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Bush Calls For Immigration Reform Amnesty Plan Raises Concerns USHCC Applauds It, NCLR Says Its Illusory Worked Over The Case Against Hispanics See It As A 'Good Sign"
Bush Is Ready to Let Millions of Illegal Workers Stay in United States
January 8, 2004
President George W. Bush offered a plan Wednesday that he said would help millions of illegal immigrants working in the United States, while also making the country more secure and prosperous and helping it live up to its finest ideals.
By tradition and conviction, our country is a welcoming society, Bush said at a special ceremony in the White House. We welcome the talent, the character and the patriotism of immigrant families.
While Bush said again that he opposed amnesty, which he said would only encourage lawbreaking and perpetuate illegal immigration, his proposals would nonetheless effectively grant a measure of amnesty to illegal immigrants with jobs.
What Bush called a temporary worker program would allow foreign workers to come to the United States for specific jobs with specific employers, provided that no Americans could be found to fill the jobs. It would also require the return of these temporary workers to their home countries after their work period was over.
The legal status granted by the program would last three years, and would be renewable but it would not be permanent, Bush said.
Participants who do not remain employed, who do not follow the rules of the program or who break the law will not be eligible for continued participation and be required to return to their home, the president said.
Bush's proposals are of vital interest to the millions of immigrants working without permission as farm laborers, maids and in other positions near the bottom of the economic ladder.
The proposals are virtually certain to be vigorously debated in Congress, and among millions of people who are interested in immigration issues, either out of deep personal concern or for social-policy reasons.
The possible seeds of some of the arguments were immediately obvious, perhaps most obviously the provision that a worker's legal status would expire after three years, yet be renewable, and yet not be permanent.
How that provision would work in practice and how much political pressure there would be to make the workers' legal status permanent are questions yet to be answered. Another question is how many illegal workers would still think it safer simply to remain in the shadows.
Initial reaction to the proposals ranged from warm to tepid to cool.
Representative Loretta Sanchez, a California Democrat, said the proposals would make the country more secure, reunite families and fill an economic need. We need to know who's here, Sanchez said on Today on NBC. We have limited amounts of resources, and we need to target those resources on people who are here to do us harm, not on people who are working, who are here as part of our community, whose children are probably United States citizens.
But Patrick Buchanan, the conservative commentator, called Bush's plan a massive reward for lawbreaking.
The president of the United States is making a concession in order to win Hispanic votes, said Buchanan, who was interviewed on NBC with Sanchez. He cannot or will not do his duty to enforce the immigration laws of the United States and to protect the borders of the United States.
The fact that Sanchez, a Democrat, was pleased by the president's approach, and Buchanan, a conservative Republican, was not, illustrated how the debate could cut across typical party lines.
The Senate minority leader, Tom Daschle, Democrat of South Dakota, withheld a definitive position. He said immigration issues must be addressed, and he and Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, would introduce legislation. Immigration reform ought to be comprehensive and bipartisan, he said.
Immigration issues are important to Bush politically in this election year, and important internationally as well. President Vicente Fox of Mexico, whom Bush will meet with in a few days, has been pushing for a more flexible stance in Washington. Bush telephoned Fox in advance of Wednesday's remarks.
As a Texan, I have known many immigrant families, mainly from Mexico, and I've seen what they add to our country, Bush said. They bring to America the values of faith in God, love of family, hard work and self-reliance, the values that made us a great nation to begin with.
Bush asserted that he and Congress could put together immigration legislation that would help illegal immigrants without hurting immigrants here legally, and that that would keep U.S. borders safe as well as welcoming.
What the United States must have, he said, is immigration laws that work. Yet today, we do not, he said.
Bush Amnesty Plan Raises Immigration Concerns
By Craig Nelsen
January 8, 2004
The massive new immigration initiative unveiled by the White House has Democrats and ethnic identity organizations accusing Republicans of election-year pandering, and has the Republican base wondering whether George W. Bush and the Republican Party has sold them out.
The initiative, which draws heavily on legislation already introduced in Congress by three Arizona Republicans, Sen. John McCain and Rep. Jeff Flake and Rep. Jim Kolbe, has two central components. It would provide a mechanism by which some U.S. businesses would be able to import an unlimited number of low-wage foreign workers, and it would allow most of the roughly 10 million illegal aliens already in the United States a means by which they (and their extended families) would be able to remain legally -- and permanently -- in the United States.
Advocates of strong enforcement of U.S. immigration laws charge that the new Bush plan is really a massive new amnesty for illegal aliens, in spite of repeated Bush administration assurances to the contrary. The administration, and the Republican sponsors of the parallel McCain-Kolbe-Flake plan on Capitol Hill, claim that their plans are not really amnesties because they require illegal aliens to pay a small fee and wait a short time before they can receive their legal permanent status.
However, critics argue that any plan that allows, as the new Bush plan does, illegal aliens to remain legally and permanently in the United States without having to return to their home countries and apply to enter the United States legally like everyone else, is, in fact, an amnesty.
It remains to be seen whether Americans, who oppose amnesties by a 2-to-1 margin, will swallow the administrations claims that the new "earned regularization" program isnt really an amnesty.
Even more to the point, it will be interesting to see how the Bush not-really-an-amnesty plan plays in Mexico and among the billions of desperately poor around the world. Amnesty schemes are front-page news in the developing world, signaling millions of would-be illegal aliens to hurry and attempt an illegal border crossing of their own -- a process that results in the brutal deaths of hundreds of people every year on our dangerous borders. If the Bush plan triggers another upsurge in illegal crossings, it will be clear that, in the rest of rest of the world, at least, people are not buying Republican denials.
The second component of the new Bush initiative, the so-called "guest worker" proposal, has also caused alarm among bedrock Republicans and supporters of a more moderate immigration policy. Here, again, immigration reductionists are charging the White House with using less-than-straightforward language to describe the plan. A "guest worker plan," these critics note, would seem to indicate that a foreign national who comes to the United States to be a guest worker would, at some point, return to his or her home country, since "guests" go home at some point. The McCain-Kolbe-Flake plan, however, on which the White House is said to be modeling its proposal, contains no such requirement. "Guests" under their plan would be permanent.
Worse for immigration reductionists, the McCain-Kolbe-Flake plan sets no limit on the numbers of low-wage "guests" that business interests could import. The only limit set in the Arizonans plan is the hazy requirement that the foreign national would have to have a job "already waiting" for him or her; President Bush has often stated that he doesnt see any reason that any "willing employee" shouldnt be matched with any "willing employer."
The knock against Republicans has always been that the party is in the back pocket of corporations and business interests, and this new amnesty/cheap labor proposal by the White House will do nothing to dispel that image. Indeed, some special business interests, economic libertarian extremists and long-time campaigners for open borders, like the corporate-funded CATO Institute, have already enthusiastically endorsed the Republican plan.
However, in a world in which there are nearly five billion people who live in countries poorer than Mexico, many Americans question the wisdom of turning U.S. immigration policy over to those who profit by cheap labor.
Immigration moderates reject the common assertion by the cheap labor profiteers that immigrants take jobs Americans dont want. They point out that during the last time-out from mass immigration, which lasted the 40 years between 1925 and 1965, Americans not only invented computers, had a healthy labor movement, initiated the space program that put men on the moon, made great strides in civil rights and environmental legislation, built the largest economy the world has ever seen and successfully prosecuted WWII against two great powers on two fronts simultaneously, we also managed to get our dishes washed, our meat packed and our children cared for.
Americans are fully capable of running a country without importing an endless supply of cheap foreign labor, and the politicians of both parties who advocate amnesties and guest worker programs should put aside their short-term interests and encourage immigration policies that take into consideration the long-term consequences of mass immigration.
Craig Nelsen is the director of ProjectUSA, a non-profit immigration watchdog organization based in Washington, D.C.
USHCC Applauds Plan
"On behalf of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC), I applaud President George W. Bush for reaffirming his commitment to immigration reform and for acknowledging the millions of hard-working immigrants who are vital to our nations economy.
"While the details are still being finalized, if approved by Congress, President Bushs plan could potentially benefit thousands of businesses throughout the country and would provide some of the more than 8 million undocumented workers the opportunity to come out from the shadows and participate in our society, demand decent wages and working conditions and build a future for themselves and their family.
"The Presidents effort is an important first step in immigration reform and will help bring this vital issue to the national forefront. The USHCC looks forward to continuing discussions on how we can ensure fairness for our nations immigration laws."
Hispanic Chamber chief George Herrera
Bush Proposal Gives Illusion Of Hope, Legal Status
By Raul Yzaguirre | National Council of La Raza
January 28, 2004
President Bush touted his immigration proposal in the State of the Union address. But the plan marks a stunning reversal of America's centuries-old covenant with its immigrants.
The promise of America to its immigrants is that if you work hard and believe in this country's fundamental traditions and values, you, too, can become a full-fledged American.
But the principles outlined in the president's speech would instead create a massive new guest-worker program with no meaningful path to permanent legal status.
What's more, the proposal would reinforce a two-tiered labor system with a large body of vulnerable workers whose ability to remain in the United States is entirely dependent on the good will of their employers.
The 8 million undocumented immigrants currently within the United States already represent an unofficial second tier of the labor market -- a national disgrace that badly needs to be addressed.
Unlike President Reagan, who signed a law to bring 3 million immigrant workers onto a path toward U.S. citizenship, Bush is simply proposing to give these 8 million workers only temporary status.
Though the president argues that these workers could wait in line for permanent visas through the nation's legal immigration system, the current wait for such visas is more than a decade. What would need to be included to make this plan realistic is more comprehensive changes in the number of visas and the structure of the system, neither of which the White House is proposing. After many years of temporary work, the hope for a green card would be only an illusion.
Our nation of immigrants has a great tradition of honoring hard work by providing full access to the American Dream. Generation after generation of immigrants has become equal partners in upholding the values of this country.
Sens. Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican, and Tom Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat, have just introduced a bill that, far from perfect, would provide a path to permanent legal status for undocumented workers. Other bills are expected to follow suit. To move forward, reform must engage members of both parties.
The president is correct when he says immigrant workers are a vital economic force in the country. Their hard work, tax dollars, energy and commitment to the American Dream ought to be cherished and harnessed.
He is also correct in saying that immigrant workers need to be brought out of the shadows.
Unfortunately, his proposal would not do that.
Raul Yzaguirre is the president and CEO of the Washington-based National Council of La Raza (www.nclr.org), an umbrella organization for more than 300 organizations dedicated to improving life opportunities for Hispanics.
How Bush's immigration proposal would turn workers into quasi-indentured servants
By Maria Echaveste
January 8, 2004
Yesterday the president proposed a massive new temporary program for undocumented workers living and working in the United States. The proposal would allow these people (and future foreign workers) to live and work in the country for a three-year period -- with another three-year extension if specific jobs are available to them at that time.
Is this good news for undocumented workers? Hardly. I'll explain why in a moment. But first, let's take a look at George W. Bush's track record on immigration.
The president's proposal is, at best, an empty promise and, at worst, a cynical political ploy to attract Hispanic votes. The proposal would essentially have undocumented persons in this country sign up for second-class status, only to be removed once their temporary tags expire.
There's nothing new about Bush's approach. In many ways, his proposal recalls the much-criticized bracero program of the 1940s and '50s. "Bracero," which is a takeoff on the Spanish word for "arms," brought more than 4 million Mexicans here to work in the fields and on farms. The program was designed to address a labor shortage in this country, but despite the significant contribution these workers made to U.S. agriculture and the legal protections for these workers, it remains an example of exploitation of people desperate to work and escape poverty. From the failure of employers to pay the wages promised to the workers to horrible working conditions, workers were unable to rely on either the U.S. or the Mexican government to protect them.
Today, Bush proposes that the new temporary foreign workers will receive financial incentives to return to their home countries. After they go back, he says, they will receive the Social Security benefits they paid during the time they were working here.
This may sound familiar to those who know the bracero program. It also proposed financial incentives to encourage foreign workers to return home in the same manner -- by having workers contribute to Social Security here and then, at least theoretically, to receive a portion of those funds after returning home.
Too bad it didn't work: There are still lawsuits pending for the millions of dollars that were owed to the workers long ago.
In addition to the poorly thought out financial aspects, Bush's new proposal does nothing for long-term undocumented residents of this country. He has neither proposed a new program for them to obtain residency nor has he sought an increase in the number of visas under the existing employer- and family-sponsored programs. In practical terms, that means you may have U.S.-born children, or have lived in this country for five or 10 years, or have even run your own businesses. Under the president's plan, though, you would have no opportunity to obtain permanent residency. To put it bluntly, Bush is saying, "We want you as workers, but we don't want you as full members of our society."
And so much for workers' rights. The program would require that workers be sponsored by an employer before they obtain a visa. If your only chance to get a green card is to stick with your employer, clearly you're never going to complain about your wages or the conditions in which you work.
Yet Bush has put a different spin on his program. By saying that the new temporary-worker program would provide "legal status," his administration is trying to appear compassionate while at the same time arguing that some type of legal status is better than nothing.
So who really benefits? Corporate America.
Bush-administration officials are shamefully using the fear and desperation of millions of undocumented people to curry favor with big business and employers dependent on low-skilled, low-wage workers.
The Wal-Marts of this country would be able to hire cheap labor for their cleaning crews. The big hotels and restaurant chains would no longer have to worry about violating labor laws when they hire undocumented workers. And the proposal would help the thousands of employers and corporations who currently employ undocumented persons and subject immigrants to eventual deportation.
When I first found out about the program, I found it breathtaking to see how a president could turn America's values upside down. If you buy his line, the program will help ensure national security and illegal immigrants will no longer have to hide in the shadows but be able to work freely and without fear. In reality, it would essentially mark all the immigrants with a little star so that we can get rid of them as soon as they finish their work. It does nothing to place hardworking, taxpaying undocumented immigrants on a path to permanent residency. Instead, it would create a permanent breed of service workers with second-class status.
If this proposal is enacted, America would be turning its back on a long tradition of welcoming immigrants as true participants in the society. It would also be following the unworkable models of countries like Saudi Arabia and Germany, which have long had guest-worker programs and the attendant problems of failing to integrate those participating into their respective societies.
We must have real immigration reform. Here's what we can (and should) do:
Maria Echaveste, an American Prospect board member, is the former deputy chief of staff for President Bill Clinton. She is also the co-founder of a Washington consulting group, Nueva Vista, and represents, among others, the United Farm Workers.
The Case Against Bush's Immigration Plan
BY VICTOR DAVIS HANSON
January 19, 2004
SELMA, Calif.--President Bush's recent proposal to grant legal status to thousands of Mexican citizens currently working in the U.S. under illegal auspices seems at first glance to be a good start--splitting the difference between open and closed borders, and between amnesty and deportation. Politically it was a wise move on the eve of a Mexican state visit to grant some concessions to Vicente Fox. After all, the president of Mexico cannot ignore the $12 billion in worker remittances sent his way--and he can either encourage or discourage millions more of his citizens to head north in lieu of needed radical reform at home.
Yet the proposed legislation, even if it should pass in Congress, will create more problems than it might solve--the fate of all such piecemeal legal solutions to systematic problems of illegality. Once the U.S. government--not to mention the Republican Party--commits its good name and legal capital to regulate, rather than end, the current chaos, a number of contradictions will arise that will only make things either more embarrassing or, in fact, worse.
First, what about the hundreds of thousands of workers who either cannot or will not participate? Will illegal immigrants outside the program be stopped at the border, requiring more guards or an extensive wall? Or once here, are they now to be deported without their requisite papers? Will we see a return of the old green immigration vans, the "Migra" patrols of my youth that used to scour central California to pick up illegal residents for immediate transit back to Mexico? Are we to establish two alternate universes: some employers who bring in workers legally, and others who follow the old non-system of paying largely cash wages to workers who show up at the local lumberyard parking lot or hotel lobby?
The proposed solution also assumes that illegal immigration is fuelled solely by too many jobs in the U.S. and too few workers. Yet thousands of other Mexicans come north as preteens, or when they are aged or sick. The impetus that brought them here was not necessarily always immediate employment, but understandable amelioration from a bleak landscape of central Mexico where they cannot be sure of finding food, housing or health care. Despite Hispanic activists' complaints that "illegal alien" is somehow pejorative, it is far more accurate nomenclature than their inexact use of the politically correct "undocumented worker"--when thousands currently are not at work, nor did they merely forget to do the necessary paperwork before leaving home.
After the debacle in California of first, passing, and then abruptly rejecting legislation granting drivers licenses to illegal residents, we learned of the perils of applying a little bit of the law to a whole lot of illegality. Parents of American citizens wondered why their teenage, soon-to-be drivers would need to produce U.S. birth-certificates when those here illegally did not. Airline security agents worried whether a California driver's license would draw its authenticity from anything other than an often fraudulent Mexican ID card.
Indeed, one of the causes of the growing furor over the present system of non-enforcement is the perception that many illegal residents actually receive preferential treatment over Americans. For example, students here illegally from Mexico and enrolled at public California universities pay about a third of the tuition costs that American citizens from out-of-state are charged--on the dubious and narrow rationale that the immigrants or their parents are all on official payrolls and thus always have had California income taxes and fees deducted from paychecks.
Supporters of the proposed law say that something is needed since Americans simply refuse certain backbreaking jobs in construction, agriculture, hotels and restaurants. But such understandable pessimism rests on many questionable suppositions. It assumes, for instance, that the traditional remedies of the free market for scarce workers--mechanization and increased wages--ceased to work around 1980; that it is hard to sleep or dine out or find a cut lawn in an Iowa or Maine where there are not tens of thousands of illegal workers; that the experience of guest-workers in Germany and France provides encouraging analogies for importing cheap labor, that Californians or Texans once did not do most of their own work before the influx of industrious aliens; and that it is economically beneficial and morally sound to use foreign workers when millions of Americans remain unemployed.
We forget that there is a life cycle for the typical teenage worker from Oaxaca, whose backbreaking labor is said to be essential for the economy. For a laborer of 18, it may be a good bargain for all involved--but for too many people, after 30 years without education, English, and legality, too often these jobs turn out not to be entry-level or rite-of-passage, but remain dead-end, and thus catastrophe ensues when an aging, unskilled worker is injured, laid off, ill or the sole breadwinner of a large family. Only the public entitlement industry--health, housing, education and maintenance subsidies--can come to his rescue to provide some parity with Americans that his job or former job could not. His employer in the meantime looks for a younger, healthier, and foreign, successor. Thus the tragic cycle continues.
It is not only uneconomical in the long run to bus in impoverished laborers from Mexico, but also amoral to traffic in human capital. We praise the bracero program of the 1960s, but I remember it somewhat differently: When harvests here in the San Joaquin Valley ended, deposited wages in Mexico were often stolen, while not all guest workers wanted to return home.
Nor can illegal immigration be looked at in a vacuum; certainly not in an age of growing ethnic chauvinism that sees unassimilated and often exploited workers in the shadows as an oppressed constituency needing group, rather than individual, representation. Ethnic studies, separate college-graduation ceremonies predicated on race, bilingual education, state-supplied interpreters and power groups like La Raza ("The Race")--all these are force-multipliers to massive illegal immigration, and thus present us with not merely a problem of labor and economics, but a litmus test of the viability of the melting pot itself.
Instead of squabbling over piecemeal legislation in an election year, rolling amnesties or a return of braceros, we might as well bite the bullet and reconsider an immigration policy that worked well enough for some 200 years for people from all over the world. Reasonable advocates can set a realistic figure for legal immigration from Mexico. Then we must enforce our border controls; consider a one-time citizenship process for current residents who have been here for two or three decades; apply stiff employer sanctions; deport those who now break the law--and return to social and cultural protocols that promote national unity through assimilation and integration.
In the short term, under such difficult reform, we of the American Southwest might pay more for our food, hotel rooms and construction. Yet eventually we will save far more through reduced entitlements, the growing empowerment of our own entry-level workers (many of them recent and legal immigrants from Mexico), and the easing of social and legal problems associated with some eight million to 12 million illegal residents.
More importantly still, our laws would recover their sanctity. Without massive illegal immigration, Americans would rediscover their fondness for measured legal immigration. At a time of war, our borders would be more secure. And we could regain solace, knowing that we are no longer overlords importing modern helots to do the jobs that we, in our affluence and leisure, now deem beneath us.
Mr. Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author of "Mexifornia: A State of Becoming" (Encounter, 2003).
Hispanics See Bush Plan As 'Good Sign'
By Bill Sammon and Stephen Dinan
January 13, 2004
Hispanic groups have welcomed President Bush's immigration proposal as a "good sign" that the issue may rise to the front of politics, though they say it appears to be aimed at political gain more than successful passage in Congress.
"On one hand, people really appreciate the addressing of the issue, but the concern is this is going to be done hastily, and in turn it is going to fuel anti-immigrant sentiment," said Luis Arteaga, executive director of the Latino Issues Forum in San Francisco.
He compared it to the election-eve conversion by Gov. Gray Davis in California last year, when the Democrat, after two prior vetoes, finally signed legislation making undocumented aliens eligible for driver's licenses.
"Even the people who wanted to see it passed didn't like the way it worked out," Mr. Arteaga said.
A couple of weeks later, California voters recalled Mr. Davis and replaced him with Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Austrian-born actor opposed the license measure, and polls showed that the stance helped him and hurt Mr. Davis.
Coming at the beginning of an election year, the timing of the Bush proposal also caused some advocates to say that they were being used as political pawns.
"The details of the proposal, however, reveal that this is at best an empty promise, and at worst a political ploy," said Raul Yzaguirre, president of the National Council of La Raza.
Mr. Bush last week laid out principles for changing the U.S. immigration system, including allowing the 8 million to 12 million illegal aliens in the country to apply for guest-worker status. The president also proposed a general increase in legal immigration to the United States.
Mr. Bush met with Mexican President Vicente Fox yesterday in Monterrey, Mexico, where Mr. Fox endorsed Mr. Bush's principles and urged the U.S. Congress to pass the proposal quickly.
Adam Segal, director of the Hispanic Voter Project at Johns Hopkins University, said the new initiative marks a return to Mr. Bush's 2000 presidential campaign, when he tried "to raise the comfort level that Hispanics outside Texas had with Bush and the Republican Party."
Many conservative activists, including key Republican leaders in Congress, said the proposal appears to reward aliens for their illegal behavior by making them legal and allowing them to enter the regular process for permanent residence.
Still, Mr. Segal said, the measure might be enough to help Mr. Bush win states with large Hispanic populations, such as New Mexico, which he lost by a few hundred votes in 2000.
The Bush administration vehemently denies that the plan amounts to amnesty.
Mr. Segal explained that some Hispanics regard the Bush proposal, by contrast, as placing too much emphasis on illegals seeking work, not citizenship.
"What he hasn't done is answer criticisms about how a Bush administration beyond 2004 will take steps to help immigrants who are living in this country and want to stay here and continue to live here, rather than those who are here to work," he said.
A poll by Latino Opinions in the summer of Hispanics in the country found that 75 percent thought it important to reduce illegal immigration by increasing the flow of legal workers. And 87 percent said they would support an effort to "normalize the status of illegal immigrant workers in this country who have a clean criminal record."
The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials sees the proposal as "a good sign" that Mr. Bush is refocusing on the issue, after having put aside looser immigration rules after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
But the organization said the principles Mr. Bush laid out "do not focus enough on offering hardworking immigrants a path to citizenship and full participation in our society."
Not all the groups agreed that the timing was a purely political move on Mr. Bush's part.
Antonia Hernandez, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said the group is "optimistic that [Mr. Bush] will come through with concrete legislation before the November election."
But for now, Mr. Bush's principles leave too many questions, including what happens after someone's guest-worker terms expire.
MALDEF officials and Mr. Arteaga, pointing to past guest-worker programs, wanted to know more about whether the workers would have the same rights against their employers as American citizens do.
"Is this going to open up the floodgates of abuses?" Mr. Arteaga wondered.
The Congressional Hispanic Conference, made up of Hispanic and Portuguese Republicans in Congress, gave the president credit for raising the issue.
"Reforming our nation's immigration laws is critical for our nation's security, as well as the Hispanic and Portuguese American communities," the conference said in a statement. "By continuing to focus national attention on this important issue, the president has ensured a national debate in which the CHC is looking forward to participate."