Republicans Can Fill Void With New Guest Worker Program

Monday, 06 Feb 2012 10:01 AM

By James Walsh

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During his 2008 campaign for the presidency, Barack Obama pledged to place comprehensive immigration reform among his first acts if elected.

Since then, he has repeated this pledge to no effect. During his 2012 State of the Union address, President Obama managed to mention comprehensive immigration reform, but more as an afterthought offered up as an applause line.

During the past three years, the Hispanic population in the United States legally and illegally has become increasingly skeptical of immigration promises made by Obama and the Democrat Party.

In an interview with Univision, a Spanish-language television network, the President complained that he hasn’t been able to accomplish comprehensive immigration reform because of Congressional obstruction by Republicans.

The President seems to forget that Democrats held majorities in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives during the first two years of his Administration.

Why did these Democrat majorities not pass immigration legislation in 2009 or 2010?

An article in Politico on Jan. 26, 2012, said “the unemployment rate of Latinos nationwide hovers around 11 percent” even though “Obama said that he has made significant steps to create jobs for the especially hard-hit.” Hispanics are questioning the President’s efforts on their behalf regarding immigration or jobs.

Republicans can fill the void left by Democrat leaders, who seek unlimited immigration with no rules and no restrictions — in other words, open borders. What might Republican immigration reform legislation look like? Consider the following:
  • The U.S. Congress, to resolve the immigration crisis, could pass a new guest worker program improving on the 1942 Emergency Farm Labor Importation Program, known as the Bracero program. This informal agreement between the United States and Mexico created a legal guest worker program that permitted Mexicans to do agricultural work in the United States as part of the war effort. The agreement was finalized as law in 1951 and terminated in 1964.
  • A new guest worker program could provide foreign nationals with work visas and biometric identification cards, allowing them to enter and reenter the United States legally to work in agriculture, hospitality, and other areas needing workers. Employers would file a need-based application for workers, and guest worker visas would be based on the unavailability of U.S. citizens to fill positions. Employers would pay minimum wage, maintain insurance for that type of work, pay worker compensation premiums, and deduct taxes from guest worker salaries. Guest workers would have the same work-place complaint remedies as citizen workers.
  • Guest workers would be admitted for a defined period of months for agricultural and unskilled jobs and for a defined period of years for skilled/specialty work. Guest worker visa renewals would be streamlined. Criminal activity by a guest worker would result in deportation and would prohibit future application to the program.
  • The U.S. State Department and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) could manage the entry and exit paperwork for guest workers to ensure that these foreign nationals returned to their homelands as required.
  • Guest workers would be required to pass a health screen before entering the country, as do legal immigrants. Guest workers who remain in the United States for a number of years would be required to have an annual health check.
A 21st century guest worker program would offer foreign nationals a legal alternative to risking life and limb crossing borders illegally often at the mercy of alien and drug smugglers. Such legislation would be constructive in contrast to all-or-nothing comprehensive immigration reform.

As employers hired only those foreign nationals with guest worker visas, the number of illegal aliens would decline.

What, however, about the huge number of illegal aliens currently working in the United States? For a designated period of time, the U.S. State Department and the DHS could work with foreign consulate offices located in the United States to process and review guest worker applications submitted by workers currently residing illegally in the United States.

At the end of that time period, foreign nationals wishing to work in the USA would have to apply in their homeland for the guest worker program.

In a Jan. 25, 2012, Washington Post article, former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) suggested four concepts for Republicans to consider in seeking the Hispanic vote.

The GOP (Grand Old Party) should recognize that Hispanics are as diverse as the Spanish-speaking countries of the world. Hispanics aspire to economic gain by business, as the family business is the heart of Hispanic communities. Hispanic voters feel their children are trapped in failing schools, as teacher unions and Democrats block educational reform.

Lastly, immigration reform must be considered as an economic issue, not just a border security issue.

New guest worker legislation would allow Republicans and Democrats in Congress to simultaneously address the economics and border security issues raised by illegal immigration.

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