Jon Dougherty's The Commoner

Daily rants on the illogic of the political Left.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

OK Guest Worker Program, With Conditions

© 2004 Jon E. Dougherty
December 29, 2004

Well, it's the end of another year—time to take account of what our country has gained, what it has lost, and what's in store for its future.

In 2004 the United States continued to battle oppression, aggression and evil around the world by spreading democracy and the ideals of freedom, despite being fought tooth and nail nearly every step in the way by the Appeasement Party, otherwise known as the Democrats.

Our economy has continued to grow, most Americans are paying less taxes, and the "dream" is still alive for most of us.

As long as America continues to battle evil and oppression and spread freedom around the globe, not only will our own interests be served, but so too will the interests of billions of our fellow human beings.

Yes, it's great to be an American, no question about it.

But a lingering problem has only gotten worse in the past year and that's the problem of illegal immigration. Part of that is Mexico's fault; part of it is ours.

For its part, the Mexican government under President Vicente Fox continues to do all it can to export its poverty northward. Rather than take serious steps to battle drug-related corruption, unemployment and crumbling infrastructure at home, Fox and Co. have done what most previous Mexican leaders have done: They have taken the low, easy road. They have continued to encourage their impoverished citizens to make dangerous, costly journeys north to the U.S.—then blame Washington and the American people when Mexican citizens die penniless in our deserts trying to find a lousy-paying job here.

For Fox it's much better to let the American political, economic and welfare systems take care of his people. For him it's much easier to blame President Bush and Republican leaders in Congress for not disassembling our international borders than it is to find honest, qualified people to help him bring his nation into the 20th century (no, that's not a typo).

But the U.S. is to blame for the problem as well.

For one thing, our leaders – Democrats and Republicans – have never been serious about immigration reform. We provide more money overseas than we do to our own border enforcement and immigration services. We have the popular, but not political, will to seal off our borders, a necessary step in this age of terrorism. And we don't seem willing to require Mexico to do anything substantial in terms of curbing the desire of its citizens to seek a better life elsewhere.

Now, President Bush has proposed yet another program that rewards Mexico and Mexicans while penalizing U.S. citizens, the U.S. labor market, and the U.S. standard of living. Under the auspices of his "guest worker" proposal, illegal immigrants will be able to remain in the United States legally to find jobs "Americans don't want" (and for the record, I agree with talk radio legend George Putnam: It'd be awful nice if someone would identify which jobs specifically Americans "don't want").

Trouble is, Mr. Bush's plan is not that bad. It just needs some fine-tuning. Here goes.

First of all, for any Mexican citizen or citizen of any other nation to take any job in the U.S., under this guest-worker program, they must be proficient in basic English.

Businesses, corporations and companies participating in the program must pay standard rates and wages, and not be permitted to artificially lower those wages just to save money and attract cheaper immigrant labor.

Guest-worker participants must submit to documentation and tracking by our government.

Companies hiring them must insure them so they don't overload local health facilities.

They cannot bring their families with them, thus alleviating a major burden on taxpayers who must now pay to provide them with health care, education and other benefits.

They can get driver's licenses, but only after proving they are proficient in English and provide proof of automobile insurance.

Migrant workers must still pay taxes on their wages—consider it the cost of doing business in the U.S.—and cannot be eligible for Social Security and other retirement benefits unless they become American citizens.

Liberals will hate these mandates because even though they don't want illegal migrants camped out on their land and raiding their homes and property, they will use them to claim conservatives are mean, racist s.o.b's who don't care about anyone but themselves.

Truth is, conservatives who back these requirements are actually doing the migrant workers a favor, even though they're doing the right thing by caring more about how this program will (and more importantly, will not) affect Americans.

By demanding companies pay prevailing wages for any work they hire out—regardless who does it—yes, it serves American workers' interests first, but it also ensures migrants aren't being taken advantage of by U.S. employers who will exploit them to save labor costs.

By providing them with health insurance, yes, they are making certain American taxpayers aren't picking up the tab for their care. But they are also making sure migrant workers are being taken care of.

By requiring migrants to speak some English, yes, it helps Americans communicate better with them. But it also helps the migrants get around and adapt to life in a foreign country must faster.

In short, these provisions essentially require migrant workers to put forth the same effort, meet the same requirements, and possess the same qualifications as their American counterparts. And so far this is what has been lacking in President Bush's guest worker program, as well as every other so-called "immigration reform" effort Washington has made in the past three decades.

It is not harsh or unfair to require foreign workers to meet American standards set by American lawmakers elected by the American people. By comparison, it is harsh and unfair to allow legal and illegal aliens into the U.S. to take American jobs and live off the American taxpayer without being required to earn their keep.

The president's guest worker program isn't all a bad idea. But it needs some improvement before it is implemented. These steps are long-overdue steps in the right direction.

Jon E. Dougherty is author of "Illegals: The Imminent Threat Posed by Our Unsecured U.S.-Mexico Border," and a correspondent for


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