NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 5, 2006

There are practical reasons why guest-worker programs don't work, says columnist Ruben Navarrette:

  • While the workers are supposed to be temporary, they stick around. They get married, have kids and put down roots.
  • Because these temporary workers never leave, a guest-worker program doesn't really put an end to the thing that gets Americans all worked up in the first place -- the changing culture and complexion of towns and neighborhoods.
  • Guest workers are ripe for abuse because if employers were to provide things such as housing, prevailing wages, health care and worker's compensation insurance, that would undermine the whole idea behind the program: cheap labor. Once labor isn't so cheap anymore, expect employers to lose interest.
  • Most guest-worker plans deal in the hundreds of thousands. As long as millions of immigrants want to come to the United States and can fill millions of jobs, such a limited approach would never end illegal entry.

Here's a four-point plan for reform that stands a chance of working, says Navarrette:

  • Stiffen penalties against employers, including jail time, and enforce them for a change.
  • Beef up the ranks of the border patrol by 25 percent.
  • Increase the allotment of green cards and work visas to allow people to come in legally.
  • Grant legal status to some but not all illegal immigrants, the preference going to those who have been here the longest and who have immediate family members who are U.S. citizens.

Source: Ruben Navarrette, "Here we go again," San Diego Union-Tribune/USA Today, April 5, 2006.


Browse more articles on Government Issues