NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 13, 2006

Guest-worker supporters point to the old Bracero Program as their inspiration. That program ran for about 20 years, until 1964, and was limited to Mexicans -- Mexican men, to be precise. Whatever the many faults of the Bracero Program, one thing's for sure -- today's anti-discrimination ethos makes such national-origin restrictions on guest-workers inconceivable, says Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

And a guest-worker program available to all comers would inevitably result in a shift away from Mexican labor toward workers from Asia and the Middle East, explains Krikorian:

  • Wages in Mexico are already so high, by world standards, that factories are increasingly moving to China.
  • The illegality of the current flow is actually the only advantage Mexico has, because its proximity makes sneaking into the United States easier.

But once foreign workers no longer have to sneak in, and are instead shipped here by labor-recruitment companies, Mexico's advantage disappears. Cheap airfares and easy communications guarantee that employers will start looking farther afield for workers even cheaper and more compliant that Mexicans.

  • Mexico's per capita income, in purchasing-power terms, is nearly $10,000 a year -- putting it near the top of the developing world.
  • Egypt, on the other hand, is home to nearly 80 million people who make less than half the average Mexican.
  • India and Indonesia together have 1.3 billion people with one-third the average Mexican's income.
  • And Pakistan and Bangladesh together have more than 300 million people with less than one-quarter the average Mexican's income.

And how much of Iraq's working-age population would leap at the chance to get out, regardless of the wages offered?

That's a lot of "willing workers" who will work cheaper than Mexicans, says Krikorian.

Source: Mark Krikorian, "Not Just Mexicans: Guest-workers open doors to a whole new world," National Review, April 11, 2006.


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