March 4, 2006
What Guest Workers Want -- Temp Jobs
President Bush used to talk about the need for a guest-worker program
"to fill jobs Americans will not take." But in his last
State of the Union address, Bush called for "a rational, humane
guest-worker program that rejects amnesty [and] allows temporary
jobs for people who seek them legally" -- as if most illegal
immigrants want temporary jobs. In that disingenuous spirit, the
Senate is exploring guest-worker proposals -- the latest was introduced
last week by Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa. My initial reaction is to
oppose said programs lest they provide yet another incentive for
people to immigrate here illegally.
notion that Americans won't take some jobs is absurd. After all,
Americans will take any job, if it pays enough. There is no such
thing as cheap labor. There are only cheap wages.
hire illegal workers at a cut rate, they pass onto taxpayers the
cost of health care and other government services used by workers
and their families. I can't help but see the business lobby's
support of guest-worker programs as anything but an attempt to
get working people to subsidize cheapskate corporations so they
can sell their products at bargain prices and make bigger profits.
with little education get the shaft twice -- as their wages are
depressed by a glut of unskilled workers.
of the conservative Manhattan Institute takes the other side.
On the phone yesterday, she argued that Americans won't work on
farms or in meat-packing plants. Try to make meatpacking plants
pay higher wages, she added, and owners will respond by moving
operations to another country.
a point, but so does Mark Krikorian, executive director of the
Center for Immigration Studies. "How do you offshore homebuilding?"
Krikorian asked. He added that industries will develop new technologies
to substitute for illegal labor.
are the moral arguments. People who support immigration laws,
like moi, bristle at the notion of rewarding people for breaking
the law, whether they use the a-word -- amnesty -- or not.
her moral argument, too. As she sees it, the immigration system
has enabled some 11 million illegal immigrants into this country,
allowed them to work for years, yet denies them citizenship and
legal status. "It's like having 'untouchables,'" Jacoby
noted. "I don't think we want to be that kind of country."
Jacoby's America also will be the kind of country where low-skilled
Americans have to live on even less.
if guest-worker proposals are so moral, why do their authors include
dishonest provisions? For example, the Specter bill purports to
be tough and temporary because it would require that guest workers
leave America after six years.
Ha! I laugh
to that provision because she understands that after six years,
Specter's immigrants won't leave -- they will simply go underground.
such as one by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Ted Kennedy,
D-Mass., might work better because they would allow illegal immigrants
already in America to pay $2,000 in fines in return for which
they could apply for permanent residence, and eventually for citizenship.
There would be no need for those workers to go underground.
the demand for new immigrant workers, the McCain-Kennedy bill
would allow some 400,000 people living outside America to apply
for guest-worker status each year.
the problem: The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that the number
of illegal immigrants in America grows by 500,000 each year.
laws that "make it so nobody comes through the back door."
But if the demand for immigrant workers exceeds the McCain-Kennedy
cap, well, you get more "untouchables." If there is
no cap, there can be a flood of unskilled workers, and they'll
be using government services.
to reporters last month, Sen. John McCain said of the 11 million
illegal immigrants in America, "We believe that sending them
back is something that is not only not humane, but not possible."
Rohrabacher, R-Calif., bristled at McCain's words. "I have
never advocated massive deportation," Rohrabacher responded.
"The whole theory is, if you quit giving people benefits
and make it hard for them to find jobs, after that, they themselves
will decide to go home."
I want smart
policies that don't cost America jobs. But it can't be smart to
send another green light to would-be immigrants who already think
it may be worth their while to break U.S. immigration law.
2006 Creators Syndicate