April 23, 2013


New Immigration Bill Has One Terrible Flaw (Ramesh Ponnuru, 4/23/13, Bloomberg)

The guest-worker program is where they go wrong. For the Republican politicians who have in the past been its main supporters, this provision is like a dessert with no calories: Businesses get the benefit of the temporary workers' labor and they get to make some money, but the rest of us don't have to make room for immigrants in our society, and Republicans don't have to worry how they will vote.

That's exactly what's wrong with the idea. One of the worst things about illegal immigration is that it creates a class of people who contribute their labor to this country but aren't full participants in it and lack the rights and responsibilities of everyone else. A guest-worker program doesn't solve this problem. It formalizes it.
Two Tiers
So we would have a two-tier labor market. Most people who work in the U.S. can quit their jobs without worrying that they'll be ejected from the country after 60 days of unemployment. Temporary workers would have no such security. Most people can leave one industry for another. The temporary agricultural workers in the bill would have no such freedom. Some foreigners may choose this fate as better than their alternatives. It seems unfair, though, to ask Americans to compete with workers who will be more willing to put up with bad working conditions because of this artificially precarious situation. [...]

Enforcing the program's limits would involve similarly bad choices. One of the chief arguments for this bill is to stop enforcing immigration laws in ways that break up families. What happens when a guest worker has finished his three-year term and has no job -- but has brought his family here? (Or had a child, who would be a U.S. citizen?) Will we then deport him? Or will we just let him overstay his visa and go into the shadows as an illegal immigrant?

Supporters of the bill should rethink these provisions. Opponents should train their fire on them. Many Americans support legalizing illegal immigrants because it seems more humane and practical than mass deportations. Guest-worker programs seem at odds with those impulses, because they're neither humane nor practical.

Posted by at April 23, 2013 8:56 PM

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