Jewish World Review Jan. 14, 2004/ 20 Teves, 5764

Marty Nemko

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Consumer Reports

Guest worker proposal threatens the American Dream | The owner of a home construction company bragged to me that he used to have to pay carpenters $20 an hour plus benefits but now gets carpenters for $12, no benefits, because of the ready supply of illegal immigrants.

According to the Center for Immigration Studies, in the last decade alone, illegal immigration has increased 400 percent. Today, at least five million of California's residents are illegal.

That's not surprising. The US government now barely enforces its immigration laws and provides ever-increasing rewards to illegal border crossers. For example, US taxpayers now provide illegals and their families with emergency- and often, non-emergency health care, plus public education K-12, all for free. Illegals not only can attend California's public colleges and universities including Berkeley, but pay in-state tuition (!), even though legal residents of the other 49 US states must pay three to five times more!

Pandering to Corporate America's thirst for cheap labor, President Bush's Guest Worker proposal would accelerate the percentage of illegals even faster. It would provide legal residency for three years (renewable) to all illegals holding US jobs, to their families, and even to those with just a letter stating that an employer promises a job.

The only restriction would be that the employer must first have tried to hire a legal resident. That restriction is practically unenforceable. The cost of investigating each of millions of hiring decisions would be prohibitive. No doubt, as in the 1986 amnesty program for agriculture workers, Bush's Guest Worker program would rely on employers' self-serving attestations. Even that amnesty program's sponsor, Charles Schumer (D-NY) admitted that fraud occurred in at least 2/3 of the hires.

What are the likely effects of the guest worker proposal? It is corporate welfare at its worst, thrusting a dagger into the middle class's heart:

  • Lower wages. Flooding the US job market with millions of Guest Workers eager to work hard for little more than minimum wage would enable employers to slash salaries. That would shrink the middle class, forcing ever more Americans into a lower-class existence.

  • Gutted unions. Unions protect workers against exploitation. Adding millions of non-unionized Guest Workers would erode unions' power to negotiate.

  • Higher taxes or fewer government services. Most Guest Workers would earn low salaries and therefore pay little or no tax, yet are high users of tax-dollar funded programs: education, health care, and the legal system.

  • Worse public schools. Adding millions of children who speak little or no English means that teachers must slow down instruction, denying legal residents who are native English speakers their right to an appropriate-level education.

  • Worse health care. California's health care system is already overwhelmed. For example, we have a critical shortage of nurses. Adding millions of Guest Workers would only exacerbate the problem.

  • Increased immorality. The Guest Worker program would give legal status to millions of people whose first act in this country was to break the law--entering illegally--and who soon committed a second crime-- applying for jobs when only legal residents are allowed to. Can we ask US citizens to be honest--for example, to pay their income taxes--while we reward lawbreakers with legal status and a free American education for their children? In officially welcoming millions of acknowledged two-time lawbreakers into the US, we would exacerbate America's already declining morality.

And what would we say to the millions of people worldwide who patiently waited so they can immigrate to the US legally?

Legal immigrants have benefited America mightily. And it's not surprising. They had the bravery to leave their homes and countries in hopes of a brighter future, the willingness to delay gratification while waiting years for legal permission to immigrate and then endure a long, often transoceanic ship journey. Plus, they had the ability to have passed US screening-for example, no criminal background. But many of today's illegals are different. They are willing to break our laws from Day One and require no more perseverance than to hop on a Sneak Truck in Tijuana and, when reaching the border, hide under its false floor for a minute, and if perchance caught, try again the next day.

    Ever more illegal border crossing
. If I were a foreigner, for example, one of Mexico's 101 million citizens and learned that the US government is registering millions of illegals and not deporting them but rather, providing free health care and education, my family and I would be ever more tempted to illegally cross the border.

The US should impose severe penalties on employers who hire illegals. If an employer cannot find a legal worker, it must improve salaries and working conditions until a legal resident will take the position. The government must also eliminate the incentive for foreigners to break our immigration laws: no benefits to illegals and their families except for emergency health care.

True liberals should endorse the Guest Worker policy: It embodies the key liberal principle: redistributing wealth: the average American's salary is $50,000; the average Mexican's, for example, is $3,000. Such voters should cast their ballots for candidates who endorse further opening US borders. If, however, you believe the Guest Worker program would be too damaging to Americans, seek out other candidates.

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JWR contributor Dr. Marty Nemko holds a Ph.D. in education from the University of California Berkeley and subsequently taught there. 400+ of his published writings are at Comment by clicking here.


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03/04/03: Under the radar: The One-Week Job Search
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01/15/03: Passion Finder
12/18/02: Curing procrastination
12/12/02: The World's Shortest Course on Self-Employment
12/05/02: Men as Beasts of Burden
11/21/02: Beware of going back to school

© 2003, Dr. Marty Nemko