Thursday, June 07, 2007

Immigration Bill Suffers Setback in Senate Vote

Last night after midnight a provision was added to the Immigration Reform Bill that would eliminate the guest worker program in 5 years.
By a vote of 49 to 48 shortly after midnight, the Senate approved an amendment by Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, to end the program after five years.

The temporary worker program is an important element of the “grand bargain” on immigration forged in three months of negotiations by a small bipartisan group of senators.
This amendment could potentially kill the bill and leave us with the status quo on immigration policy. Big business wants a guest worker program but Senator Dorgan knows correctly that this program will drive down wages for the lower and middle class workers.

Any guest worker program must include provisions for competitive wages for the guest workers. Without this, wages for all will be under pressure. Even if it is agreeed that minimum wage must be paid to all guest workers that does not stop the downward spiral in wages. Lets take construction jobs which are now some of the higher paying blue collar jobs available. If a competitive wage, for the area in which the job is offered, is not paid then all workers will suffer.

Senator Dorgan's amendment would require Congress to look at this program again in five years and analyze the pros and cons of continuing it. Big business wants an expansion of the H1-B Visa program which brings in skilled workers.
Steven A. Ballmer, the chief executive of Microsoft, was among the businessmen pleading with Congress to increase the number of H-1B visas and green cards available to skilled foreign professionals. Ginny Terzano, a spokeswoman for Microsoft, said such visas were urgently needed to help meet “a talent crisis” in the industry.
Those are white collar jobs that pay well. In a country of 300 Million people it seems absurd that they can not find qualified applicants. The visa program allows them to hire workers at lower wages and is a danger to the Middle Class.

Comprehensive reform is desperately needed but how to do this is the big question. Any reform must include comprehensive border security. Unless we can stop the flow of illegal immigrants into this country and reform bill will be worthless. The best way to stop the flow into the country is to attack the problem at its two base causes. The first is employers who hire undocumented workers. Without the possibility of a job the flow would stop immediately. The second is to help the governments of the region get their financial house in order so that people do not feel they need to leave their homeland in order to survive.

How exactly can we achieve those goals? That is the big question and one that is not so easy to answer. I would first set up a national database for employers for background checks on potential hires. It would be very easy in most cases to spot forged documents if a database was available from which to gather basic information on the social security number that was applying for the job. Employer fines would need to be raised to such a degree that hiring known undocumented workers would be the death knell for the business in question.

The second equally important task would be to get comprehensive economic reforms from the governments around the world that send us their poor. Most people have no desire to leave their homeland but many feel they have no choice if they are to provide for their family.

We must also look at the law that allows anyone born on United States soil to be born a United States citizen. What many immigrants will do is have a child while here. Those children are commonly called "Anchor Babies" that will anchor the family in the United States. What most immigrants do not realize is that the child can not sponsor the parents for citizenship until they reach the age of 21. Is it time to change the law that allows this automatic citizenship?

Immigration reform is one of the most difficult issues that our country faces. Any reform must be fair and preserve the human dignity of the immigrants. The vast majority of undocumented workers are decent hard working people who just want a better life for their families. Striking a balance that both preserves their dignity and protects the lower, working and middle class from further erosion of wages is the difficult task at hand.

No comments: