Recently, the United States Senate committee for Homeland Security considered several guest worker programs that were recently proposed. Within a week three “Securing the Border” hearings were conducted covering topics such as the roots and causes of the Central American migration into the United States and transnational crime. Overall, there was a concurrence that a plan to increase the number of immigrants who could enter the country as “guest workers” would help to deter the unlawful crossing across the southwestern border. Presently, there are only 5,000 visas available nationwide for unskilled workers to enter lawfully and obtain lawful permanent residence, also known as a “greencard.” However, if the proposed guest worker program does not lead to a more permanent solution, it will most likely fail.
The consensus at the hearings last week is that a cure needs to be found for the vitally “sick” present immigration system. Additionally agreed upon is the idea that an improvement in the current legal system regarding immigration will lead to a decrease in illegal immigration. No doubt the unlawful immigrants in the United States would have preferred to have lawful status if it were available to them.
At this particular hearing however, the witnesses who spoke addressed only ideas surrounding a proposed “guest worker” program. An argument was made for an increase in the number of visas under the current program for both the H1-B, professional employees and for the H2-A agricultural workers program.
Experts stressed that the success of any guest worker program at this point is contingent upon a stable plan that will lead the applicants to a more permanent immigration situation such as lawful permanent residency and ultimately United States citizenship. A guest worker status without the hope of a more permanent option may lead these workers to be treated differently by United States citizens. It will also allow these recipients to feel and eventually become part of the greater society, rather than just as a temporary visitor.
Another valid point that was raised addresses the 11 million undocumented individuals present in the country at this time. A guest worker program that does not lead to a more permanent solution will not be something that would entice families who are living in the United States for many years and have established lives and ties. Polls show that 8.7 million out of the 11 million have lived in the United States for more than five years. Additionally, 4.2 million out of the 11 have children born in this country and therefore have established deep roots in the community. It is unlikely that these types of individuals would be able to travel in and out of the United States for work.
The government has already admitted that it does not have the means to deport or remove 11 million people from the United States. The cost to the United States government for such an operation has been estimated at $300 billion dollars for a period of twenty years. This is clearly not something that is feasible given the current economic situation.
A solution to the immigration problem is not easy to find, but in order to begin coming up with a plan, Congress must be willing to work towards a resolution.