislation the his Judiciary Committee then sent onto a Senate vote in S. 2611:[15]
  • Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) drafted a Guest Worker bill similar to that drafted by adopted by Specter. [16]

Other Key Senators vocally supporting a Guest Worker program:

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi supports the Guest Worker provision of S. 2611.[17]
  • "Sens. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina and Sam Brownback of Kansas were vocal in their support [of a Guest Worker program]."[18]
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No

Republicans and Conservatives more commonly oppose a guest worker program.[19] One group among them have been termed the "enforcement" Republicans[20] for their determination to have existing laws be enforced, which would entail mass deportations rather than such things as a "path to citizenship".

  • 58 percent of Republican Senators voted No on the Kennedy-McCain bill.[21]
  • 88 percent of Republican House Members voted Yes on the Sensenbrenner H.R. 4437 bill, which clearly opposed a guest worker program.[22]
  • Bill Frist drafted legislation that involved tougher enforcement without a guest worker program.[23]
  • Sen John Cornyn (R-TX) vocally opposed the Kennedy-McCain legislation, saying that his vote on it in the Sen. Judiciary Committee in early, 2006 would be "Ney". He said, "In my view, their proposal rewards illegal immigrants and will be considered an amnesty by Americans. It will encourage further disrespect for our laws and will undercut our efforts to shore up homeland security."[24]
  • Tom Tancredo (R - Col) - Said in April, 2006 that a Guest Worker program "is an amnesty. The crime they have committed is coming into this country without our permission. The penalty that is supposed to be applied to that, under the law that we have today, is deportation. ... And what it does is send a horrible message."[25]

"Divisions remain among the Democratic rank and file [over a Guest Worker program]." - CNN 9/6/06 - "The Congressional Black Caucus is concerned about how some of their lower-wage earning constituents would fare, and the AFL-CIO opposes the guest worker program as a path to second class citizenship. Some Latino community leaders see the illegal immigration debate, in some ways, as a referendum on Latino political power."

  • Democrat Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid blocked debate on Guest Worker legislation in April, 2006, some believe because labor (AFL-CIO) opposed a Guest Worker program: SFGate.com 4/13/16 - "After the Senate Judiciary Committee put out a guest-worker bill, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney issued a statement saying: "Guest-workers programs are a bad idea and harm all workers. That did it. Senate Democrats sided with labor, and sold out Latinos. The deal came undone because Reid refused to allow the legislation to go through the amendment process. Republicans had come up with as many as 400 amendments but whittled the list to 20. Reid agreed to proceed with debate on just three...The Washington Post said in an editorial: 'Democrats -- whether their motive was partisan advantage or legitimate fear of a bad bill emerging from conference with the House -- are the ones who refused, in the end, to proceed with debate on amendments, which is, after all, how legislation gets made.'...And Sen. Kennedy told the Associated Press: 'Politics got ahead of policy on this.'...The moral: Marches and Mexican flags don't equal power. Labor uses millions of dollars in political contributions to take care of Democrats, and so Democrats take care of labor."
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Activists: Where do the key activists and organizations stand?

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Yes

Rep. Jim Kolbe, Sen. John McCain, Rep. Jeff Flake introduced a guest-worker bill.[26]

Major Think-Tanks:

  • Cato Institute (conservative/libertarian)
  • Brookings Institute (centrist) - favors a kind of guest worker program that would attempt to avoid being an "amnesty" by implementing "earned legalization".

Interest and Advocacy Groups:

Major business groups are generally supportive of a Guest Worker program[28]:

Scholarly books supporting a Guest Worker program:


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No

Major Think-Tanks opposing a guest worker program:

Interest and Activist groups opposed to a guest worker program:

Primary scholarly works opposed to a guest worker program:

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Foreign governments: Where do foreign governments and populations stand?

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Yes

Mexico supports a Guest Worker Program[33]

Council on Foreign Relations 2/21/06 - "Latin American countries, most of which have significant populations of nationals working in the United States, are arguing for guest-worker programs and the legalization of undocumented migrants to the United States."


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No

Philip Martin of UC Davis and Michael Teitelbaum, “The Mirage of Mexican Guest Workers,” Nov/Dec 2001 Foreign Affairs. - "For the countries that send their surplus labor abroad, the eagerly awaited worker remittances bring decidedly mixed economic blessings: the country receives needed capital, some of which is productively invested, but the influx of cash drives up real estate prices, stimulates conspicuous consumption of imported goods, and is unevenly distributed. The remittances also tend to decline over time, unless the number of new emigrants continues to grow. So the source country earns capital temporarily but loses many emigrant workers permanently."


See also

External links

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