How effective is amnesty for illegal workers?
Let's just say that this amnesty idea is not "new," notes the History Geek, since Ruminating Dude brought it up. Yes, we have had amnesties-- note the plural-- before. A brief historical review:
On September 5, 2001, Mexican president Vicente Fox visited the White House to urge President Bush to agree to normalize the status of thousands of illegal immigrants from Mexico, in particular to make it policy to allow them to remain in the United States. A Business Week editorial dated September 10, 2001, speaks glowingly of illegal immigration as it concerns business interests, as is expected:
Right now, the U.S. has a bifurcated immigration system. Legal immigrants are allowed into the country based on family ties and national quotas. Only a tiny sliver, under the H-1B visa program that focuses on high-tech workers, enter to satisfy specific labor needs. Ironically, it is illegal immigration that provides added flexibility to the U.S. labor market and helps meet severe labor shortages in the service, construction, and other industries.
but also makes the following interesting point:
But there is a danger: politics. President Bush's political advisers have made no secret of his desire for Republicans to capture a greater share of the Hispanic vote. Legalizing illegal immigrants in some fashion could attract such votes. And President Fox has said he wants to allow the 8 million Mexicans living in the U.S. to vote in Mexico as well, hoping his party will attract many of them. Shaping a new immigration policy around such political aims is the wrong way to go. It not only discriminates against Asians and Europeans who might want to immigrate to America but it also undermines a key goal of immigration--fostering economic growth.
And this is from a conservative publication! Yep, that was the plan. Until September 11 happened, brought to us at the hands of individuals who had gamed the immigration system. Suddenly it was horrifyingly impolitic to talk about legalizing illegal immigrants. Suddenly the Millenium Bomber captured at the Vancouver/Seattle border in late December, 1999 took on a whole new significance in demonstrating the contribution a weak border had played in making unimaginable tragedy possible. And we had bigger and more important issues with which to deal. So the talk of amnesty faded away. But it was not forgotten by those who hoped to gain political or economic advantage. They bided their time.
As is stated at this article published by the Center for Immigration Studies, “There is nothing more permanent than temporary foreign workers.” We have experimented with this idea before. During 1917-1921 and 1942-1964, there was the bracero program:
The major U.S.-Mexico guest worker programs were the Bracero programs of 1942-64, a series of agreements that admitted Mexicans under conditions very similar to the current H-2A program, which allows U.S. farmers anticipating labor shortages to recruit temporary foreign workers. Under the Bracero and H-2A programs, farm employers must make a good-faith effort to recruit U.S. workers by offering at least a government-set minimum wage and free housing to out-of-area workers. If these recruitment efforts fail, the farm employer was and is certified by the U.S. Department of Labor to have temporary foreign workers admitted to the United States to fill the jobs. These guest workers receive as a contract the job order that the U.S. employer filed with the Employment Service to recruit U.S. workers, i.e., it spells out wages, working conditions, housing arrangements, etc.
Most U.S. employers did/do not request certification to employ foreign workers until they have identified the foreign workers they want to employ. Once they have found foreign workers, they do not want to hire any U.S. workers who might respond to their required recruitment efforts.
According to the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, employers are required to verify the legal status of immigrants before hiring them, and are not to “knowingly” employ illegal immigrants. This same law provided amnesty for approximately 2.7 million illegal immigrants, and was the first of seven amnesties given to illegal immigrants in the past twenty years. It is already illegal to employ illegal immigrants. Enforcement of the law would be a novel idea.
Allowing illegal immigrants “guest worker” status is a bad idea which rewards lawbreaking on the part of employers and punishes those who enter this country legally. It allows these people to be exploited by enduring low wages and unsafe conditions. But even more importantly, it drives down the wages of all of those who labor on the bottom, entry-level rung in the US economy. Any time there is a glut of workers, the ability to “negotiate with your feet” for decent wages disappears. And we shortsighted Americans have apparently never paid attention to the problems that guest worker programs have achieved in Germany. Let us also not forget that the rioting in France last fall was caused by immigrants and their children who were kept quarantined from full acceptance into French society.
This bill of goods is sold to us as a temporary measure. The guest workers would only be allowed to stay for six years, and then they would be forced to go home. As we have seen, this is far easier said than done. Right now, many are claiming we must allow amnesty since there is no way we could round up illegal immigrants and send them home. How would they be forced home then? What’s to keep “guest workers” from fading into the woodwork when their six years are up and waiting for the next amnesty?