Friday, April 27, 2007


Guest Workers

There is a proposal in Congress to expand the guest worker program. In the same proposal there is a requirement for stricter enforcement of our immigration laws. Some see this proposal, or bill, as a political solution to the concern and disputacious comment about the six million (or is it twelve?) undocumented immigrants in this country. From what little I know about it, the bill is intended to placate both the right-wing advocates of rounding them up and sending them back and the business people who use these immigrants as a source of low-cost, unskilled, complacent workers.

Under the guest worker program, a person in Mexico, for example, comes to this country to work for a specific employer for a specific time period. The worker can not leave the specified employment to take a job with better pay or better working conditions. The guest worker is not represented by a union. The employer should under our laws provide safe working conditions and should pay the worker the wages due. Not all employers do these things. Our Republican business-friendly administration is not motivated to enforce the law on employers. Of course, if a guest worker does something to break his agreement, such as demonstrating against some employer abuse, he is summarily sent back to his own country.

At present the guest worker program affects only a small fraction of the immigrants. The administration proposes to enlarge it to cover all of the current immigrants that manage to enter the United States without proper visas. If that is to be done, the program must be changed to provide more choices for the guest workers. A guest worker should not be tied to a particular employer. Rather, the Department of Labor should make an estimate of the need for additional workers in the various industries that use immigrant workers and direct the Immigration Service to grant a suitable number of guest worker visas. These workers should then be free to choose among many employers.

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