Sen. Jeff Flake called for an improved guest worker program on Monday, telling Hispanic business leaders in Arizona it would be a critical component to improving border control efforts and immigration reform.
According to the Arizona Star
, Flake told the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce that the United States lacks "a sufficiently robust guest-worker plan [that] takes into account our labor needs."
He said having one would take pressure off the border areas, where workers come across illegally in repeated attempts to find seasonal work.
The Arizona Republican, a member of the so-called bipartisan "Group of Eight" in the Senate trying to negotiate a comprehensive immigration overhaul bill, insisted during his talk that ensuring border security is the first step in the reform effort. But he also noted that "about 40 percent of those in the country illegally never snuck across the border . . . They came legally and never left."
Flake also put the reform debate in personal terms. Growing up on a cattle ranch, he said he told the chamber he could understand the importance of migrant labor to ranching and farming operations. He also stressed that he never looked at workers on his family ranch, some of whom were in the U.S. illegally, as "a criminal class."
"I see why they come and what motivates them, and the vast majority of them who are here in an undocumented status simply are trying to make a life better for themselves and for their family," he said. "Hopefully, with this [new] legislation, we can recognize that."
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