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February 16, 2007

A Change of Heart on Guest Workers


By Janet MurguĂ­a, Washington Post, Sunday, February 11, 2007; B07

"After President Bush highlighted the need for a temporary-worker program as part of a larger immigration reform in his State of the Union address, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) compared the president's proposal to slavery. Rangel is right to be concerned. Our nation's history with such programs has been dreadful.

Many Latinos still have searing memories of the infamous bracero program, which more than 50 years ago became synonymous with worker abuse. The current guest-worker programs for agriculture and other "non-skilled" labor are not much better. Experience tells us that there is good reason to be concerned that a new worker visa program could repeat these mistakes, creating a permanent, sizable subclass of workers who endure harsh treatment while simultaneously undercutting their American co-workers.

Despite these concerns, after decades of strongly opposing temporary-worker programs for the very reasons that Rangel articulates, my organization and many Latino leaders find ourselves in the interesting position of being principal advocates for a significant new worker visa program as part of comprehensive immigration reform.

Some think we got here as the result of some devil's bargain with our allies among business leaders: They get a new worker program, and we get a path to citizenship for undocumented workers. Not so. We have concluded that a new legal pathway for the future flow of immigrant workers to the United States is the safest, most reasonable path for immigrant workers, for their co-workers in this country, and for a nation hungry for order and control at the border.

We share that hunger. Latinos know that even if we pass immigration reforms that include a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants who work, pay taxes and otherwise contribute to the United States, we will have failed to fix our nation's broken immigration system unless we do what previous reforms did not: Acknowledge that there will continue to be a flow across the border and that we will do everything we can to control and regulate it...".

The writer is president and chief executive of the National Council of La Raza.

Posted by VisaLawyer at February 16, 2007 11:42 AM


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