NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 12, 2006

Far from being the silver bullet, guest-worker programs are a dead end, both morally and practically, and the sooner lawmakers reject this approach to immigration, the better, says Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

Much of the debate in Congress is about using a guest-worker program as the means of legalizing the 12 million illegal immigrants already in the country. In other words, give them amnesty by relabeling them "temporary" workers in order to launder their status and make them legal.

But policy-makers would do well to familiarize themselves with the first rule of guest-worker programs: There's nothing as permanent as a temporary worker. The Bracero program, for instance, dramatically increased the number of Mexicans living permanently in the United States:

  • During the 22 years the program lasted (1942-1964), annual Mexican immigration -- permanent immigration, leading to citizenship -- grew from little more than 2,000 to as high as 61,000, for total permanent settlement of more than a half-million Mexicans.
  • Nor do guest-worker programs achieve their goal of replacing illegal immigration. During the Bracero program, there were 4.6 million Bracero admissions, but also 5.3 million Mexican illegal-alien apprehensions.
  • What's more, the immigration momentum created by the Bracero program has increased the Mexican-born population here from less than 600,000 in 1960 to some 11 million today, half of them illegal aliens.

In the words of economist Philip Martin, "Rather than work temporarily and go home, large numbers of Mexican guest workers over time settled and served as magnets for further immigration, sparking one of the largest migrations in human history."

Our country has too often succumbed to this temptation for policy-makers to be able to claim ignorance of the guaranteed outcome of another experiment in servile foreign labor, says Krikorian.

Source: Mark Krikorian, "Guest-worker programs make matters worse," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, April 11, 2006.


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