Why Guest Workers?: Plan offers real chance for immigration reform
07:05 AM CST on Friday, December 2, 2005
President Bush remains committed to a guest-worker program as part of immigration reform. He made that clear in his trip to the U.S.-Mexico border this week. Understandably, this has sparked some questions from people who are passionate about protecting our borders. A few of their main concerns:
Isn’t a “guest-worker program” just code for “amnesty”?
The guest-worker program proposed by Arizona lawmakers John McCain and Jeff Flake does not magically wipe an undocumented worker’s record clean. Rather, it provides a system by which that worker can be put on the path to permanent legal status. It could actually make legal border crossings easier to monitor. As it is now, illegal workers are more likely to bring their entire family with them when they cross the border because of the risk and expense involved. That puts a strain on public health and education systems.
But those here already wouldn’t be punished?
Well, they would have to pay a $1,000 fine to be granted a three-year work visa, and they would have to pay another $1,000 to seek permanent legal status, but they would not be automatically deported. Besides, the proposal to send all illegal immigrants home first before they can apply for legal entry is unrealistic and also lacks any “punishment.”
Wouldn’t deportation be punishment?
For the law-enforcement officers charged with the task, perhaps. You try deporting a population the size of Pennsylvania, Ohio or Michigan.
But what message does it send to immigrants who have followed our laws?
That’s beside the point. The debate must be about securing our borders as a matter of national security. Getting illegal immigrants into a system where they will be required to learn English, pass a citizenship test and show proof of employment to earn permanent legal status would help law-enforcement agencies focus on the real threats: drug cartels and terrorists.
But if that’s the goal, why not focus on beefing up the Border Patrol first?
Because the size of the Border Patrol has doubled and tripled before without any additional success. Besides, a third of the illegal immigrants in the U.S. didn’t sneak across the border; they overstayed visas.
Don’t think of a guest-worker program as a way out of legal trouble for illegal immigrants; think of it as a way out of an immigration mess for the United States.